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Reviewing since 2010. Still unpaid.

Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

Roma (Special Review)                           ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Roma" wasn't built in a day.

 I usually don't do something like this. If I miss a film when it's released in theaters, or simply see it months after its release date, I don't end up writing up a full review of it. On that note, I never review foreign movies, simply because I forget about them. (I saw 189 2018 movies. Cut me some slack for letting a few hard to find films slip under my radar.) "Roma" is something different though. Aside from getting a Best Picture nomination, many other accolades, and an immense amount of critical love, I had to give it a look. Movies like this are interesting entities in how the minute they end, you're left pondering many themes, and asking yourself "Did I do my Best List too soon?". The obvious answer is that I definitely did. I can make mistakes too, and not seeing this sooner was a big one.

 "Roma" is set during the early 1970s, taking place on the Colonia Roma neighborhood in Mexico City. The story follows a young live-in housekeeper, "Cleo" (Yalitza Aparicio), working for an upper middle class family, whom she lives with. Cleo is essentially one of the family despite her living situation along with her fellow maid, "Adela" (Nancy García), lacking the same luxuries as the others (Such as sharing a tiny room). Cleo has a very strong connection to the children, while the mother, "Sofía" (Marina de Tavira) scrambles with her own issues, such as the obviously suspicious actions of her doctor husband, "Antonio" (Fernando Grediaga), who is always away on supposed conferences out of the country. Cleo also has a martial arts obsessed boyfriend, "Fermín" (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), who is revealed to be a total scumbag, abandoning Cleo seconds after she reveals that she is pregnant. This leaves Cleo being forced to go through her pregnancy alone, while witnessing the family's struggles, such as Sofía's dipping into depression, the children squabbling, upcoming political turmoil involving protesters, and her own fears of what's to come of her new, troubling situation. 

 Released through Netflix last November, "Roma" is clearly a very personal project of Director Alfonso Cuarón, known in this country for directing "Children of Men", "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", and of course, the visual masterpiece "Gravity". Loosely inspired by his own upbringing in the same neighborhood in the film, Cuarón doesn't just direct, but also serves as the Writer, Producer, Editor, and Cinematographer, proving that he may be one of the greatest filmmakers of our time, considering how well he excels in every department. Filmed in black and white, it's beautiful looking movie, with some incredible shots that no one would ever think of. (The opening shot, consisting of the credits going over washing puddles and a plan being visible in the reflection, is mesmerizing.) It focuses on something that people tend to shove to the side or portray as unappealing, and instead shows it as it is, which is a story about people in the real world. Expertly written, with compelling, yet simple moments of dialogue between its fully fledged out characters, and even small bits of humor (Such as a running gag with car parking or a marching band that comes out of nowhere at out of place moments) that could be seen as tonally inconsistent at first glance. However, these little moments are first of all, necessary to balance out the harsh reality, but also feel in sync with the occasional randomness of life. 

 Yalitza Aparicio is the definition of what an acting revelation should be. Having never acted before in her life and having an apparent preference for being a school teacher in real life, Aparicio gives a wonderfully underplayed, quietly compassionate performance, whose strength comes from her expressions and movements. Marina de Tavira is terrific, with her character serving as an excellent comparison to Aparicio's. Cleo and Sofía are both representations of strong, full realized female characters, complete with flaws and all, as well as sympathy. With Cleo being the more optimistic one (Though she has so few people to turn to in her life) and Sofía being the more cynical one (Though she has an extensive family and is evidently richer), despite the clear differences of their lifestyles, which affect how they cope. It's a very powerful look into how these women survive whatever tribulation is thrown at them, and by the end, how they can possibly overcome it. The rest of the cast, which consists of bit parts mostly (Although the child actors are all amazing), each give similarly naturalistic performances. 

 There is pain in "Roma", and it's unpleasant at times because of it, making you feel everything the characters feel. Where it all leads is rightfully calm, but with poignancy and heart, and I'd be lying if I didn't bring a few tears to my eyes. The film is a compelling, strikingly gorgeous, and once you get past all the hurt and heartache, emotionally stirring. It's the best film of 2019, and I'm saying all of this about a movie that I watched on my phone while waiting up in the break room at work. It shows me that true artistry and brilliant filmmaking can come from anywhere at any moment, and you should never overlook the seemingly smaller films. It's really the best way to describe this movie as a whole. 4 stars. Rated R For Full Frontal Penis, Disturbing Images, And Strong Emotions. 

On the Basis of Sex                          ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: The notoriously cute RBG.

 This is likely the last movie to review from 2018, though the Academy is yet to release their nominations for upcoming Oscars next month. So for all I know, there could be something I missed that I need to seek out. I didn't see absolutely everything this last year, and you can never tell what the Academy will do. Maybe that John Travolta movie, "Gotti" will find itself swimming in some Oscar gold......Heh. 

 "On the Basis of Sex" follows the true story of future Supreme Court Justice/young progressive idol, "Ruth Bader Ginsburg" (Felicity Jones). We see her life with her supportive husband, "Martin" (Armie Hammer), who's struggle with cancer forces her to work extra hard in her law studies at Harvard, where she is one of the very few women there. Ruth faces more opposition from the men in charge, such as "Dean Erwin Griswold" (Sam Waterston) and "Professor Brown" (Stephen Root), and despite eventually graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law School, she is unable find anyone willing to hire her simply because she is a woman. Cut to 1970, Ruth's hopes to combat gender inequality doesn't seem to be going anywhere, despite protests from her outspoken, activist daughter, "Jane" (Cailee Spaeny), who doesn't think her mother's methods of using the law will ever change anything. This is where Ruth takes interest in the case of "Charles Moritz" (Chris Mulkey), an unmarried man who was denied tax deductions for him to provide a caregiver for his sick mother. Seeing this as a form of gender discrimination, this time against a man, Ruth plans to use this as a way of pointing out the flaw in the system, and that if a man can be discriminated against simply because of his gender, then that means a woman can be too. 

 Directed by Mimi Leder, and written by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's real life nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, "On the Basis of Sex" isn't a game changer in the crowdpleasing biopic genre, but with a story like this, it's understandable to see why. While not probably at detailed as some might want, and likely not following as closely to the true story as it should (Granted, once again, we really should just be used to that by now), the movie's inspiring focus and themes are still (And always will be) relevant and important. For the kind of movie the flmmakers set out to make, what we get is still very strong and very empowering. With a sense of humor and an onslaught of charismatic charm, the movie tells it's story at a solid, capable pace, covering a lot of details in a relatively short amount of time (The movie is barely two hours), while establishing compelling characters and making sure it's political facts are easy to follow, without talking down to it's audience. 

 In some inerrant casting, Felicity Jones wonderfully encompasses her role. Full of personality, smarts, and strength (Not to mention, being as adorable as anyone can possibly be. Just had to throw that out there.), she is flawless, and it's a shame she's been overlooked so much this awards season. Armie Hammer also deserves some kind of recognition, having excellent chemistry with Jones, which is something very much needed for what has been called a truly loving and committed relationship in real life. Justin Theroux (as "Mel Wulf", the pessimistic director of the American Civil Liberties Union) is a good representation that even people on the right side can be obstacles, while Cailee Spaeny (Having appeared in "Pacific Rim: Uprising" and "Bad Times at the El Royale") has shown once again to be a breakout star this year. Kathy Bates (as "Dorothy Kenyon", a former feminist lawyer, who's work Ruth references to) appears briefly, but is her usual Kathy Bates-eque self and is always a pleasing presence. While our main antagonists, such as Sam Waterston, Stephen Root, and Jack Reynor (as "James Bozarth", Ruth's opposing lawyer) are good in their roles,  it's hard not to see them as slight caricatures. (Granted, people with their kind of sexist, old fashioned belief systems kind of already are like caricatures, so maybe it's intentional.)

 "On the Basis of Sex" maybe could of benefited from more time on the facts, but the movie sets out to give it's audience something to cheer about, and it succeeds. Well directed and written, with some compelling drama and good actors to go with a story that will continue to inspire future generations. Much like the real life Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Who makes a quick cameo in the film), the movie is still a powerhouse and you find yourself unable to not be uplifted. Hopefully I'll feel the same about the Anton Scalia story. You know who he was....Never mind. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, And Good Old Fashioned Male Sexism.

Vice                                                      ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for vice movieImage: Wait....What have you done with Christian Bale?

 The filmmakers have taken up a very risky, difficult task. Portraying Dick Cheney. Lets be honest, regardless of what they did, someone would still be pissed off, especially in today's divisive political climate, which also something that like him or not, Cheney may of had a role in creating. You can't make him some kind of monster, because he's not. He's human being, who people may not agree with politically or even morally. You also can't quite make him likable because....well, even people who "Like" Dick Cheney don't, "Like" him. Then again, it's not like he's going to care what you think of him. I'm guessing that must be very liberating.

 Narrated by a mysterious Jesse Plemons (Who doesn't reveal his connection to the story till the end), "Vice" follows the life of former Vice President, "Dick Cheney" (Christian Bale). We are shown his relationship with his family, along with his wife, "Lynne" (Amy Adams), as well as his political rise, starting off as a protégé under President Nixon's Chief of Staff, "Donald Rumsfeld" (Steve Carell). Cheney is shown to be quite the politician, acting quick on his feet, savvy, and even a little ruthless in how he plays the game of politics. Eventually, we get to Cheney accepting the role as Vice President, under "George W. Bush" (Sam Rockwell), who Cheney doesn't see as the most promising of Presidents. However, working with his own team under Bush, which also includes Rumsfeld, Cheney sets out to make a legacy of his own. With the September 11th terrorist attacks, sparking so called "War on Terror", Cheney would become one of the most powerful (If not most powerful) Vice Presidents in American history. Controversy ensues. 

 Directed and written by Adam McKay, known for "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy", and the critically acclaimed/Oscar nominated "The Big Short", "Vice" is more political satire, than biography. So at times the film can veer into comedic farce, perhaps a bit more than a lot of people would like. For what we do get, while some important, interesting aspects of Dick Cheney's political career that seem lacking, the film's strongest parts carry it through. I do think taking a more darkly humorous approach to the true story does work in the film's favor, portraying fairly recent events in a suitably uncomfortable, but easily digestible way, and the same goes for the politics itself. Much like "The Big Short", it's smart enough to know how to explain it all. It's very funny, most of which comes from the film itself mocking some of the most baffling parts of this administration. There are times though where McKay's style, which very original and clever, gets in the way somewhat, hitting some things a little too on the head, while not focusing enough on what could of been necessary to the story. The fact that it seems that Cheney and Bush hate each other's guts right now, I feel as it that should of been mentioned a little more than Cheney simply looking at him as an idiot to manipulate. 

 In terms of make-up, it's all amazing and deserving of recognition. Everyone looks flawless, and the actors really do make it feel as real as possible. Christian Bale, who I swear is willing to chop off a limp or two for a role, is truly brilliant. Cheney isn't a monster. He's human, and his motivations are realistic and even relatable. Bale's performance, which matches his mannerisms perfectly, shows what kind of person he is, and why he did the things the way he did. You may not like it, but you get it. Amy Adams, whose character is sort of Lady Macbeth-eque, is also phenomenal, and even she has human scenes, despite the filmmakers clearly not being fans. Steve Carell, while still good, probably plays his part a little too much like a caricature than he probably should, Tyler Perry (as "Colin Powell", the Secretary of State, who questions many of the political decisions made) is excellent in his small role, and Jesse Plemons is a ton of fun, though really odd, especially when we learn what is role actually is. He's a  scene-stealer, who doesn't get near enough screentime, Sam Rockwell is awesome, getting down a lot of Bush's expressions, gestures, and voice. You end up wishing he was in the film much more than he actually is. There are also a slew of cameos and recognizable actors who appear throughout.

  At times the editing choices can a bit much and the film's wrap up comes too quick, "Vice" is a fascinating watch, and worth it alone for Christian Bale's stunning transformation into Dick Cheney, who's final scene is surely the reason why he's garnered so many award nominations. It's also just an interesting, if not surreal look into politics and how one person can have so much involvement in so many life affecting choices. And despite how frightening that sounds, many of us have just accepted that (Or even wanted it.). People want easy when it comes to politics. 3 stars. Rated R For Strong Language. 

Holmes and Watson                               ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for holmes and watson movieImage: But....Why?

 Christmas is over, and the year itself is nearing it's end. Time to start seeing what I can cram into my "Best" list, and as everyone knows, you're always having trouble getting everything you want on there. Sadly, you still don't have enough room and something great has to get left out. On the other side of the spectrum, making a "Worst" list? Easiest list ever. 

 A parody of the adventures of the admired fictional detective, "Holmes and Watson" follows "Sherlock Holmes" (Will Ferrell) and "Dr. John Watson" (John C. Reilly). Holmes is a smart, but egotistical detective, who has closed off all of his emotions at a young age due to excessive bullying. His only friend is Watson, who is a ridiculously loyal companion. Holmes is scheduled to testify against his arch nemesis, "Professor Moriarty" (Ralph Fiennes), arriving only to reveal that the Moriarty custody must be a fraud, since it's unlikely to Sherlock that his rival, "Inspector Lestrade" (Rob Brydon), would ever have any role in catching him. Believing the real Moriarty has left the country, Holmes and Watson are invited to the palace by the Queen (Pam Ferris) herself, where they discover a corpse and a clue left by Moriarty, which also reveals that he plans to assassinate the Queen.. In a rather convoluted and forced series of events, Holmes convinces himself that this is in fact not Moriarty's doing, but someone pretending to be him, because....I really don't know actually. Holmes and Watson are given a couple days to solve the case, finding distractions with their respective love interests, a weird girl with a cat-like mentality, "Millie" (Lauren Lapkus), and a fellow doctor, "Grace" (Rebecca Hall), as well as learning the importance of their own friendship. , 

 Another collaboration between Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly ("Step Brothers" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"), "Holmes and Watson" sounds like a funny idea and when the film starts, with a carttoonish, dirtier sense of humor to contradict the proper, elegant accents, it does get a few laughs. For about five minutes. Then it gets old very, very fast. You realize early on that there was more put into the premise, rather than the script and direction, both done by Etan Cohen ("Get Hard"). I know it's all just a complete farce, so that means plotting is secondary. But it's hard to ignore how stupid and predictable it all is because it's not very funny, meaning you have no choice but to focus on how lazy it is. It's a bad sign when you can tell word for word what the jokes are going to be. (When the "Titanic" becomes a plot point, how would anyone be surprised what jokes are going to be made?) The film just stops dead simply to do a couple skits that don't move the film forward, and feel like padding for the relatively short runtime. 

 Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are great comedic actors, and even here, they still work well off each other. It's just when the jokes are tired and shockingly dated (Why are there "Trump" jokes in this? How are there "Trump" jokes in this?), you're more annoyed that they're not in something better. Rebecca Hall and Lauren Lapkus actually do get a couple funny moments, along with a quick cameo from Hugh Laurie (as "Mycroft", Holmes' equally smart brother). I can never be mad at the absolute cuteness of Kelly Macdonald (as "Rose Hudson", the horny housekeeper of Holmes and Watson), even if her role is just absurd. Then we get to Ralph Fiennes, whose perfect casting is deserving of praise alone. However, it's followed by removing that praise and replacing it with harsh, brutal criticism and detest for the fact the film does nothing with him, only appearing for a total of five minutes. How the Hell could you do that? Why would you do that? You had all the pieces in place and you willingly crapped all over it!

 A fun concept, completely butchered by a lack of inspiration and a sense of cheapness, "Holmes and Watson" is dumb, but not the right kind. The jokes are obvious (Such as poking fun at the slo-mo sequences from the Guy Ritchie films) and the film's few laughs can cover how poorly conceived and executed the film's all over the place, made up on the fly plot truly is. It's odd that in the year with two Sherlock Holmes parodies, the one called "Sherlock Gnomes" might be slightly superior. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Lactating John C. Reilly And The Obligatory Will Ferrell Shirtless Scene. (Can He Not Get Naked In One Movie?) 

Welcome to Marwen                           ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for welcome to marwenImage: "I'm sorry that Barbie dumped you."

 So this had all the makings of what you would expect of a last second, late December, Oscar hopeful. A great cast, an acclaimed director, an inspiring true story, high production values, and of course, a truckload of sentimentality, that usually still gets it some Oscar buzz, regardless of how good it actually is. Welcome to Marwen

 Inspired by a true story, "Welcome to Marwen" follows aspiring artist, "Mark Hogancamp" (Steve Carell), who was violently beaten within an inch of his life by a group of white supremacists, because he liked to wear women's shoes. Mark was beaten so badly that the brain damage he suffered has completely erased most of his memories. To cope with this, Mark has made a miniature World War II-era Belgian town, called "Marwen", which he photographs and has created a whole world and story within it using dolls. The characters within the town consist of people he has met or used to know, such as a coworker, "Caralala" (Eiza González), a friend who provides Mark with the miniatures and dolls, "Roberta" (Merritt Wever), his caretaker, "Anna" (Gwendoline Christie), a woman he met in rehab, "Julie" (Janelle Monáe), and "Nicol" (Leslie Mann), his new neighbor that he has a crush on. He also has a doll modeled after himself, a tough soldier named "Hoagie" (Also Steve Carell), who works with the other women to protect the town from evil witch "Deja Thoris" (Diane Kruger). The photos Mark takes are to be featured in an art show, though Mark doesn't have any intention of going. And with the trial for the attackers about to go underway, Mark is pressured to testify against them, but he feels unable to do so, still feeling haunted by what happened to him. Mark must cope with PTSD, his trouble getting back into the real world, and separating it from the fantasy one he's set up for himself.

 Directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Back to the Future", "Forrest Gump", "Cast Away", "The Polar Express", and many more), "Welcome to Marwen" has the makings of something that could of been a wonderful, instant feel good favorite. You can still see the hints of potential still there, even by the end. However, it feels like someone completely missed the actual point they were trying to make. The screenplay by Zemeckis and Caroline Thompson (who I noticed has done some amazing work, like "Corpse Bride" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas") is shoddy, relying on cloying melodrama and misguided allegories. The movie seems more interested in it's grand special effects, which utilize motion capture for the actors, are meant to represent certain issues and conflicts our main character goes through. They're visually aesthetic, and blend seamlessly back and forth between the animated and live action. They're also entirely pointless, weird, and don't do any justice to the heavy story that's supposed to be at the center of the film. It's a strange blend of cartoonish violence, satirical war drama, and "Toy Story".

 It should be noted that despite the bad script, Steve Carrell is still able to give a thoughtful, sincere performance. It's a hard role to play and while the dialogue fails him, Carrell is still a strong presence. Leslie Mann is just naturally adorable and always lovable, though some of her character's reactions don't feel at at realistic. The film doesn't spend anywhere near enough time with some of the supporting actresses, wasting Eiza González, Janelle Monáe, and Gwendoline Christie, who barely appear in the film in live action form, leaving their importance mostly left offscreen. Diane Kruger is, well, an odd aspect of the film, with her character's fantastical villainy (If you would call it that, considering it's all part of the fantasy sequences) serving as an obvious metaphor and just further derails the film's intended message with needless distractions. There's also Neil Jackson (as "Kurt", Nicol's dick-ish boyfriend), popping up as a stereotypical bad guy until he stops existing in the film entirely. 

 While unintentionally so, "Welcome to Marwen" kind of borders on offensive. Something is just missing from what should be an in depth character study of a man, who essentially had his life taken away from him. While I can see possible hints of a good, still very inspiring story within the film, Zemeckis' creative choices treat mental disability and internal suffering like a whimsical fairy tale. All that does is make things laughable when it shouldn't be, and somewhat creepy. It's an awkward film, that's made awkward for the wrong reasons. I would recommend looking into the actual true story itself, which is already interesting and captivating enough on it's own, without all the jumpy dolls popping up to serve as an aimless detour. The Jennifer Lopez comedy is more grounded. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Language, Adult Content, And A Surprising Amount Of Nightmare Fuel. (There Are A Couple Jump Scares In This Movie....Not Kidding.) 

Second Act                                                     ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for second act movieImage: "Don't do whatever it is all the characters do in these kind of movies."

 Lets get this one out of the way, short and sweet. It's Christmas, I'm with family, and quite frankly, some movies just aren't good enough or bad enough to take up so much time and precious typing space. Plus, i'm still digesting Christmas dinner. 

 "Second Act" follows "Maya Vargas" (Jennifer Lopez), who wishes for a chance to pursue an actual career, rather than remain stuck in dead end jobs. Due to a misunderstanding with the techy son of her best friend, "Joan" (Leah Remini), Maya is called in for a job interview for a cosmetics firm, run by "Anderson Clarke" (Treat Williams) and his adopted daughter, "Zoe" (Vanessa Hudgens), under a false identity that portrays her as a college degree, successful consultant. Maya decides to play the part, landing the job. Now Maya has to deal with the problems that come as a result of her lie, such as her longtime boyfriend, "Trey" (Milo Ventimiglia) breaking up with her due to her refusal to commit to a family, competing to complete a special project before the scummy antagonist, "Ron" (Freddie Stroma) does, and befriending Zoe, who Maya learns has a closer connection to her than she first realized. 

 "Second Act" is about as contrived and predictable as it sounds. Then again, that's not exactly anything the film cares about in the slightest. It's all about giving the probably wine favoring mothers what they paid for. It's goofy and illogical, having a shortage of focus in terms of it's plotting, which takes detours rather than subplots. There is a twist (That you likely deduced from my synopsis of the plot) relatively early on in the film, that preposterous in how coincidental it is. However, it also adds a little extra (And much needed) depth to the movie that to give a little credit, is rarely ever brought into films such as this. It's sloppy and silly, but does elevate weak material. The same goes for a lot of the cast. Jennifer Lopez can carry a movie such as this without even really trying, but she still gives it her full attention, remaining professional and charming. Vanessa Hudgens is as cute as ever, and has some great onscreen chemistry with Lopez, selling some of the dopey plotting. Leah Remini gets quite a few more laughs than expected, along with a solid group of supporting characters, such as Treat Williams getting to have a little fun, along with Alan Aisenberg and Charlyne Yi (as "Chase" and "Ariana", who partner up with Maya on her project). Freddie Stroma just shows up to be snotty, while the subplot with Milo Ventimiglia, (Though he and Lopez work well off each other), feels tacked on to add a romance. 

 "Second Act" benefits from solid performances and some moments of heart, showing that the filmmakers put a bit more effort than maybe even they should of into something so bland and forgettable. It's still welcome to say the least, even if I still have no business being the only guy going to see a movie like this by myself. Quick, easy, and of little consequence. Just like this review. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Inevitable Outcomes. 

Aquaman                                                 ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for aquaman movie imageImage: The Little Merman

 I think we can finally stop with all the "Aquaman Sucks" jokes by this point. He's not just the guy who talks to fish! I mean, he kind of does that....But he can command a shark or a giant squid to eat someone, or use the sea to destroy whatever evil is in his path. Come on! That's awesome. To be honest, besides still being relatively new to reading some "Aquaman" comics (It's only been about a year, and mostly consisting of the current run), I never found him to be lame, just not particularly interesting. But he's grown on me, and a solid entry into the mixed bag of films, known as the DC Extended Universe (If they're still calling it that. It's all over the place lately) should help at long last put all those jokes to rest. 

 Taking place after last year's "Justice League", "Aquaman" tells the origin of half-human/half-Atlantean, ocean based superhero, "Arthur Curry/Aquaman" (Jason Momoa). The son of a lighthouse keeper, "Tom" (Temuera Morrison) and the former/deceased queen of Atlantis, "Atlanna" (Nicole Kidman), who was executed by the people of Atlantis once they learned that she had a half-breed child. Now Arthur serves as a protector of the seas against any threats, though he wants nothing to do with Atlantis. After defeating a group of pirates, led by "Jesse Kane" (Michael Beach), who winds up dead in the conflict, Arthur is met by the lovely and very powerful Atlantean, "Mera" (Amber Heard). Mera tells Arthur that is half brother, "Orm/Ocean Master" (Patrick Wilson), the current ruler of Atlantis, is planning to invade the surface world, having already swayed her father, "Nereus" (Dolph Lundgren) to his cause.

 Mera sees Arthur as the true heir to the throne and the only person who could unite both the underwater and surface worlds. Arthur is at first reluctant, but does quickly realize the real threat that Orm poses, agreeing to help Mera and his old mentor, "Nuidis Vulko" (Willem Dafoe) in finding a long lost trident of unimaginable power, which should be able to put a stop to Orm's plans. Of course Orm isn't just going to let the good guys get in the way, so he allies himself with the vengeful son of the deceased Jesse Kane, "David" (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). With Orm providing David with the means of killing Arthur, dubbing himself "Black Manta", Arthur and Mera must travel across the world to find the trident before the villains catch them first. With the fate of two worlds in the balance, Arthur must find his true worth, and take his rightful place as the king of Atlantis. 

 Directed by James Wan ("Saw", "Furious 7", and both "The Conjuring" films), "Aquaman" is DC taking a much lighter approach (Literally), going for a fun, adventurous tone rather than the dark and brooding some of the other films have given us. The film embraces it's rather ludicrous comic roots, complete with imagery that's so downright crazy, it's awesome. (Our final battle consists of battle sharks, crab people, and sea horses the size of actual horses.) The screenplay is almost tongue in cheek in goofiness, and the story, which actual "Aquaman" writer, Geoff Johns, worked on, is probably a bit incoherent to some. (Even someone who's read the comics might be a bit perplexed by the complicated lore and many plot points.) Luckily, the film indulges the right amount of cheese, and is clearly not taking itself too overly seriously, thanks to a much needed sense of humor and some heart, which is something this film universe has been missing. In terms of the special effects, it's all very CGI heavy, as it should be. However, it's nonetheless ambitious and beautiful, with an epic scope resembling classic 80s/90s era adventure flicks and a tremendous amount of attention to details. The world created feels like it's own, showing that DC is trying to deviate itself from other superhero franchises like it. There are several brilliantly done sequences, one being an underwater chase by the scary, sharp toothed "Trench", during a thunder storm, which probably looks incredible in IMAX.

 Jason Momoa (Who was a favorite in "Justice League") shows off a little more range as an actor, being likable, funny, and a total badass, while even allowing for a few dramatic human moments to sink in. Amber Heard, aside from looking very pretty, is perfectly cast as the tough, intelligent heroine, who could be  enough to deserve her own movie. Not sure how much you buy the romantic relationship, mostly because it feels like an obligation, but they're good characters and you feel invested in them enough to go with it. Willem Dafoe is excellent as always, while Nicole Kidman isn't in the film much, but she leaves an important impact. Dolph Lundgren (Who is having a pretty solid year) is where he was always meant to be, riding a giant seahorse. Patrick Wilson's villain is given more depth and character than what we've seen with other DC villains, being menacing, but with hints of humanity (Well, he's not human. But you know what I mean.) Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is mostly just set up for a sequel, but does the fan favorite villain justice, with an emotional backstory and an awesome costume design that looks like the comic character just came to life on screen (I should also take time to mention Julie Andrews voicing a giant, tentacle monster for no other reason than to mention Julie Andrews voicing a giant, tentacle monster.) 

 The plot is all over the place and the flashbacks serve little purpose except to overly explain the obvious (Not to mention just pad out a nearly two and a half hour runtime), "Aquaman" makes up for it's flaws with wide-eyed spectacle, originality, and a commitment to pure insanity. The film's beautiful visuals culminate in a jaw dropping climax, with some help from the terrific score, that surprisingly doesn't go where you would expect. The film has an epic feel, but takes some chances that while the stakes feel lower, it feels refreshing and necessary with all the countless dread and death that have plagued this film universe from the start. It's not close to perfect, and still can't quite reach Marvel heights. (They perfected this art a long time ago.) However, it's clearly a step in the right direction, and should serve as a course correction for future films. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Undersea Violence, Pitbull Playing Out Of Nowhere, And The Shere Amount Of Creatures Your Imagination Can Fit On Screen. 

Mary Poppins Returns                           ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Yeah, I can pass for Julie Andrews."

 A little Disney formula can go a long way, and no matter how many times we see it, there is just something so delicious about it. Instead of going the full remake route (Mostly because they're releasing three of them next year), we get a direct sequel to the beloved classic, "Mary Poppins", that sets out to do what was done before. If it worked once, surely it can work again, mostly if you get talented people who know what they're doing. And in 50 years or so, Disney will do it again.

 Taking place twenty five years after the original in a Depression-era London, "Mary Poppins Returns" follows the now grown up, "Michael Banks" (Ben Whishaw), who has recently lost his wife, being left to take care of his smart, very mature for their age children, "John" (Nathanael Saleh), "Annabel" (Pixie Davies), and "Georgie" (Joel Dawson). Michael is in danger of losing his home due to failed loan payments to the bank, run by the greedy "William "Weatherall" Wilkins Jr." (Colin Firth). The only hope of possibly preventing this from happening, is the shares at the bank being left to him and his sister, "Jane" (Emily Mortimer) by their late father. While the two search for a certificate that proves it, the children wander out during a windy day, with Georgie flying his dad's old kite, and with help from cheerful lamplighter, "Jack" (Lin-Manuel Miranda), try to prevent the kite from flying away. At that moment, they are greeted by the reappearance of magical, proper nanny, "Mary Poppins" (Emily Blunt), who helped the Banks family years prior. Michael ends up allowing Mary to stay at his home to look after his kids, while he and Jane continue to look for the missing certificate. The kids quickly realize that Mary Poppins is every bit as whimsical as she appears, and then some, as she proceeds to teach them lessons via musical numbers, mini-adventures, and all kinds of quirky shenanigans, proceeding to save the rest of the family in the process.  

 Released over fifty years after the original, "Mary Poppins Returns" decides to play things safe, which makes for a predictable adventure that could almost pass off as more of a remake than a sequel. However, Director Rob Marshall ("Chicago", "Into the Woods") makes use of of the solid enough script by David Magee ("Life of Pi") to deliver on beautiful visuals, childlike wonder and spectacle, and pure, lovable charm that makes the film very difficult to dislike. The visuals are absolutely stunning and eye poppingly colorful. It's like watching something in 3D, without the glasses, as everything just jumps off the screen. The songs and dance numbers might not quite reach the heights of the original (Granted, even people who have never seen the movie already know them.), but they're still well choreographed and presented, ranging from sincere and sweet to delightful showstoppers. The most memorable ones being "A Cover is Not the Book", which takes placing during a sequence involving hand drawn animation and "Trip a Little Light Fantastic", which allows Lin-Manuel Miranda to get a little of the spotlight. But there's also "A Place Where Lost Things Go", which is very soft and serves as a showcase of how perfect Emily Blunt's casting truly is.

 Speaking of which, while it is hard to replace Julie Andrews (A role she won an Oscar for), Emily Blunt is still a flawless substitute. Funny, adorable, and thoroughly enchanting, she is immediately inviting and has a smile that just embodies the joy of pure imagination. Lin-Manuel Miranda is immensely talented, and shows off a lot of that here, as well as a look of wonder that's just fitting. You can tell that Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson aren't quite there as actors yet, but all have their own personalities and handle themselves well with the adults. The always likable Ben Whishaw and the always adorable Emily Mortimer both get their share of heartfelt moments. The humor comes from Julie Walters (as "Ellen", the Banks' housekeeper, who is a bit of a variation of her character from the "Paddington" movies"), a bizarre Meryl Streep (as "Topsy", Mary's kooky cousin), and David Warner (as "Admiral Boom", the retired naval officer, who thinks the bell in Big Ben never actually goes off on time).Colin Firth is a cheesy, cartoonish villain, though looks like he's enjoying the chance just to mug and chew some scenery. Then there's a brief cameo from Dick Van Dyke, who is in his early 90s, but certainly doesn't look like it, especially during the quick dance number he's given. (It honestly just brings a big smile to your face and is worth the price of a ticket alone.)

 "Mary Poppins Returns" is more of a series of set pieces and musical numbers, culminating in a simple, if not unsurprising conclusion. (But if you really think about it, so was the original.) The messages are strong enough for kids and their parents, and characters a very endearing, making up for some messy plotting. It shows the importance of childlike innocence as well as the difference between maturing into an adult and simply forgetting what it was like to be a child. It's a road we've been down before, but regardless, feels necessary, making for a solid family movie night. I wish everyone's nanny was like Mary Poppins....Wait, some kids don't have nannies? Huh. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For.....I'm Not Particularly Sure Actually. It's Perfectly Safe For Your Kids. No Matter The Age. 

Bumblebee                                           ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for bumblebee movieImage: "Can we Netflix and chill?"

 They did it? They really, truly did it? After five Michael Bay directed attempts to assassinate cinema and give a bad name to all mainstream forms of filmmaking, they made it work? Guys! We have a good "Transformers" movie. A legitimately, no joking around, really good "Transformers" movie! It's also just a really good movie too! Being a massive fan of the toys, cartoons, games, and comics, this just made me very, very happy. 

 Taking place in 1987, "Bumblebee" opens on the planet Cybertron, which is populating warring transforming robotic beings, who turn from robot to vehicle and back again. The battle rages on between the heroic "Autobots", led by the brave "Optimus Prime" (Voiced by Peter Cullen), vs. the evil "Decepticons". A young scout, "B-127" (Voiced briefly by Dylan O'Brien) is sent by Optimus to leave their dying planet for Earth, in hopes of rendezvousing with the rest of the Autobot resistance. B-127 lands on Earth, only to be greeted by a military force, led by "Jack Burns" (John Cena), who has his men shoot first and ask questions later. But it turns out B-127 was followed by a Decepticon, "Blitzwing" (Voiced by David Soblov), setting off a battle that results with B-127 taking heavy damage, losing his voicebox and his memory, scanning a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle before shutting down. We cut to teenage girl, "Charlie Watson" (Hailee Steinfeld), who is acting out a bit against her mother, "Sally" (Pamela Adlon) and stepfather, "Ron" (Stephen Schneider), mostly because she is still coping with the death of her father. Charlie, wanting a new car more than anything, stumbles upon the Beetle, taking it home only to see it transform back into B-127.

 Due to only being able to make buzzing sounds, Charlie nicknames B-127 "Bumblebee", with the two eventually becoming the best of friends. Meanwhile, sadistic Decepticon duo, "Shatter" (Voiced by Angela Bassett) and "Dropkick" (Voiced by Justin Theroux), have been tracking Bumblebee, arrive on Earth, pretending to come in peace to earn the trust of the military and alien obsessed scientist, "Dr. Powell" (John Ortiz), against Burns' wishes, who sees all the robotic aliens as threats. Convincing the humans that Bumblebee is a dangerous fugitive, Shatter and Dropkick team up with the military to track Bumblebee down. Charlie, along with her neighbor, "Memo" (Jorge Leneborg Jr.), who has a crush on her, start to learn more about Bumblebee and where he comes from, vowing to protect him from the Decepticons that have come to hunt him. 

 With Michael Bay mostly serving as a producer, "Bumblebee" serves as a prequel to the live action franchise, based on the Hasbro toyline and cartoon series that began in the mid-80s (This time, focusing on one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise). Directed by Travis Knight ("Kubo and the Two Strings"), the film sets it's scale smaller, and aims for a younger audience, and all of it is for the better. Gone are the jumpy edits, the overpopulation of underdeveloped characters, ass shots of our female leads, and unfunny jock humor. It's all been replaced by attention to developed characters, a balanced tone of good humor and human drama, a lot of heart, and well, some focus on the actual "Transformers". (Amazing, six movies in, and they finally decide to give the "Transformers" the spotlight.) In the first few minutes, you can tell something is different, opening with a spectacular action scene on Cybertron (Complete with cameos from several beloved characters from the original series), and the "Transformers" themselves, even ones that appear momentarily, have their own movements and mannerisms, so you can get an idea for their characters. You can tell the budget is much smaller this time around, but even that works to this film's advantage, with the CGI characters still looking realistic and full of personality. Written by Christina Hodson (Who will be writing the upcoming "Birds of Prey" movie), the film has a more family friendly tone, which can be a little goofy at times, yet it's only where it needs to be. When the film focuses on it's heartwarming story, and the endearing main characters within it, that's where the film truly shines and sets up what a "Transformers" movie should be. 

 Hailee Steinfeld, is another one of those young actresses that always gives it 110% regardless of what she's in, and is as cute and lovable as ever. John Cena has turned into a pretty solid actor, getting to play a character who could of easily been a stereotype, but instead, could be seen as one of the smarter ones, who has visible humanity under his rough exterior. We get some welcome (And not annoying) humor from Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, and a suitably weird John Ortiz. Even our villains feel more fleshed out, both being frightening and capable, with Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux piling on the slime and menace. Peter Cullen's epic voice as Optimus Prime (Which is a role he's been playing for over thirty years) always makes me smile. However, Bumblebee remains the star. He's a likable character, that's both funny and capable. The relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie is strong and touching, with the both of them being somewhat broken characters (Emotionally in the case of Charlie, and physically in the case of Bumblebee). Their connection develops them as the film progresses (Something this franchise never did with any of it's characters.), and you become emotionally connected to them because of it. 

 "Bumblebee" is something that the previous live action "Transformers" films never were. Charming and wonderful. Aside from having a cohesive narrative, fluid action sequences, and having none of the typically offensive (And racially insensitive) moments of attempted humor, the film pays homage to films like "The Iron Giant" and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial". While following some predictable beats, the movie just does a great, even more competent job than the filmmakers probably needed to. It's clear there is actual care this time around, and they go out of their way to make something pretty special. The film even shows that you can still be clever with an 80s era soundtrack, without being too kitchy. What brings it all together is our main characters and how much you end up loving them, to the point it just makes you further realize just how bad the previous five films actually are. Just reboot it from here (It's not like you guys ever cared about continuity in the first place), and give me more of the transforming, fighting robots that I know and love.This is the first "Transformers" movie where I can safely say to bring the whole family to. No robot genitals this time! It wasn't too much to ask. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For A Little Language And Sci-Fi Violence, But Is Very Tame By Comparison. 

The Mule                                                       ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the mule movieImage: "Yep...Pure Mexican cocaine....You got a problem with that, punk?"

 Clint Eastwood is 88! He's been working for as long as I can possibly remember, from acting, writing, and directing, and still going strong. Ok, "The 15:17 to Paris" a lot. But still, imagine someone being in a coma for thirty years, waking up to hear that there's a new Clint Eastwood movie (That he;s directing, producing, and staring in) in theaters, and that it grossed $17 million this weekend. That's pretty cool. Then tell the coma patient that Donald Trump is President. Then watch the patient slip back into a coma.

 Inspired by a true story of a World War II veteran, who found himself running drugs for the Sinaloa Cartel (Seriously!), "The Mule" follows ninety year old veteran, "Earl Stone" (Clint Eastwood). Earl is charming enough, but isn't a particularly good family man, having always find ways to put his work as a horticulturist (Plant and science stuff) first. Having constantly let down his ex wife, "Mary" (Dianne Wiest), his daughter, "Iris" (Alison Eastwood, Clint's real life daughter), and granddaughter, "Ginny" (Taissa Farmiga), who idolizes him, Earl has also run into some financial trouble. Desperate for money, Earl takes the first job offered to him, which requires him to deliver some mysterious cargo for a shady group do I say this.....Mexican guys with guns.....Ahem. So anyways, Earl does the job required, asking zero questions, and gets paid a lot of money for it. Seeing that this is a way to make money that's too easy to pass up, Earl takes a few more jobs, eventually discovering the cargo he's transporting is drugs for a Mexican Cartel. Still Early continues to deliver the drugs, giving away some money to his community and for his family. Meanwhile, a pair of DEA agents, "Colin Bates" (Bradley Cooper) and his partner, "Trevino" (Michael Peña), who are looking into a way to bust the cartel, eventually start to close in on Earl. Things get even more complicated as tensions rise within the cartel, with Earl caught in the middle of it all. 

 "The Mule" is a bit of an off film, that's oddly hard to describe. It's big or heavy in it's dramatic aspirations, but tells a fairly simple, still emotional tale, despite a lack of focus in certain parts and some occasional kookiness. Written by Nick Schenk ("Gran Torino", "The Judge"), the film is kind of messy when it comes to story, yet strangely charming when it comes to character. It's a little hard to predict where exactly the film is going due to how some plotlines are either dropped or end up being resolved quickly and unexpectedly. I get the idea a lot of that was probably meant to be intentional, due to the film's interest in it's main character, who the more time you spend with him, start to realize how personal a story for Director/Producer, Clint Eastwood this probably all is. (Not sure he ran drugs for anyone, but you can see some allegories to his personal life here and there.)

 Clint Eastwood has become known as the growly, grouchy type, who's most memorable lines of dialogue are usually just variations on him going "Grrrrrrr!". But in this movie, he plays things a little quirkier and happier, with the clear sadness hidden under a happy, go lucky attitude. He's a fascinating, complicated, yet charming character. He's clearly aged and maybe a bit out of touch with the current cultural climate (Such as saying an occasionally racially insensitive comment or his inability to understand technology), though still pretty spry and quick thinking when it becomes really necessary to do so. It's his movie, though other actors still have their moments, such as Bradley Cooper, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne (as Bates' superior in the DEA), Alison Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, Ignacio Serricchio (as "Julio", Earl's handler), and a really wonderful Dianne Wiest. Though some like Andy Garcia (as "Laton", the Cartel boss) and Clifton Collins Jr. (as Laton's creepy henchmen) don't really have much to do, and their subplot doesn't get resolved. (Granted, I'm pretty sure it was meant to be that way.)

 "The Mule" is a little messy, and despite some great, deep moments of poignancy, the film just feels off in some way. Maybe it's the film's reliance on humor, which is needed and balances out the dark material with a charm that feels natural. However, it also makes the movie feel simplified. Regardless, there is such a likability to it, and you do find some investment, especially since you have trouble knowing how its all going to end. Perhaps the film is using it's choppy narrative to it's advantage in that case. The film shows that this Hollywood legend is still plenty capable, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. "The 15:17 to Paris" was just a little bump in the road. I'll bet even odds I'll be reviewing a Clint Eastwood film in, oh, 10, maybe 20 years from now. 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Drugs, And Clint Eastwood's Veins, Which Seemingly Have Minds Of Their Own. 

Mortal Engines                                         ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "I can see a better movie from here."

 So this movie is expected to only make $10 million on it's opening weekend against it's $100 million budget, not counting the countless TV spots and advertisements for it. The thing is, no matter how bad or good this was, it was pretty much destined to flop. You really can't market fantasy epic/YA dystopian book to screen adaptations anymore, even with Peter Jackson's name being attached to it. It needed WAY more hobbits.

 Based on the first book in a series of books called the "Mortal Engines Quartet", "Mortal Engines" is set in a post apocalyptic world, where the remnants of humanity have formed massive, mobile cities, that can be used as weapons. War has broken out, because some use these "Predator" cities to hunt down and consume other smaller ones, taking their resources and people and forcing them to become part of the larger one. A young, scarred woman, "Hester Shaw" (Hera Hilmar) is aboard a mobile mining town, that finds itself captured by the towering monstrosity, "London"., which is run by the arrogant mayor, "Magnus Crome" (Patrick Malahide). Turns out Hester wanted this to happen, simply so she could sneak onto London to track down the man who murdered her mother, "Thaddeus Valentine" (Hugo Weaving), who is seen as a beloved, kind man by the cities people, and is Crome's second in command. Before she can kill Valentine, Hester is stopped by a young historian, "Tom Natsworthy" (Robert Sheehan). This results in a chase, with Hester escaping the city, and Valentine, knowing Tom was told by Hester of his secret, attempting to kill Tom by pushing him into a waste chute.

 Tom survives, and discovers a new worldview as he teams up with Hester to get to safety. The duo find themselves in the middle of the war, becoming parts of a resistance force, known as the "Anti-Traction League", lead by the rogue pilot, "Anna Fang" (Jihae). Valentine knows Hester won't be stopped so easily, and is determined to kill him no matter what gets in her way, so he unleashes an undead, cybernetic assassin, named "Shrike" (Stephen Lang), who has only one goal, to kill Hester due to a supposed "Promise" she broke. Meanwhile, Valentine's pretty daughter, "Katherine" (Leila George), knowing her respected daddy is hiding something, decides to dig a little deeper, discovering Valentine's intention to resurrect the very superweapon that caused the cataclysmic event that made the world what it is, called "MEDUSA". So Luke and the Rebels.....I mean, Hester and Tom, along with the Anti-Traction league have to stop Valentine's plans, while Hester remembers more about her past, realizing how she might be the one person capable of destroying MEDUSA.  

 Produced by Peter Jackson (Who also co-wrote the screenplay), "Mortal Engines" has a lot going for it when it starts. It sets up it's world quickly, without lingering too long on it, but just enough to leave an impact. The world that's set up, how it works, and how people live, all of it is fascinating, and visually beautiful. The scale and scope of the mobile cities, while maybe illogical (Who cares? It's fantasy.), are sights to behold, and unlike anything I've ever seen before. This idea is so original and clever, with a stunning art design that I would almost consider Oscar worthy. It's too bad the originality doesn't go into story, characters, writing, and well, basic filmmaking quality. Director Christian Rivers (A protégé of Peter Jackson's), has an eye for visuals and sweeping shots, but can't give the film an identity of it's own and really isn't well versed enough in directing his actors, who are stuck trying to make the most of bland characters. 

 Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan, who you can see have potential as actors, are the most generic of lead characters, that go down the route you expect, without much of an emotional connection between the two. Jihae is meant to be the badass, who doesn't necessarily do much deserving of recognition, and while Leila George is very (Very!) on the attractive side, her subplot is Ronan Raftery (as "Bevis Pod", a friend of Katherine's, who simply vanishes in the last act), just tells you what you already figured out on your own the second the plotline began. Hugo Weaving, who is a reliably good actor, brings much more to his villainous character than was probably written. You just feel as if he is provided more depth to what feels like it was meant to be nothing more than a generic baddie. Hands down, the best and more memorable characters ends up being Stephen Lang's. The creature's design is frightening and unique, while still being able to display some hint of humanity and tragedy, which makes some effective emotional moments actually feel earned. He's easily the only character I ended actually caring about, but sadly isn't in the film near enough. 

 "Mortal Engines" is brilliant in how it looks and the ambitions behind it, but falls flat when it comes to leaving an actual impact. (Say what you will about the last "Fantastic Beasts" or even the "Hobbit" trilogy, but they at least had an identity and characters of their own.) The story is predictable, ripping off "Star Wars" during the climax in a way that's almost commendable in it's laziness, and without much of a sense of humor (Aside from an amusing reference to the Minions from "Despicable Me"), the movie doesn't fill it's lively looking world with much life of it's own. Movies like this can be even more disappointing because you admire what it got right and can see where it could of all worked, but instead can't help but focus on where it goes wrong. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Scary Cyborg Zombie People, And Slight Facial Scarring. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse                                                                                                                                ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: When Comic-Con gets dangerous. 

 The 50+ year old Marvel based superhero has had himself quite a year. He was in "Avengers: Infinity War", which was an instant superhero classic (And after his fate in that movie, an incredibly heartbreaking and depressing one). He had a brilliant PS4 video game which was fun, exciting, and more cinematic than most movies. Not to mention the villain/anti-hero spin-off, "Venom", which may of not been a critical darling (Still kind of recommended it in a fascinatingly unstable sort of way), but made a ton of money. It's a bit odd to have a new "Spider-Man" movie, that's animated and has been distributed by "Sony Pictures Animation" (You know....the people who allowed "The Emoji Movie" to come into existence.), just released in the middle of all this. You want to know something even weirder? It may be the most amazing movie based on the heroic web crawler yet. Not joking. 

 "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" follows a different hero from who we've become accustomed to. In a new universe, while there is still a "Peter Parker/Spider-Man" (Chris Pine, in an extended cameo), we instead focus on young half-Puerto-Rican/half-African-American teen, "Miles Morales" (Shameik Moore), living in Brooklyn with his mother, "Rio" (Luna Lauren Velez).and police officer father, "Jefferson" (Brian Tyree Henry), who isn't a fan of the web-slinger. Miles has a bit of a rocky relationship with Jefferson, being forced to attend to attend an elite boarding school and prefers to hang out with his estranged from the family uncle, "Aaron" (Mahershala Ali), despite being told specifically not to. While doing some graffiti with Aaron in an abandoned New York subway, Miles is bitten by a strange looking spider, causing him to experience new changes in his body (Which he confuses for puberty), such as higher senses and the ability to stick to walls. Miles decides to go back into the subway to find the spider, stumbling upon a battle between Spider-Man and the monstrous "Green Goblin" (Jorma Taccone). Turns out Green Goblin has been recruited by the hulking crime lord, "Wilson Fisk/Kingpin" (Liev Schreiber), who has also enlisted more villains, including the mysterious "Prowler" to work for him.

 Kingpin is using a machine called a "Super Collider", which can open up portals to other universes, for his own personal reasons, and is willing to do anything to make it work. Spider-Man notices Miles, realizing that the spider that bit Miles, is just like the one that gave him his own powers, entrusting a thumb drive to him that will shut down the Collider. Kingpin ends up getting the upper hand and murders Spider-Man, which Miles witnesses. News of Spider-Man's death spreads throughout the city, and Miles, wearing a cheap Spider-Man costume decides to honor Spider-Man's legacy to stop Kingpin's plan. He comes across a more cynical, chubbier and washed up version of the deceased hero, "Peter B. Parker/Spider-Man" (Jake Johnson), who was transported from his universe into Miles' universe due to Kingpin's Collider. Becoming an awkward mentor of sorts to Miles, this new Spider-Man team up with a group of other universe hopping Spider-Men/Women, such as the tough "Spider-Gwen" (Hailee Steinfeld), the anime-esque "Peni Parker" (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot buddy, "SP//dr", the hard boiled 30's era "Spider-Man Noir" (Nicolas Cage), and the puntastic talking pig, "Peter Porker/Spider-Ham" (John Mulaney) to stop Kingpin from using the Collider any further, which threatens to completely destroy Miles' universe, as well as cause the deaths of the other heroes. 

 The fact that "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is great isn't necessarily completely impossible to expect. But it's how all of this came together to make for a wonderful representation of a beloved hero, while focusing on an already established and popular (Yet still unknown just enough) character who is still somewhat recent, and even get a little deeper than you would even guess the filmmakers would think of going. Directed by a trio consisting of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey ("Rise of the Guardians"), and Rodney Rothman (One of the writers of "22 Jump Street"), as well as being produced and developed by the duo responsible for the already classic "Lego Movies", Phil Lord (Also credited as a writer) and Christopher Miller, the film benefits from an onslaught of talent, coming together to make sure everything fits in perfectly. From a screenplay with plenty of laugh out loud humor (A lot of it, very Meta) and a lot of emotional heart, mixed with spectacular, almost mind blowing animation (Which required up to 140 animators), to bring out a blend of unique styles and truly breathtaking action. 

 None of this would really work if the characters were fleshed out and memorable, and despite the many, many characters who appear, the film finds room to give everyone their time, while not forgetting it's main character and his story. Shameik Moore (Who gave a wonderful breakout performance in 2015's "Dope") is an excellent hero, who encompasses everything we love about Spider-Man, being relatable, funny, and endearing. His chemistry with a perfectly cast Jake Johnson, working well off each other with their banter, along with a heartfelt relationship coming out of it. Hailee Steinfeld is another great casting choice, showing pretty quickly why Sony is already planning a spin-off for her. Our other Spider-Men (Spider-People?Spider-Beings?) steal their scenes, with an adorable Kimiko Glenn, a hilarious John Mulaney, and Nicolas Cage continuing to remind us how brilliant an actor he can actually be. Brian Tyree Henry (Who appears to be in a movie every few weeks, and always hits it out of the park) gives off this very sincere, warm performance. Liev Schreiber is a menacing presence, who even gives his villain a little more extra depth than expected. The supporting roles are also memorable, from Lily Tomlin (as "Aunt May", a more badass version than we're used to), the always great Mahershala Ali, Zoë Kravitz (as "Mary Jane", the deceased Spider-Man's love interest, mourning his death), and Kathryn Hahn (As a character that I dare not spoil. It's actually a bit of a jaw dropping reveal.) The animation on the characters, which are all unique in style and movement to match their personalities, flawlessly go with the terrific voice work provided. (Once again, the Oscars really need to start acknowledging voice performances. It's real acting, and it shows here.)

 Packed with all kinds of references for us geeks, loads of colorful action and lovable characters for the kids, and messages that even the adults will find inspiring. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" best shows how anyone, of any race, background, or even if you're a talking pig, can be Spider-Man. Anyone can be heroic, which has always been the appeal of the character, and why we've had so many versions of him. The animation is game changing (Setting an unexpected new standard that even Disney will have to compete with), the film is tightly packed and terrifically paced, and should find a way to resonate with the entire family. It's a movie that you just want to watch again whether it's to catch an Easter egg you missed, to experience the psychedelic and incredible animation, or simply to see these characters again. It's seems Marvel might not be the only one capable of making culturally relevant superhero films, and this isn't just the best one of the year, nor is it simply the best animated movie or best Spider-Man movie, it's just one of the best movies of the year. 4 stars. Stick around after the credits for a great post-credits scene, as well as a touching tribute to both Spider-Man creators Stan Lee (Who has a quick cameo) and Steve Ditko, both having passed away this year. Rated PG For Action, A Little Language, A Reference To The Street Dancing Scene From "Spider-Man 3", And Some Dark Moments That Might Even Make The Parents' Eyes Water. 

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle                                                                                                                                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Ill grin and Bear it....But it gives me great paws."

 Reviewing movies from Netflix are weird enough as it is. (Typing a review on a computer that I just moments prior finished watching a movie on? That's surreal as Hell!) But I decided to mix it up further by watching this movie on my phone! I saw "Show Dogs" and "The Hurricane Heist" in theaters on a massive silver screen, while I watched this on my phone in the break room at work. Something is thoroughly wrong there. 

 "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" opens in the jungle, which is kept in order by the so called "Jungle Law", which is meant to represent a balance between the many different animal life. It is also meant to keep anyone from instigating something with the constantly growing man village. The violent, man hating tiger, "Shere Khan" (Benedict Cumberbatch) doesn't give a crap about any of this, slaughtering a family of humans, leaving the child alone and orphaned. The kind panther, "Bagheera" (Christian Bale) stumbles upon the boy, taking him to the wolves to protect him from Shere Khan's clutches. The wolf pack leader, "Akela" (Peter Mullan) sees this as a possible chance of bringing the jungle together, allowing wolf parents, "Nisha" (Naomie Harris) and "Vihaan" (Eddie Marsan) to raise the boy as one of the pack, preventing Shere Khan from also killing him.

  later, the man cub, now called "Mowgli" (Rohand Chand) has become one of the wolves, being trained to survive and hunt by both Bagheera and gruff, but lovable bear, "Baloo" (Andy Serkis) into become a full fledged member of the pack. Of course, Mowgli doesn't fit in, with the other wolves treating him differently. Unable to find Mowgli's place in the jungle, Bagheera begins to think that maybe it would be better if Mowgli returned to the man village, while the wolves themselves are at odds with each other. Eventually, Mowgli finds himself in the man village, where wicked hunter, "John Lockwood" (Matthew Rhys), has been brought in by the villagers to hunt down Shere Khan. It becomes apparent that Shere Khan is trying to completely destroy the law of the jungle, by massacring the cattle belonging to the humans, as well as further escalate political tension among the wolves. Mowgli is seen as the only one who could possible put a stop to the evil tiger's plans, save the jungle, and find his own place within it. 

 A passion project of Director Andy Serkis, who previously directed the 2017 film "Breathe, and his mostly known for being snubbed for his terrific motion capture based performances (Such as Gollum from "Lord of the Rings" and Caesar from the "Planet of the Apes" movies), "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" has been in production for years. Its being pushed around due to the shear ambitiousness of the project and because of the critically praised 2016 Disney remake of "The Jungle Book", resulting in Warner Brothers removing it's theatrical release in favor of a Netflix one. Based more in line with the original book, complete with the darker imagery and brutality (No singing or dancing in this one.), it's hard to separate what we've seen before from this one. The fact that we already have two wonderful Disney films to watch at any point, this movie feels weaker by comparison. However, despite some iffy moments of storytelling, the movie isn't without it's visible potential. Our characters are a bit rougher than what we're used to, setting up the idea of how harsh and dirty the jungle can be. which plays into how the characters interact with each other. Visually, the film doesn't quite match the realism of the 2016 film, but it's still lovely to look at, and Serkis' eye for scope and cinematography is very much impressive. 

 The darker tone set up for the characters, while it at times can be a bit jarring when it shifts around, still portrays them in a compelling light. Rohan Chand (Who you might remember stealing the show in 2013's "Bad Words") has to give a very movement based performance, that's innocent and childlike, but also brutal and at times, a bit animalistic. The animal characters are all played through motion capture, with the actors' expressions and movements, as well as their voices bringing their characters to life on screen, even when they don't look particularly real. Christian Bale is absolutely wonderful (I had no idea it was him the entire time), getting a handful of heartfelt scenes with Chand. Benedict Cumberbatch is a frightening villain, sneering and growling in the scariest way possible. Cate Blanchett (as "Kaa" the giant python, who is less of a villain in this film) is perfectly cast, with her voice sending chills down your spine. (It's also kind of sexy. Just saying. Sexy snake right there.) The supporting work is also excellent, from the always great Andy Serkis, the sweetly voiced Naomie Harris, and a delightfully scummy Tom Hollander (as "Tabaqui", Shere Khan's flea ridden hyena henchman). Some of the weaker aspects come in later with our human actors, Matthew Rhys (Who still has a few interesting moments) and an underused Frieda Pinto (as "Messua", Mowgli's adoptive mother), which comes in a bit late and feels skimmed over due to cramming a lot into an hour and forty minutes. 

 Building up to a suspenseful, albeit disjointed climax, and boasting lively effects, "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle" doesn't have the charm or heart that we've seen in the still much better Disney adaptations (Hell, the remake alone was enough to make me questioning if they could ever do "The Jungle Book" ever again). However, it makes up for it with a more grounded, grungier setting, some truly spectacular imagery, and the clear amount of passion and hard work that was put into the film. It's got it's narrative and tonal flaws, and it's a bit difficult to find a specific audience to recommend it for. But with that said, there is a sense of accomplishment to the film, as well as the commitment to heavier drama, that doesn't feel as if it's trying to hard to be darker. It feels natural, and for something like Netflix (Whose movies usually range from okay to whatever "Bright" was) to show this much ambition on something, I kind of want to see more like it. And then I can keep it on Netflix and binge some more of " The Office". 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Bloody Violence, And Hunter Trophies That Will Scar Your Children. 

POKÉMON THE MOVIE: THE POWER OF US                                                                                                                              ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for Pokémon the Movie: The Power of UsImage: "I can see my Charizard from here!"

 Let's talk about the upcoming Pokémon live action movie, "Pokémon: Detective Pikachu", which involves a kid teaming up with a talking hard boiled Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds. It's one of the strangest trailers for an already bizarre concept I've ever seen. Of course I want to see it, if not just to see how insane it all ends up being. But if this ends up being the first truly great video game movie, I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about that. I guess it might take us completely losing our minds to finally make a good one.. 

  A direct sequel to last year's "Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You!", "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" once again takes place where instead of animals, we have Pokémon, who fight each other for the sick amusement of humanity. (Be honest with yourselves. That's basically what it is.) We once again follow good natured Pokémon trainer, "Ash Ketchum" (Sarah Natochenny) and his beloved/overpowered, electrical mouse Pokémon "Pikachu" on their many adventures, while avoiding the pathetically villainous, "Team Rocket", consisting of "Jessie" (Michele Knotz), "James" (James Carter Cathcart), their English speaking "Meowth" (also James Carter Cathcart), and the simple minded "Wobbuffet". Ash and Pikachu make their way to "Fula City", where the townspeople are hosting a festival to save the city's rescue long ago, thanks to the legendary "Lugia". Our heroes become involved with a variety of colorful characters, each with their own issues.

 There's "Risa" (Haven Paschall), who is in search of an "Eevee" for her hospitalized brother, along with a shy, but sweet, scientist, "Toren" (Eddy Lee), a bitter, but lonely old woman, "Harriet" (Who's voice actress I can't find the name of), and con man, "Callahan" (Billy Bob Thompson), who is simply trying to impress his niece, eventually befriending a tree-like Pokémon "Sudowudo". Not to mention the daughter of the Mayor, "Margo" (Erica Schroeder), who is keeping a secret from her father. Problems arise when strange things start to happen in the city, along with a mystical undying flame being stone, which could cause the city to lose all power, and a so called curse that resides in the nearby woods, provided by human hating Pokémon "Zeraora". Then Team Rocket steals a bottle of "Effect Spore" (A Poisonous Pokémon ability in bottle form) from Toren, and due to their ineptitude, end up dropping the bottle, causing the spore to be released. The spore, along with the lack of power and assumed curse could cause the city's destruction, as well as the deaths of the citizens and their Pokémon. It's up to Ash and Pikachu to rally everyone to band together to save the city from destruction.

 The 21st Pokémon film (And the second in this rebooted continuity), "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" is once again, simply for the fans, and will mostly confuse anyone else who stumbles upon it. (Granted, why would you watch it in the first place unless you are a fan?) Much like everything related to the franchise that's spanned over twenty years (With video games, toys, an anime, movies based on the anime, and the already mentioned upcoming live action film), it's fully of cheesiness to an almost hilarious degree. Oddly, it's always been part of the charm to Pokémon, and especially for the little ones, you can see why it's lasted so long. (I was actually a major fan, who followed the show for the first couple generations, who still has fond memories of all the silliness.) While the last film, while enjoyable, was mostly just a recap of what we'd seen before, except in a cinematic format, this new one is a completely original story. It seems more focused this time around, even with the many subplots, which all mostly come together by the climax. 

 The voice work is as fittingly corny as the dialogue, but it matches the film's innocent tone, with Billy Bob Thompson doing the best work, mostly due to getting the most effective character arc. Ash is still an easy to root for hero, while Pikachu remains one of the cutest creations ever put in any form of media. The new characters all have a role to play, though a mini plot involving some Pokémon hunters doesn't amount to much, and thankfully gets dropped quickly. Then there's the hilariously pathetic Team Rocket, making for delightfully incompetent antagonists, that come across just as lovable as our heroes. The animation is beautiful and lively, and the film's overall look is inviting enough even for the parents mostly only watching because their kids are. 

 Endearingly narmy as ever, "Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us" offers sweet messages of friendship, working together, and the importance of coexisting with nature. It's aimed at the youngest of the young (And the fans who remained young), but doesn't exactly talk down to them. It's not afraid to get a little dark where necessary, and I have to give credit that a little movie like this is showing more maturity than a lot of films aimed at so-called adults. It's a nice kids movie, with a lot of heart and an overabundance of cuteness, to go with a good helping of honest, childlike goofiness. Maybe that Detective Pikachu movie might actually work. 3 stars. (For the right audience anyways) Not Rated, But It's Safe For All Ages. (Well, Except For That Bit With The Smeargle Ink.....Why Was It That Color?)

Robin Hood                                          ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for robin hood 2018Image: Doesn't look very hood to me.

  Allow me to ask the questions that are on everyone's mind. Who in their right mind asked for yet another "Robin Hood" adaptation? How in the Hell did this get greenlit by a major studio with over a $100 Million budget? Why is anyone surprised that this bombed so hard? What the Hell were they thinking? And (If you saw it) when will it finally be over so I can move on with my life? 

 Based on that story you've likely heard of (How have you not?), "Robin Hood" is a Batman-eque origin story, following "Robin of Loxley" (Taron Egerton), a rich young lord, who falls in love with the beautiful "Marion" (Eve Hewson), living a simple, carefree life. That is until the tyrannical "Sherrif of Nottingham" (Ben Mendelsohn), who ruthlessly taxes the people for the Church, drafts Robin into the Crusades. Four years later, Robin witnesses horrific persecution against Muslims, intervening in an execution, resulting in him getting shot with an arrow by his superior, "Sir Grisborne" (Paul Anderson). Robin is sent back home, being followed by the man who would become "Little John" (Jamie Foxx), who witnessed Robin's selfless act. When Robin gets home, he discovers how much has changed while he's been away.

 Due to being declared dead, his house in ruins, Marion now poor (But still very beautiful, because Hollywood!) and in a relationship with whiny political leader, "Will Tillman" (Jamie Dornan), and the rest of the people now more oppressed than ever. Robin runs into John, who also wants vengeance on the Sherrif, devising a plan to steal from the rich and give back to the poor. John trains Robin to hone his archery skills, giving him a new hood to use as a disguise. Now Robin, using his lordship persona by day and his new superhero alter ego, known as "The Hood" by night, he begins to launch assaults on the Sherrif's forces, stealing their gold and returning it to the people in need. This attracts the attention of the higher ups and demand that the Sherrif handle this situation as quickly as possible. Eventually, Robin rallies the people together to stand up to the Sherrif, and take back their kingdom. 

 Directed by Otto Bathurst (Known mostly for TV related material) and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (Wait. What? There is a story behind that isn't there?), "Robin Hood" is as unnecessary as it sounds. It's all been somewhat modernized in the sense that despite taking place in medieval times, there are enough out of place outfits, weaponry, and whatever else that would cause any historian to rip it to absolute shreds like a vulture on roadkill. The movie also seemingly tries to include allegories to the Iraq war and Donald Trump, but it's all incredibly silly and out of place. Maybe it all would of worked with a better screenplay, but the one we get lacks it's own identity, little character, and a violent onslaught of stupidity (Like, how does nobody realize that Robin is the Hood? That mask barely covers anything. Also, how does nobody recognize Jamie Foxx everywhere he goes? He's one of three black guys in the entire kingdom! I'm sure you guys could figure out he's involved too!) 

 Taron Egerton really isn't a bad choice to portray the beloved hero. The fault lies more in the writing, which keeps things as bland as possible. Jamie Foxx is a little over the top, but he at least livens things up and his character can be fun. (In fact, he's probably more interesting that the titular hero.) Eve Hewson is left with little to do except provide fanservice, even when it's not necessary. (Granted, she's very, very pretty. But is it that hard to give her something to do?) Jamie Dornan's story only gets sillier and sillier as it progresses, Tim Minchin (as "Friar Tuck", a comical ally to Robin) is mostly here for goofy humor, and F. Murray Abraham (as the evil "Cardinal", who is the Sherrif's superior) is always welcome. (Though I'm confused as to what the studio had on him that led to his casting.) Then there's Ben Mendelsohn, who once again plays a sneering villain, but really has perfected that role. He's still menacing, oddly compelling, and just adds a little extra something to a movie without a personality of it's own.

 Relying too much on that speedy/slo-mo style of action, "Robin Hood" is a bore, with characters that don't leave impressions, and predictable dialogue. The most interesting aspect ends up being the mind boggling questions that led to this film's existence. It really doesn't make any sense how anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place, and it didn't help that the filmmakers to justify it all. You got plenty of other adaptations already to choose from. Like the Disney one, with the talking animals, that oddly feels more realistic. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence Heavy Handed Allegories, And Machine Gun Arrows. 

Green Book                                     ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for green book movieImage: "No, you can't share my 99 cent value meal fries!"

 Thanksgiving is said and done, I'm no longer sick, and my seven day work day stretch is finally finished. I no longer have anything to stand in my way of catching up on the movies I missed, anything I need to see for Oscar season, and to pass the time. (I don't just review movies. I watch a crap ton of them for fun too. I'm not a weirdo.) 

 "Green Book" opens with New York City bouncer, "Tony Vallelonga" (Viggo Mortenson), known by his nickname "Tony Lip" (Because he was known as the best bullsh*tter), looking for a new job after the nightclub he works at is shut down. Trying to support his wife, "Dolores" (Linda Cardellini) and kids, Tony isn't exactly picky when it comes to a job or making money, he ends up in an interview with pianist, "Don Shirley" (Mahershala Ali). Don is planning a tour throughout the deep south with his group called the "Don Shirley Trio", which also includes cellist "Oleg" (Dimeter Marinov) and bass player, "George" (Mike Hatton). Tony gets the job, agreeing to drive Don through the south to all of his gigs for two months, being given the "The Negro Motorist Green Book" (A guide for black travelers in the South, mostly listing where to stay and avoid trouble), as well as a car that he shares specifically with Don. At first, Tony and Don don't exactly get along, with Don being sophisticated and private and Tony being loud and lacking a filter of any kind. However, their time together helps the two start to understand each other and the worlds that they come from, and a true friendship is formed. 

 Directed by Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly brothers ("Dumb and Dumber"), "Green Book" is something of a little more depth. More of a comedy/drama, the film is a bit softer and lighter than probably the best of true stories would be expected to be. It's a bit of a clichéd and predictable story, that works because of the genuine heart put into the film, as well as plenty of good laughs. Written by Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie, and Nick Vallelonga (Tony Vallelonga's son), the movie is tame and more on the fluffy side, but never disrespectful. It's heartfelt, insightful, and very funny. It's a really solid balance between the drama (Which is treated as realistically as the PG-13 rating allows) and the comedy, which is also helped by our main characters, the actors playing them, and the wonderful chemistry between them. 

 Both almost unrecognizable (In either looks or what we're used to seeing them portray), Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali are perfect together, with the two having a fantastic rapport with each other, that's both humorous and thoroughly heartwarming. Mortenson brings humanity and some likability to his character, who does have some bigoted thoughts and occasionally partakes in a few questionable acts. His family life, which shows him to be a good husband and father, add a little extra depth, and the good person that we know is somewhere inside him, shines especially in the scenes with Ali, who is once again outstanding. He's already a terrific actor, winning an Oscar in the award winning "Moonlight", but he also shows off some comedic chops, with a fantastic straight man reaction to Mortenson's goofiness. When it comes to drama, both actors charisma and chemistry make the film's most serious aspects work. Linda Cardellini is charming and sweet, and while Dimeter Marinov and Mike Hatton are mostly secondary, they do have their moments of charm. 

 "Green Book" could be a bit too fluffy for some, and while I can see that being a turn off, it's hard to deny that it's a story that really anyone can find something to love about. It's honestly too likable to straight up dislike. The movie never forgets to show the kind of injustice people of color were forced to experience during this time, and how it affected even how those who became for successful were still seen as lesser. Maybe some liberties were taken (They did say "Inspired by a True Story" after all.), but there is this sense of fun to our main characters, where you root for them and just plain enjoy spending time with them.  I can only hope I can say that about every rode trip Ill ever take. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Racial Injustice, Language, And $1 KFC. (Okay, That's Crazy Right There!)

Creed II                                                  ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for creed 2Image: Yeah, but can he beat Clubber Lang Jr.?

 A continuation of the beloved (But kind of all over the place in terms of apparent quality) "Rocky" series, "Creed" was a complete surprise. Directed by Ryan Coogler (Who went on to direct the even more critically lauded "Black Panther"), the movie earned itself some award nominations, including tons of praise for Sylvester Stallone, as well as an instant following, which makes it obvious there was clamoring for a sequel.There were like six "Rocky" movies after all.

 "Creed II" follows "Adonis Creed" (Michael B. Jordan), son of world famous boxer, "Apollo Creed". With help from his trainer/former heavyweight champion, "Rocky Balboa" (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis has gone on to become the new heavyweight champion. Adonis plans to take things more simply now, asking his singer/songwriter girlfriend, "Bianca" (Tessa Thompson) to marry him, who also ends up pregnant. Things are looking pretty up until an old figure from the past decides to make another appearence. Smarmy promoter, "Buddy Marcelle" (David Hornsby) hopes to arrange for a fight between Adonis and "Viktor Drago" (Florian Munteanu), the son of "Ivan Drago" (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis' father in the ring decades earlier. Since his defeat at the hands of Rocky, Drago has lost everything, including the respect of his country, having been training his son to become a massive fighting machine. 

 After being called out on live TV, Adonis plans on taking the fight, despite the fact that Rocky, still full of grief over his friend's death, has no intention of helping him. Adonis and Bianca move to Las Angelas, getting a new trainer, "Tony "Little Duke" Evers" (Wood Harris), getting ready for a bit fight against Viktor. The day of the fight arrives, where it ends in total disaster, with Adonis taking a ruthless beating, destroying his spirit in the process. Realizing that Viktor is a different kind of fighter than what he's used to (The dude is huge! Like even bigger than Michel B. Jordan huge!), Adonis now has to find a way to recover and regain his confidence to face Viktor again. 

 Directed this time by Steven Caple Jr., "Creed II" does what any boxing, sports drama would be expected to do. Bad guy calls out our hero, hero is unprepared when he faces him, there's some drama and some broken spirits, but it all comes together when hero decides to make a grand comeback and win the day. That's a typical sports story that we've seen dozens of times, and that's the movie the filmmakers set out to make. It's the usual ingredients, but with competent direction, a solid script by Juel Tylor and Sylvester Stallone, and excellent performances, you can make those work to their best effect. Now while the first movie set out to change the genre, this new one really doesn't, but has no intention of doing so. The screenplay, despite the occasional silly or corny line (Yes, Drago does talk about "Breaking" someone), it still does set itself in the real world, with believable enough characters to set it apart from the once in a while moment that quite doesn't feel all that realistic. (Not sure the World Boxing Association would really allow any of this to happen...)

 Michael B. Jordan is once again terrific, showing his vulnerability as well as his strength, which makes for a compelling and likable main character. Sylvester Stallone (Who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the last movie) is wonderful, funny, and just plain endearing. His subplot involving wanting to make a connection with his son (A Milo Ventimiglia cameo) is nothing more than a subplot, but it's still heartfelt and serves a character based purpose. One of the aspects that this movie improves over the last movie is Tess Thompson who, while great, was mostly just the love interest before. She gets more of an important role this time around and plays it perfectly. Phylicia Rashad (as "Mary Anne Creed", Adonis' living stepmother) is more on the sidelines, but has this natural warmth to her, Russell Hornsby does a good job playing a grinning corporate type, while Florian Munteanu is intimidating as Hell. Dolph Lundgren is quite great in the movie, becoming more than just our villain, given some actual humanity to balance out his frightening stare. (He actually gets a lot of out that menacing stare.)

 A pure crowdpleaser to a fault, "Creed II" is fairly predictable and a little cheesy. The fights are thrilling, the characters are easy to root for, and while there are few surprises, it's easy to see why this story outline has been done so many times. When done well, it works and gets the audience pumped, regardless of the fact they've seen it before. Give the audience what they want. Even I want to start training....And now that moment has past.  3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Heavyweight Boxing And Heavyweight Drama. 

Ralph Breaks the Internet                                                                                                                                               ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

 Image result for ralph breaks the internetImage: "And Prince Charming's hands? So TINY!"

 The sequel to the instantly beloved, Academy Award winning 2012 animated, video game heavy hit, "Wreck-It Ralph" was something that came to everyone's minds the moment the film was released and everyone loved it. (It also made my Top 10 Best List that year.) With so much potential waiting to be exploited, and more games outside of arcade based to be explored, you can see why some people were a little confused and disappointed when it was revealed that the sequel would instead focus on more current trends, such as a very detailed look into the Internet. Mostly people were getting very similar vibes to last year's vile waste of animation "The Emoji Movie", which seemingly attempted (It's a little hard to tell) to do something similar. Now to put everyone at ease. "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is proof that we really should never question the motives and methods of Disney ever again. For our own sakes. They will be controlling the world at some point in the future anyway. 

 "Ralph Breaks the Internet" picks up a few years after the first film, within an arcade where all the game characters live and converse. Following video game bad guy, who is actually a good guy, "Wreck-It Ralph" (John C. Reilly) and his glitchy best friend, "Vanellope von Schweetz" (Sarah Silverman). Ralph still serves as the villain for his game, "Fix-It Felix Jr.", while Vanellope is the princess/star racer for a candy coated racing game "Sugar Rush", with the two of them being inseparable. The owner of the arcade, "Mr. Litwak" (Ed O'Neill) installs "Wi-Fi" into the arcade, which opens up a new portal to a mysterious, dark, and dangerous place known as "The Internet"! Around this time, due to Ralph's attempts to help Vanellope change up her game, the console's controller ends up breaking, which results in the game being shut down and all of the residents becoming homeless. While husband and wife, the Felix game's protagonist "Fix-It Felix Jr." (Jack McBrayer) and tough, blaster using heroine "Sergeant Calhoun" (Jane Lynch) adopt the game residents as their kids (With hilarious results), Ralph learns that the game's controller is available on "Ebay".

 Ralph and Vanellope venture out into the wide world of the Internet, discovering that they will need money to purchase the new controller. Setting out further into the Internet, the duo come across a video trending side, "BuzzTube", run by it's head algorithm, "Yesss" (Taraji P. Henson), who tells Ralph that making trendy viral videos are a way to make quick money on the Internet. While Ralph becomes an Internet sensation, Vanellope goes on her own adventures, meeting Disney's wide variety of animated princesses (Along with the many, many, many other properties they own) and also finding an interest in a crazy cool and crazy violent, online racing game called "Slaughter Race", where she befriends the main racer, "Shank" (Gal Gadot). While seeing more of the Internet's darker side, Ralph becomes concerned that Vanellope might like this new game and is considering not coming back with him to the arcade, meaning he could possibly lose his best friend in the process. 

  So to give clarification as to why a movie like this works, but one like "The Emoji Movie" to be put simply would be.....One is good, one is well, "The Emoji Movie". Yeah, there's a more complicated, detailed answer, but I just wanted to state the obvious. Directed by returning director Phil Johnston (The first "Wreck-It Ralph") and Rich Moore ("Zootopia"), "Ralph Breaks the Internet" actually has something to say, and uses it's very reference heavy, modernized setting to it's advantage. The film does it in a way that's wonderful, funny, and sweet, with the competence of quality filmmakers that we've come to expect from Disney. Of course the animation is better than just simple top notch, with loads of little jokes packed in the background and the foreground, as well as lively worlds and environments. It's flawlessly beautiful to gawk at, but would we ever expect anything less? The script by Johnston and Pamela Ribon ("Moana") is smart with it's dialogue, that's both hilarious and a story with more depth than expected.

 John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman are the ones who get the spotlight, and deservedly so. They are both perfectly cast and absolutely wonderful. They embody these characters, and not just because the characters look like exaggerated versions of them. Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch have less screentime than before, but get some funny moments. There are some great new additions, such as Gal Gadot, a terrific Taraji P. Henson, Alfred Molina (as "Double Dan", a slug like seller of illegal properties on the "Dark Web"), an uncredited Bill Hader (as "JP Spamley", who represents all of the Internet's constant spams and popups) and Disney's newest good luck charm, Alan Tudyk (as "KnowsMore", a search engine).Then of course, there are the endless cameos, some expected and some totally unexpected. There are less video game based ones, though they still appear. (Sonic!!!) The big ones being the onslaughts of Disney characters, including the Disney Princesses, which includes (And yes, I'm gonna list them all), "Cinderella" (Jennifer Hale), "Aurora" (Kate Higgins), "Ariel" (Jodi Benson), "Belle" (Paige O'Hara), "Jasmine" (Linda Larkin), "Pocahontas" (Irene Bedard), "Mulan" (Ming-Na Wen), "Tiana" (Anika Noni Rose), "Rapunzel" (Mandy Moore), "Merida" (Kelly Macdonald), "Snow White" (Pamela Ribbon), "Moana" (Auli'i Cravalho), "Anna" (Kristen Bell), and "Elsa" (Idina Menzel). It's competing with "Avengers: Infinity War" for biggest crossover of all time right here. 

 While it's still odd to see real life companies and logos in animated form and it's really not quite as good as the original (Big shoes to fill after all), "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is one of those great family movies with plenty to offer for everyone. The laughs are constant, it's big hearted, and delivers a message in a mature and profound way that will definitely hit you right in the feels. Clever, heartwarming, and a ton of fun for all ages, while also being topical and relevant. See? There was nothing to worry about. Our Disney overlords have us covered. Also stick around during the credits. You won't regret it. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Some Crude Humor, Action, And The Terror That Is "The Comments Section". 

Widows                                                  ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for widows movieImage: "We don't need Liam Neeson for this one."

 So I'll take this time to apologize once again. Two weeks in a row and I'm getting reviews done of major releases late and well into the week. Still pretty sick and trying my best to get better before Thanksgiving starts. Not to mention I'm going to have to see a movie pretty much every day in the coming month, due to excessive new releases, last second Oscar hopefuls, and whatever else I missed throughout the year, which I need to see before December ends. I'll catch up on sleep in January.

 "Widows" opens with the deaths of a group of thieves, along with their bank robbing leader, "Henry Rawlings" (Liam Neeson), after robbing $2 million from crime boss turned politician, "Jamal Manning" (Brian Tyree Henry). Henry's widow, 'Veronica" (Viola Davis), is threatened by Jamal, who demands his money back at the end of the month to finance his electoral campaign against big time politician, "Jack Mulligan" (Colin Farrell). With little options left, Veronica decides to turn to the other widows, who also happened to lose their husbands on the botched heist. Despite not getting one of the widows, "Amanda" (Carrie Coon), to become involved, Veronica is able to convince the other two, "Linda" (Michelle Rodriguez) and "Alice" (Elizabeth Debicki), who are desperate for money now, to work with her to make the money they need.

 Acquiring  a notebook with a detailed outline for Henry's previously planned next heist, Veronia, Linda, and Alice plot out how they are going to pull off the heist themselves. While they know little about what they're doing, it's clear that they are capable and desperate enough to actually do it. They later include babysitter, "Belle" (Cynthia Erivo), who is brought in due to the need for a getaway driver, the widows plot means of escape, a way to quickly grab the money and transport it, and acquire guns to be used if necessary. Eventually discovering who exactly is being robbed and why, the widows also discover more into the political intrigue and more into the previous heist than what was first expected, while Manning has his ruthless brother and enforcer, "Jatemme" (Daniel Kaluuya) keep track of what they're up to. 

 Let me list off what this movie has. The quality people behind and in front of the camera. Aside from the big, recognizable, and acclaimed cast, you've got Director Steve McQueen, who gave us the Best Picture winning (And probably one of the best movies I've ever seen) "12 Years a Slave". McQueen also co-writes a script from Gillian Flynn, who wrote "Gone Girl" (Both the book and the movie), all coming together with a score from Hans Zimmer (Most Christopher Nolan movies). Based on a 1983 British television series of the same name, its an incredible combination of people that turns something unique sounding to say the least, into something dark, powerful, and quite important. The dialogue is smart, humorous when necessary (And trust me, for such a dark story, you need it.), character driven, and providing some social subtext (Both racial and sexual). It all shockingly comes together in what would be thrown off as a simple popcorn thriller, though Director Steve McQueen knows how to build up suspense. Even though the story can seem a little on the crazy side, the movie keeps it grounded.

 The amazing cast perfectly portray intricate characters who aren't simple good guys or bad guys, each given human moments that give a hint of backstory without a need for awkward exposition. The shear badassitude of Viola Davis knows no bounds. She can do anything she wants without question, playing a memorable, tough heroine. Michelle Rodriguez plays vulnerable, but tough very well and realistically, while Elizabeth Debicki (Aside from having really, really pretty eyes), shows off some more acting potential than what I expected from her. She's always been a good actress, but here, she gets to show off a variety of emotions, sometimes in the same scene, as a character with one of the harsher stories. Cynthia Erivo (Last seen in "Bad Times in the El Royale") shines once again, and obviously has star potential. The ensemble comes together perfectly, including Colin Farrell playing pure politician, Brian Tyree Henry, Robert Duvall (as "Tom Mulligan", Jack's bigoted father), Jacki Weaver (as "Agnieska", Alice's mother, who thinks prostitution is better than nothing.), Carrie Coon, and Molly Kunz (as "Siobhan", Jack's campaign manager/lover?), who all get a moment or two to give you some insight into their characters. The big scene stealer ends up being Daniel Kaluuya  (This guy is really on a role after "Get Out" and "Black Panther"), who has a cold, calm sense of sadism, that's more frightening than any horror movie villain. Liam Neeson doesn't have much screentime, but makes the most of it, and leaves an impressive impression.

 Brilliantly edited (And unexpectedly so) and thrilling to the point of exhaustion, "Widows" is an excellent example of how to combine more artistic integrity with the explosive action movies everyone clamors for. Now some twists and turns might not work for everybody (I noticed some really don't find it all that plausible) and the film's ending leaves some character fates a bit more ambiguous than some would want. It's a bit of an odd film where everything is so expertly done and yet clearly goes for the big crowdpleasing moments, while still being a rather moody, pretty depressing film in some parts. It all comes down to if that kind of mix of film genres works for you or not. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Violence, Sexual Content, Language, And That Liam Neeson/Viola Davis Make Out Session Everyone Is Talking About. 

Instant Family                                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for instant family movie

Image: "Don't make Mommy put you back up for adoption!" 

 It takes a strong man to admit that he may of judged something too quickly. Granted, I see trailers for goofy looking little movies like this all the time, and have generally been given little reason not to simply shrug them off early. I'm going to take this to heart and in the future will refrain from assuming something is nothing more than bland fluff ever again. While the movie itself really isn't too different from what's advertised, it's just a bit funnier and much more thoughtful and respectful about it's subject manner. You can be corny as Hell, but do it in such a sincere and lovable way, where you can't be mad at it. 

 Inspired by a true story according to the film's opening, "Instant Family" follows married couple, "Peter" (Mark Wahlberg) and "Ellie" (Rose Byrne), who are house renovators that realize there's something missing in their life. The two decide to adopt, going to a foster-care adoption agency, run by two social workers, "Karen" (Octavia Spencer) and "Sharon" (Tig Notaro). They end up meeting a rebellious young teen, "Lizzy" (Isabela Moner), deciding to adopt her, along with her two younger siblings, "Juan" (Gustavo Quiroz) and "Lita" (Julianna Gamiz). At first, things appear easy, but of course take a turn for the chaotic. Peter and Ellie struggle to connect with the kids, and are forced to mature themselves if they are truly hoping to make for good parents. 

 Directed by Sean Anders (Both "Daddy's Home" movies. Huh? Guess you can make that formula work.), "Instant Family" is as predictable and soft as you can get. Toned down from the usual raunchy comedies in favor of a more family oriented dynamic. You've seen that story before, and there are few curveballs thrown in. It's odd how the movie ends up working both in spite and to a certain degree, because of it. The script by Anders and John Morris doesn't quite go for too many cheap jokes, but instead sprinkles itself with an occasional insightfully funny line or two, while remaining smart enough to remember that there is still a fairly serious story in here (Though it remembers not to let the tone overtake itself). It's an undeniably sweet story, made more heartfelt by competence and respect. 

 I've always found it a little hard to buy Mark Wahlberg (Who has become known for more action based roles lately) in family man roles like this. With that said, I know he can do comedy (And honestly, should really do more of it.). He's got some great timing and reaction shots, working well with Rose Byrne, who is charmingly adorable as ever, but also much funnier than anyone gives her credit for. We get plenty of funny snarky remarks from Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer, who is at her most Octavia Spencery. (That needs to be in the dictionary.). There are some enjoyable wackiness from Margo Martindale (as "Sandy", Pete's in your face mother) and Julie Hagerty (as "Jan", Ellie's air-headed mother). The kids themselves are pretty solid, with Isabela Moner (Previously appearing in "Transformers: The Last Knight" and "Sicario: Day of the Soldado") once again shows how good of a young actress she is, getting some effective emotional moments.

 This is a fairly simple recommendation, since "Instant Family" doesn't so much avoid many of the traps that lighthearted family comedies such as this fall into. It's predictable, a little cheesy, and maybe even a bit unrealistic. It's still quite funny and it knows when it's time to stop and let a little family drama sink in. The movie is heartwarming fluff, with just enough of an edge for the adults. I guess I was in the mood for sweet. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Family Squabbling. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald                                                                                                         ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Keeping up with the Wizards.

 "Harry Potter" truly is a cultural phenomenon for lots of us. (Well, at least those who are in their late teens to early twenties) Whether we grew up with J.K. Rowling's acclaimed books or, like me, grew up with the commercial and critically successful film series, you know it by heart. You know (And in a way) grew up with the characters, know the world, and um, know the memes obviously. (Ah, the internet. Isn't it wonderful?) Now a big shared film universe (Dubbed the "Wizarding World"), the series continues in the latest, and soon to be most divisive entry yet. 

 "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" opens with villainous dark wizard, "Gellert Grindelwald" (Johnny Depp) escaping from Wizard's prison to gather his followers and take over the world, putting only pure-blood wizards on top. Awkward, but sweet magizooligist, "Newt Scamander" (Eddie Redmayne) is brought before the "Ministry of Magic", due to his actions from the first film (And because he helped capture Grindelwald in the first place). The ministry hopes to convince Newt to give up his adventuring days and work directly with the ministry like his brother, "Theseus" (Callum Turner), to hunt down the immensely powerful "Creedance" (Ezra Miller), who is gifted with an Obscurus (A parasitic entity that turns him into something monstrous) . Newt has no intention of doing so, and doesn't quite get along with his brother, mostly because Theseus is engaged to Newt's old crush, "Leta Lestrange" (Zoë Kravitz). Refusing the ministry's offer, Newt is banned from travel, having to care for his magical suitcase full of whimsical creatures and monsters in secret. However, Newt is approached by the beloved, great wizard, "Albus Dumbledore" (Jude Law), who wants Newt to find Creedance before Grindelwald does, out of fear of what he will do with such power. Since Dumbledore can't act against Grindelwald (Long homo-erotic story), he trusts Newt to do job, while doing against the ministry's orders to help without all of their bureaucratic crap.

 Newt is then reunited with the pretty, but naive, "Queenie" (Alison Sudol), who is dating his old No-Maj (Non magic) buddy, "Jacon Kowalski" (Dan Fogler), despite supposedly having his memory wiped after the last film. Although Queenie is not on speaking terms with her sister/possible love interest to Newt, "Tina" (Katherine Waterston) because of this relationship, which faces more trouble due to Jacob fearing what would happen to Queenie if the other magic users found out about it. This results in Queenie leaving for France, where Tina just so happens to be. While Newt and Jacob end up following her, Creedance, having befriended a woman who can shape shift into a snake (And Lord Voldemort's future pet), "Nagini" (Claudia Kim), is on a search to find out who he is, unknowingly being lured into Grindelwald's evil clutches. Eventually everyone is forced to take a side in the coming war that could disrupt the balance between the magic and non magic worlds,with Grindelwald's cult like followers gaining more momentum, leading to devastating consequences. 

 Now keep in mind, overall, I like "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald". But as you can tell by my plot description, it's all a little bit much, even for the "Harry Potter" series. The problem with the film lies in the screenplay by actual "Harry Potter" author, J. K. Rowling, who piles on the references, characters, and subplots, in hopes of going for something bigger and epic. There ares loads of backstory and moments of awkward exposition. It's interesting enough exposition, but it's still a bit odd for a character to take a few minutes to explain something that stops the movie dead. There are way too many things going on at once, with most of it just being set up for future films. With that said, I'm excited for the next one. Once again directed by David Yates (Who did the last few "Harry Potter" films), he knows how to provide a great action scene and spectacular visual effects. The score is beautiful, the cinematography is stunning, and the production design is as impressive as ever. The creatures and beasts themselves are awesome, though only a few feel important to the story.

 Eddie Redmayne once again does an excellent job playing the reluctant hero, who you know despite not wanting involvement, will eventually do the right thing due to a kind heart. Katherine Waterston is always good, even when her role seems more designated to love interest this time. Dan Fogler is lovably hilarious, while the adorable Alison Sudol's role expands into dark territory. Some roles, while well acted, such as the ones performed by Zoë Kravitz, Ezra Miller, and Claudia Kim, don't really seem to have as much to do as you would think, except to set up more backstory or just simply explain it. William Nadylam (as "Yusuf Kama", a wizard, who is also tracking Creedance for personal reasons) and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (as "Grimmson", a hunter who is obviously a little too sadistic to be a good guy) both end up being pretty useless, and take up too much time for nothing. Johnny Depp (With some obvious controversial problems in real life), gets the chance to give one of his better performances in a while. His titular villain is frightening, not just because he looks scary and is clearly a powerful threat, but because he's so charismatic and capable of swaying others to his side (Even making a few solid points while he's at it), while never forgetting the fact that he is still a monster. (It gets a little political, and more culturally relevant the more I think about it.) Jude Law, who isn't in the film near enough, is wonderful and perfectly cast. While the film only briefly references (And mostly just implies) his connection to Grindelwald, it's still powerful, adding a little extra depth to such a beloved character like Dumbledore.

 "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" sets out to be like "The Empire Strikes Back", but ends up more like "Attack of the Clones". Which means that while it's still well made, thoroughly enjoyable, and even a little darker than expected, it's still the weakest of the series and mostly feels like filler. (Good filler, but still filler.) There are unexpected twists, some of which will confuse and divide fans, and some truly messed up evil deeds (And even morally questionable ones from less villainous characters), that build up to a debatably overblown, but still exciting climax that's hard not to find yourself invested in. Maybe they still do need to rethink the whole five film story structure. Either way, you know I'm totally going to be there opening night for each one. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 Scary Images, Action, And A Bit More Child Murder Than I'm Used To. (Seriously, This Movie Is Messed Up In Some Parts!)

The Girl in the Spider's Web                  ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the girl in the spider's webImage: "Shhh! James needs peace and quiet when he writes film reviews."

 Sorry I'm so late on this one. I'm a little sick at the moment. I know you've all been begging....No. You've been DEMANDING for my review of "The Girl in the Spider's Web". That's obviously why hardly anyone actually saw it this last weekend. You've just been waiting to hear my thoughts. Thank you for your patience. 

 "The Girl in the Spider's Web" follows the continuing adventures of hacker heroine, "Lisbeth Salander" (Claire Foy), who has become known as the woman who hunts down and enacts revenge on men who have abused women. Lisbeth is hired by former NSA employee, "Frans Balder" (Stephen Merchant), who is responsible for the creation of a program called "Firefall", that has the ability to access the world's nuclear launch codes. Feeling repentant, Balder wants Lisbeth to steal it and destroy it. Lisbeth hacks into the NSA, stealing Firefall, and uploading it onto a computer, resulting in an NSA agent, "Edwin Needham" (Lakeith Stanfield) heading to Sweden to track her down. Needhan isn't the only one who's after Firefall, with a crime syndicate known as the "Spiders" stealing the program from Lisbeth, framing her for attempting to turn on Balder and use the program for her own ends.

 Another problem arises in the form of the Secret Service agent, "Gabriella Grane" (Synnøve Macody Lund), who has been tasked with taking Lisbeth down. With help from her old journalist friend/lover, "Mikael Blomkvist' (Sverrir Gudnason) to track down Balder before the Spiders can use Firefall for their own ends. Eventually, Lisbeth is forced to protect Balder's son, "August" (Christopher Convery), who ends up being revealed to be more important to activating the program  than at first though, while the leader of the Spiders, "Camilla" (Sylvia Hoeks), who has a secret history with Lisbeth, makes herself known. 

 Directed by Fede Álvarez ("Don't Breathe" and that "Evil Dead" remake) and a sort of sequel/reboot to David Fincher's 2011 adaptation of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", "The Girl in the Spider's Web" is based on the novel of the same name by David Lagercrantz (Who continued the series created by the late Stieg Larsson). It's solid enough source material, which should make for an exciting, suspenseful action-thriller. Occasionally, there are hints of that in the film, with some solid action and a little suspense. In terms of originality and plausibility, the film just seems off. It's a very predictable film, with each mystery and plot reveals being rather obvious, and a surprisingly lacking amount of intrigue. It doesn't help by how over the top the film can get, whether it be in your face explosions, inexplicable survivals, and almost superhuman levels of hacking. 

 The biggest saving grace to the movie would be Claire Foy herself. She's thoroughly compelling, and completely awesome. While the character somehow manages to survive things that no normal human could possibly even come close to surviving, she's vulnerable just enough to make you care. There are some solid performances from Lakeith Stanfield and especially Stephen Merchant, who gets so show off some of his more dramatic acting chops (I honestly really wish he was in the movie a lot more). Sverrir Gudnason is a complete bore, and while Sylvia Hoeks' villainess has an emotional backstory (One that could be very important in today's times with the #MeToo movement), it's not given the amount of depth it deserves. In fact, most aspects concerning our villains doesn't quite work. They're unrealistically capable, acting more like supervillains than real people (Even supervillains are more human than these guys), and the reasoning behind their motivations just feels underdeveloped. (Maybe some scenes were cut out. I did notice a few parts from the trailers missing from the finished film.)

 "The Girl in the Spider's Web" has the great Claire Foy being a badass, but not much else. The story is weak and easy to plot out in your head. Every twist and turn is obvious, and most of the important dramatic cues are diluted by little time being given to them. It's frustrating because there is a really good thriller, and even just plain a really good film here. It could of been important, but mostly ends up being forgettable. It's not even worth 1 spider web pun. 2 stars. Rated R For Strong Violence, Unsettling Images, And Lots And Lots Of Sony Products. (What Hacker Only Uses Sony Products?) 

Overlord                                                ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for overlord movieImage:"It's never going to heal if you don't stop picking at it!"

 Funny how Halloween was just a couple weeks ago, and yet, only now we're just getting something that would of been perfect to see around that time. I mean, what could be scarier than Nazi scientists and undead, bloodthirsty corpses? When you think of evil, you obviously think of Nazis (Or at least, you should...), throwing in a little mad science and body horror is just the bloody icing on the cake. 

 "Overlord" takes place near the end of World War II, following a young, kindhearted American paratrooper, "Ed Boyce" (Jovan Adepo). On a plane for France, under the command of "Sgt. Eldson" (Bokeem Woodbine), the plan is to destroy a German radio tower, which is located within an old church. The plane gets shot down, resulted in many of the soldiers being killed or lost in the heat of battle. Ed meets the hotheaded "Corporal Ford" (Wyatt Russell), who now leads a small group of survivors consisting of the smartass "Tibbet" (John Magaro) and the dorky "Chase" (Iain De Caestecker) to complete the mission. The group comes across a young French woman, "Chloe" (Mathilde Ollivier), who takes them to hide in her village with her little brother, "Paul" (Gianny Taufer) and unseen, deformed aunt.

 Ruled over by the vile Nazi "Captain Wafner"(Pilou Asbæk), the villagers are taken away from their homes to the Nazi base, where they are either never seen again or come back horrifically disfigured. After Wafner attempts to rape Chloe, ignoring Ford's orders to stay out of it, the group ends up capturing Wafner, hoping to find a way to complete the mission, while still remaining in secret. Boyce eventually finds himself within the base, discovering a lab run by mad scientist, "Dr. Schmidt" (Erich Redman). Turns out the Nazis are experimenting on the villagers and their own dead men, using them to create an unstoppable, unkillable army of undead, monster soldiers (Zombies basically) to conquer the world. ("The Thousand Year Reich needs Thousand Year soldiers" as Wafner puts it.) Now tasked with a new mission to put a stop to the insane experiments, the Americans set out to destroy the lab, while experiencing a kind of terror unlike anything they've ever witnessed before. 

 Produced by J. J. Abrams through his company, "Bad Robot Productions", "Overlord" is an exploitation, Nazi horror that just so happens to be taking place during a genuine war film. The movie actually takes it's time getting to the horror aspect, developing it's characters, and presenting the whole "War is Hell" mentality (I always did love when movies like this portray our heroes in a real life situation before they stumble into something more outrageous). This leads to some legitimate reactions and true terror. In terms of action, it's all very original and pretty clever, with some exciting shots (The plane getting shot down at the beginning is one of the highlights), right down to the climax, which is a little preposterous, but completely awesome. The screenplay, written by Billy Ray ("Captain Phillips", "The Hunger Games") and Mark L. Smith ("The Revenant"), remembers not to take itself too seriously, despite the terrifying images and heavy drama that is still prevalent throughout, there is a clear sense of humor about itself and love for pure ridiculousness. Directed by Julius Avery, the movie rather brilliantly finds a way to blend these genres together, making it so you can actually take it seriously enough when necessary, but also injecting an extra sense of fun, popcorn escapism.

 The film is also elevated by some good characters, with committed actors that find stability in the genre and tone mixing. Jovan Adepo (Who received critical acclaim in 2016's "Fences") is terrific, thoroughly likable, and does one great scared face. (He looks absolutely and realistically horrified by what he sees in this movie.) Wyatt Russell is a badass, complicated character, with Mathilde Ollivier getting a bit more to do than be a damsel in distress. (That scene with the flamethrower was very much cathartic.) The supporting cast is solid, with some funny lines from John Magaro, Dominic Applewhite (as "Rosenfeld", Boyce's friend, who winds up in the Nazi lab), and Iain De Caestecker getting to take part in possibly the most twisted, traumatizing sequence in the entire film. Pilou Asbæk also looks like he's having the time of his life as a despicable villain who is the essential definition of the word scum. 

 On a personal level, this might end up becoming one of my favorite movies this year because there is nothing quite like it (And here I thought Nazi Zomies were a tired concept). This movie utulizes that in a smart, even captivating way. Not without it's flaws, such as some occasionally mediocre CGI and a few cheap jump scares, "Overlord" provides all of the B movie thrills you could possibly ask for. However, the film adds some extra depth to it's characters, who you find yourself very much caring for and hope for their survival and the overall vagueness to what's really going on just adds to the terror. The movie even takes time to delve into the true dread of war, the senseless deaths, and hard, even morally questionable decisions. There are some impressive practical effects, homages to classic, gorey horror, and some humor to go with the insanity. Yeah it's going to drop out of the box office like a fly, but I would say it's what exactly you want in a big blockbuster, that just so happens to have a smaller budget. It's a movie that I can recommend to you by simply telling you that it's just plain awesome. A great, gross time at the movies. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Grotesque Body Disfigurement, Blood And Bile Everywhere, And Nazis Being Nazis. 

The Grinch                                         ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the grinch movie 2018

Image: Santa isn't gluten free.

 Haven't we seen this all before? No, not in the 2000 live-action Ron Howard "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (Which starred Jim Carrey), that was a massive hit at the time, though is definitely not as good as you remember it. (I mean, Jim Carrey is great in it. The rest of it is kind of....not.) What about the 1966 television special, that has been cemented into the minds of people of every age? We already have the amazing, beloved animated version with a runtime that's shorter than half an hour. This really doesn't need to be here. That one is obvious. The real question is if it accomplishes it's goal of warming hearts and filling with Christmas cheer the way the renowned Dr. Seuss intended it to.  

 Narrated by Pharrell Williams, "The Grinch" follows the beloved tale of that green, furry, lonely old grump, known as "The Grinch" (Benedict Cumberbatch). The Grinch lives alone with his loyal dog, "Max", up on a mountain outside of the town of "Whoville", which is populated by the always happy, Christmas loving citizens (Or the "Whos" as they're referred to. Kind of a "Who's Who of Whoville). Hating all things cheerful and despising Christmas most of all due to his life of being a loner, The Grinch avoids everyone in the town and keeps to himself, dreading the day that Christmas finally arrives. This year however, learning that the Whos are planning to make this Christmas bigger and better than ever, The Grinch comes up with an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. You get the idea! The Grinch plots to steal Christmas away from the townsfolk, with help from Max and a fat reindeer named "Fred". With a stolen sleigh, a "Santa" disguise, and a sick desire to do bad, The Grinch heads out to Whoville on Christmas night to steal away all of their presents, Christmas trees, food, decorations, and everything Christmas related. Meanwhile a young, sweet little Who, "Cindy Lou Who" (Cameron Seely), wanting to make a Christmas wish to Santa for her caring mother, "Donna" (Rashida Jones), inadvertently threatens to get in the way of the Grinch's diabolical scheme. 

 Theatrical film adaptations of revered Dr. Seuss stories have garnered mixed results. Starting with the first "Grinch" movie, followed by that......thing they claimed was "The Cat in the Hat" (Remember the part with the "Dirty Hoe"?), the actually pretty solid "Horton Hears a Who", and the mostly meh "The Lorax". From "Illumination Animation", the guys behind "Despicable Me", "The Secret Life of Pets", and the ones responsible for all those "Minions" memes your mom posts on your Facebook wall, this new version of "The Grinch" is much smaller in scale and softer than the live action version. Now that's actually a good thing, considering all the out of place adult humor that was in that movie. It's really tame, right down to the Grinch himself, who is still a jerk, but ends up becoming more of a green version of Gru from "Despicable Me". Which is fine, because it's for kids, and for the most part, there's a decent amount of enjoyment to be had, mostly thanks to bouncy animation. However, there really isn't much to it. The original story is quick and to the point, and while this movie doesn't add anything near to the amount the live action one did, it still feels padded down, with mostly some little subplots and characters just goofing around. 

 Benedict Cumberbatch is a solid choice for the role, who is still plenty lovable despite being well, a Grinch. He's humorously malicious and gross, but oddly relatable. Really when you get down to it. The Grinch is just the culmination of all of our cynical thoughts around Christmas time. The subplots involving Rashida Jones and Cameron Seely don't amount to much, while Angela Lansbury (as the Mayor of Whoville) pops up for literally just one minute. There are a few funny moments from Kenan Thompson (as "Bricklebaum", an overly enthusiastic Who, that thinks he's best friends with the Grinch), while the best laughs come from Max (Who has always been my favorite character) and Fred, who are hilariously animated and delightful to watch. Pharrell Williams' narration is actually fairly inspired (There's something about his voice that's just so, pun intended, happy...), while the new version of the classic Grinch song by Tyler, The Creator is catchy enough, but not exactly memorable. The characters are likable enough, but there doesn't end up being much a conflict this time around. (I'll give this to the live action version, at least they changed it up by making the Whos jerks too.) It's a pretty straightforward adaptation, that's faithful, but not particularly necessary.

 "The Grinch" doesn't add anything new, keeping things fairly simple for the most part, even with the unnecessary filler to get the movie just barely over an hour and twenty minutes. It's still funny, joyful fluff for the kids, that does actually find a way to get into the Christmas spirit.  Especially once we get to the end, where the message is still surprisingly strong and heartfelt. It doesn't need to really exist, considering we already have a perfectly suitable, much shorter animated version to watch at home for cheaper. It's also something that's perfectly harmless, wonderfully animated, and sweet, which regardless of quality, is something the old doctor intended in the first place. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG, Though It Really Could Of Been An Easy G. 

Can You Ever Forgive Me?                   ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "I choose to look at this glass as half full."

 I knew Melissa McCarthy had it in her all along! There were hints sprinkled throughout many of her performances, and not just the few dramatic ones. Even in her most comedic of roles, you could tell she was clearly talented. However, if movies like "Life of the Party" taught me anything, it's that sometimes it's a little easier to fall down, with an embarrassing thud, rather than show what you're truly capable of. With that said, after this Oscar worthy performance, maybe that's all about to change. 

 "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" follows the true story of celebrity biographer, "Lee Israel" (Melissa McCarthy). Despite previously being praised for her ability to get into the mind of her subject, Lee has fallen on hard times, unable to find work, having trouble getting money for her rent, and is without friends or family, with the exception of her sick car, "Jersey". Though she finds a new possible friend in the form of the thoroughly fabulous "Jack Hock" (Richard E. Grant), Lee is still in debt, not having gotten any of her writing published due to criticisms of both her writing style and abrasive personality. While doing research for her planned biography on actress "Fanny Brice", she discovers an unknown letter from Brice. Lee finds out that the letter as it is, could be worth something. But after adding a few finishing touches of her own, she discovers how much more letters such as this could be worth. Lee begins forging more letter from other writers, playwrights, and literary personalities, and selling them to buyers, who believe them to be the real thing. However, this catches the attention of the FBI, causing Lee to enlist Jack to become her partner in crime in finding buyers for the forged letters. Things get further complicated from there, as we all know, stories like this have a tendency to go horribly wrong. 

 Directed by Marielle Heller ("Diary of a Teenage Girl"), "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" is the kind of story that makes for a compelling drama, as well as a little comedy and even a surprising amount of likability. Based on the real life Lee Israel's autobiography of the same name, the film is insanely clever, intelligent, and witty as Hell. The script by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, finds a way to make our main characters charming despite their occasional nastiness and obvious criminal activities. The back and forth dialogue is funny and thoroughly engaging, with the direction balancing some humor, with some drama that veers into almost thrilling territory, due to how invested you eventually become in the story. The 90s New York setting is perfectly shown in a somewhat dreary light, along with a excellent cast of characters, that bring out the movie's appealing nature.

 Melissa McCarthy is wonderful, deserving of awards consideration. She fills the character with genuine humanity, to the point you feel for her, while knowing what she is doing is clearly wrong. The always underappreciated Richard E. Grant is an absolute joy, and just plain delightfully snarky. There are some memorable important roles from a very warm Dolly Wells (as "Anna", a woman who Lee becomes close with), Jane Curtin (as "Marjorie", Lee's agent), and Ben Falcone (as "Alan", who decides not to rat out Lee to the FBI, for a price of course). The film still belongs to McCarthy and Grant. Their chemistry s flawless. Together, their scenes make for some of the best movie moments of humor and heart you'll see this Oscar season. The movie shows that this isn't exactly a victimless crime, that can cause some actually hurt to the people being duped, as well as out main characters, who are on a path to further destruction. Yet, you feel for them because you like them, and want them to to eventually realize how crappy they're actually being.
 There is an almost whimsical magnetism to "Can You Ever Forgive Me?", which makes it one of this year's best. It's credited to smart script that expertly blends sharp drollery and captivating (And at times, heartbreaking) drama, terrific lead performances, and brilliant direction. It can be seen as a tribute to the art of writing (Which I hope to improve more on in the coming future.), and the impact it has on people. It somehow charms you, and makes you at least consider forgiving the main character's actions, despite all her flaws and illegal behavior. Not to mention, you can forgive Melissa McCarthy for "Life of the Party". After this movie, hopefully she'll realize she is too good for that kind of lazy material. 4 stars. Rated R For Language, Felonious Forging, And What Rhymes With Jack Hock.  

Suspiria                                                    ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

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 Image: The "Licorice Dance?"

 This is not usually movie I take a little extra time to write up a full review for. I see a lot of movies every year (I'm over one hundred and fifty already. No social life here.), and I have a tendency to leave a few things out, like I mentioned in my "Hunter Killer"/"Johnny English Strikes Again" Double Feature Review, due to the constant stress on my fingers and mind. I can only come up with so many adjectives to describe a large variety of films. I only do it if I have a special reason to do so. This future hipster favorite right here is one of those special reasons.

 "Suspiria" takes place in 1977, during the German Autumm, following American, "Susie Bannion" (Dakota Johnson), who heads to West Berlin in hopes of being admitted into the "Markos Dance Academy", run by the elusive, unseen "Mother Markos" (Tilda Swinton). Susie is immediately allowed in, showing loads of potential, and catching the interest of the lead choreographer, "Madame Blanc" (Tilda Swinton, Again). The academy seems perfect, providing a place to live, and with Susie being allowed to stay without paying, but little does anyone know, something nefarious is lurking within the walls of the building. While Susie further impresses Blanc, on her way to becoming the lead in the academy's upcoming show, a fellow student, "Sara" (Mia Goth) looks into the mysterious disappearance of another student, "Patricia" (Chloë Grace Moretz). Patricia's vanishing has also been noticed by her aged psychotherapist, "Dr. Josef Klemperer" (Played by "Lutz Ebersdorf", who is just another Tilda Swinton in old man make-up), after telling him that the academy instructors are witches. Klemperer, still grieving the loss of his wife, "Anke" (Jessica Harper, who was the star of the original "Suspiria"), sets out to find out what's going on within the academy, as the women prepare for their show, as well as a twisted reveal.

 A remake of a 1977 Dario Argento film of the same name, "Suspiria" is the kind of movie that was basically made to cause divisive critical reception. Since the movie is directed by Luca Guadagino (Who gave us last year's acclaimed "Call Me by Your Name"), you can tell it's going to be nothing short of stunning in terms of it's look. It's almost like a macabre painting come to life, with this constant eerie feeling in the background. The dancing scenes are suitably weird, but also beautifully choreographed. There is an ominous musical score provided by Thom Yorke (from Radiohead), and some truly unsettling imagery. It has the makings of a chilling, indie horror. However, the bad news is that it's also a bit of a disaster when it comes to character, story, and coherent intelligence. There are are unnecessary subplots and distractions, where the film focuses on characters who don't end up providing much importance. It would work if they had actual personalities, rather than types, or were at least interesting. Much of the historical politics don't really have the deep meaning the film seems to think they do, especially once the truth behind the mystery is revealed. By the end, while it's lovely to look at, everything goes exactly how you would imagine any generic, bloody horror movie would go. 

 Dakota Johnson continues to distance herself from the "Fifty Shades" series, showing she has much more depth to her than those films allow her to show. It's also cool to see an almost all female cast, consisting of the great Tilda Swinton (Although more on her in a bit), Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz in a small part, Elena Fokina (as "Olga", a student who attempts to bail, leading to memorably gruesome results), and others, who may not get much for character, yet still give solid performances. Tilda Swinton's three roles are interesting ones. Her Madame Blanc role is great (Especially in her scenes with Dakota Johnson), while her role as Klemperer is completely distracting. The make up is amazing, maybe even award worthy. But she is reduced to doing a generic old man's voice, that sounds more like the one you do when mocking a caricature of a senile old person, rather than an actual one. Her other role, which doesn't come into the film till the last act is visibly disturbing, though really silly when you realize that all that buildup and intrigue leads up to something so goofy. 

 It's odd for me to admit that "Suspiria" is one of those movies that the more I thought about it, the less I enjoy it. I'm usually down for these kinds of artistically and intentionally divisive films. (Like last year's "Mother!" for example.) There is brilliance in the film, from it's direction, cinematography, and stylistic homages to classic horror. On the downside, it's all over the place in it's storytelling, with plotlines that lead nowhere, and with a two and a half hour runtime that feels even more noticeable with it's six act structure. (Not to mention an epilogue!) Whether you compare it to better horror movies to come out this year (Like "Hereditary") or simply better indie gorefests (Like "Mandy"), it feels like that student with potential that you know can make something great, but just ends up becoming a pretentious dick. It's fascinating, yet frustrating, and really leaves you questioning how worth it the whole ordeal was. It's still memorable to say the least. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Gross Out Gore And Extreme, Bone-Crunching Ballet. 

Nobody's Fool                                                  ★ OUT OF ★★★★

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 Image: "How about we drive to a theater with no Tyler Perry movies?"

  Alright. We're back in the Tyler Perry-verse. An amazing world of constant suffering, tonal inconsistencies, and a lack of coherent filmmaking that you would never expect to come from someone who has been making movies for over a decade. You really can't prepare yourself once you enter, and you can't wait to escape back into what you know as reality. Lets do this!!!

 "Nobody's Fool" follows successful, mentally unstable advertising representative, "Danica" (Tika Sumpter), who is dating a guy named "Charlie" (Voiced by Mehcad Brooks), who she met on the internet and has never seen in person, only talking to him on the phone. Danica gets a call from her weed loving mother, "Lola" (Whoopi Goldberg), who tells Danica that her sister, "Tanya" (Tiffany Haddish) is getting out of prison, and wants Danica to let her stay over. (Mostly because Lola doesn't want her craziness in her house.) Danica and her friend, "Kalli" (Amber Riley) go to pick up Tanya, bringing her over to Danica's place, where they both realize how much of a raving lunatic she is. After getting Tanya a job over at a coffee shop, owned by "Frank" (Omari Hardwick), who has a crush on Danica, Tanya starts snooping into Danica's relationship with Charlie, learning that the guy is likely not real, and that her sister is being "Catfished". So they hire the guys from the show "Catfish", "Nev Schulman" and "Max Joseph" (Both playing themselves), to look into Charlie. After finding out who he really is, Danica, Tanya, and Kalli go out to find him and confront him. That's about the first forty to fifty minutes I think. Then it just exists for a bit, becoming a romantic comedy/drama involving Danica and Frank. Sort of. Then something else happens in the last act to force some conflict, while this poor, suffering film critic continues to wonder why this movie is still going, and why I'm still sitting there watching it, despite the advertised plot being resolved an hour before the movie actually ends. 

 I'll give this to Director/Writer/Executive Producer/Guy I Know Can Do Better, Tyler Perry (All the "Madea" films, and most of my one to zero star reviews), it's almost inventive how ends up making bad films worse. It doesn't necessarily start off particularly good. It's much broader, raunchier than your average Tyler Perry flick (Complete with F-Bombs, even more swears, and adult content), and it's a little awkward at lead in the beginning. It's a silly plot, and rarely funny, but that simply makes for a bad comedy. That isn't anything shocking. What is shocking, is where the film goes from there. The main plot is wrapped up early in the movie, and dropped from the movie, before meandering around till something actually happens. It's such an amateurish filmmaking flaw that you would never expect to come out of an experienced filmmaker, who apparently hasn't actually improved at all over the years. The film is an hour and fifty minutes, and unnecessarily so. 

 Tiffany Haddish does what she does best, and as usual, does it well. (Whether her style of comedy is your thing or not, but you can't deny she gives it everything no matter the material.) However, despite getting top billing, she is actually a supporting character, who at some point almost completely vanishes during the second and third act. The real main character is Tika Sumpter, who I'm not sure is actually a very good actress. She doesn't have much dramatic range, no comedic chops, and in terms of onscreen presence and likability, Tiffany Haddish overwhelms her constantly. (Granted, it's a terribly written, thoroughly detestable character. So there isn't much you can do.) Omar Hardwick and Amber Riley are trying their best, while easily the funniest part of the movie comes from Whoopi Goldberg, who isn't in the movie near enough. The less I say about an awkward, somewhat uncomfortable Missi Pyle (as "Lauren", Danica's insane boss), the better. There is also a Chris Rock cameo that's so bizarre, it's almost funny at first, until you realize that he can do so much better. 

 The fact that a Tyler Perry movie is bad is never shocking. It's just that they're rarely all bad for the same reasons. "Nobody's Fool" suffers from a plot, genre, and tonal form of Attention Deficit Disorder. It's in a constant battle to figure out what it wants to be about, with what it eventually becoming feeling just plain unlikable and most importantly, unfunny. The R rated humor doesn't mesh well with Tyler Perry's lazy sitcom style of direction, which takes far too long to end. I have other things to do, and other movies to see. I can't spend my limited time on explaining why a Tyler Perry movie sucks. 1 star. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And A Rather In Detail Sex Scene. (Uhhhhh, What Happened To All The Jesus Talk?) 

Bohemian Rhapsody                                 ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for bohemian rhapsody movieImage: I see a little silhouetto of a man.

 With biographical movies about iconic figures, especially ones of those still fresh in people's minds, we should probably be used to Hollywood fudging. It doesn't help when the people involved were the ones producing the film, which means that things will likely be a little on the biased side, resulting in even more arranging of things that didn't happen (Or at least in the way presented). By this point, unless they do something downright offensive, you kind of just need to go with it. Even the best ones do it. Creative licence, or something.

 "Bohemian Rhapsody" follows the life story of "Farrokh Bulsara".....Who then changes his name to "Freddie Mercury" (Rami Malek). Freddie meets drummer, "Roger Taylor" (Ben Hardy), guitarist, "Brian Mary" (Gwilym Lee), and bassist, "John Deacon" (Joseph Mazzello), forming the band that would eventually become "Queen". The film shows the band's high points and low points, showing what led to the creation to some of their beloved songs such as "We Will Rock You", "Another One Bites the Dust", and of course, "Bohemian Rhapsody". The movie also details Freddie's relationship with close friend/temporary wife, "Mary Austin" (Lucy Boynton), while he struggles to understand his own sexuality, as well as showing the Freddie's personal problems, mostly involving Freddie's eventual lover/personal manager, "Paul Prenter" (Allen Leech). This leads to an eventual break up of the band, and when Freddie learns that he has contracted AIDS, he hopes to mend back his old relationships, resulting in a epic performance during the "Live Aid" benefit concert in Wembley Stadium. 

 A long awaited biopic, that has suffered countless production problems, "Bohemian Rhapsody" went through a couple different actors, one of which being Sacha Baron Cohen (Who left when he read the original script, where Freddie Mercury died half way into the movie) Then, the film eventually settled on Director/possible child sexual assaulter, Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects", and a few of the "X-Men" movies), who was removed part way through the film for being a dick on set with the cast and crew. This resulted in Dexter Fletcher ("Eddie the Eagle", and the director of the upcoming Elton John biopic, "Rocketman") being called in to finish the movie, while only getting an Executive Producer credit. With all these issues, it's hard for the movie's flaws to not be noticeable, especially early on. With an acceptable and effective, but simplistic and even a little cheesy screenplay by Anthony McCarten ("The Theory of Everything", "Darkest Hour"), that goes down a very predictable, more crowdpleasing storyline. Now you're still going to get some heartfelt, even wonderfully done moments, while getting through a fairly toned down, bullet points of a true story. It starts off unevenly paced, not wasting any time in getting the band together, but once the film settles down, and lets it's story simple breathe, there is some true greatness that finds it's way out. 

 Rami Malek (From "Mr. Robot") has been getting almost unanimous praise for not just his performance, but also how much the film gets him to look of Freddie Mercury. It's quite remarkable, and it bumps the movie up, even through it's more mediocre moments. He is terrific, on stage during the performances and even off the stage, where even if he doesn't quite capture what you would picture Freddie Mercury in your head to be, you're automatically drawn to him. He is perfect star making material, with a tremendous amount of onscreen presence, (Which if you think of Freddie Mercury, it's a fitting tribute). Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello are all good, even though their roles kind of mesh into each other. Lucy Boynton is excellent, having some great chemistry with Rami Malek (Granted, they are dating in real life), in a subplot that could of gone wrong so easily, but feels naturally sweet and heartwarming. Aidan Gillen (as "John Reid", Queen's first manager) and Tom Hollander (as "Jim Beach", Queen's lawyer, turned later manager) are good actors, who still do solid jobs in underwritten roles. Allen Leech is suitably scummy as our sort of villain (Not sure how I feel about biopics having actual villains, but again. Comes with the territory.), while Mike Myers (as "Ray Foster", a record producer) pops up in a couple weird scenes. 

 "Bohemian Rhapsody" may not be the exact in depth depiction of a true life story that some would hope for, and perhaps from a critical perspective, despite it's compelling central performance might be deserving of a lower rating. However, it;s the final twenty to twenty-five minutes, when the movie's final showstopping scene, with Queen performing during Live Aid, that ends up bumping the film up a little higher. It's a mesmerizing, breathtaking final scene, that is absolutely astonishing to see on an IMAX screen. The film is a little jumbled due to it's troubled production and it does feel as if the filmmakers just wanted to make a by the numbers crowd-pleaser that still does it's job well. Even if it is a little more disposable because of it. It still finds a way to rock you. I will spare you further Queen song puns out of respect. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Amazing Mustaches.  

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms                                                                                                                                 ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

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Image:  "Who is the pinkest of them all?"

 Halloween literally just ended! You know what that means, right? We just skip Thanksgiving and move right into Christmas. They don't even waste any time anymore do they? 

 "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" follows young "Clara" (Mackenzie Foy), who is still mourning the loss of her beloved mother. On Christmas Eve, Clara's grieving father (Matthew Macfayden), gives Clara a final gift from her mother, which is an egg, with a lock on it. While at a Christmas party hosted by her godfather, "Drosselmeyer" (Morgan Freeman), Clara, determined to find the missing key to the egg, wanders through Drosselmeyer's house and end upin a strange, fantastical world. Clara learns from one of the world's rulers, the sugary sweet "Sugar Plum Fairy" (Keira Knightley), that Clara's mother was the creator of their world, which is called the "Four Realms". The Realms, consisting of the realms of "Sweets", "Flowers", and "Snowflakes", are at war due with the closed off, dark "Fourth Realm", which is ruled by the feared "Mother Ginger" (Helen Mirren). With Clara's missing key being the possible uh, pardon the pun, "Key" to saving the kingdom, she sets out with the titular Nutcracker, "Philip" (Jayden Fowora-Knight), to head into the fourth Realm and put a stop to Mother Ginger's evil schemes. As Clara leads the Realms into battle, she starts to discover the world's hidden secrets and learning that things are not as they first appear. 

Based on a mix of both the original story as well as the classic ballet, "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" really has everything going for it. I mean, come on. It's Disney. It's also based on beloved, source material that should simple enough to adapt since it's been done many times before. Not to mention the large enough budget to make for excellent costume designs, as well as good visual and practical effects to go with a solid cast. It's bizarre how exactly this movie ends up being a complete misfire, that appears to have the makings for a good family adventure, that only gets more convoluted and silly the longer it goes on. The film starts off promising enough, pacing itself slowly, showing off the impressive sets, before easing into the adventurous and visually stunning world. There are also a few solid sequences of terror, such as a trio of demonic looking clown babies, dead eyed toy soldiers, and "The Mouse King", which is represented by an army of mice, gathering together to form one giant mouse. However, it's all fairly generic and results in a story you've seen before, not just in previous adaptations of "The Nutcracker", but more along the lines of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" (It's basically the same exact premise). At some point, you start to notice that most of the characters are just simple tropes, without much of their own identities which is thanks to a lackluster screenplay and an incoherent plotline. Directed by both Lasse Hallström ("A Dog's Purpose", "Safe Haven") and Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer", "Captain America: The First Avenger"), who mostly got credit due to reshoots, the movie ends up feeling really shoddy and empty, with the pretty imagery trying to mask the fact that there isn't too much to the movie other than that. 

 Mackenzie Foy is a solid, charismatic young actress, and she shows plenty of promise. Kiera Knightley is well cast, and while her character only gets more over the top and cartoonish, she still looks like she's having a good time. Jayden Fowora-Knight is as bland and boring as his character, who despite having his damn name in the title, serves little purpose. The film doesn't end up doing much with actors such as Richard E. Grant (as "Shiver", the ruler of the Realm of Snowflakes), Eugenio Derbez (as "Hawthorne", the flamboyant ruler of the Realm of Flowers), and Morgan Freeman, who is basically a glorified cameo. And Helen Mirren is insultingly given nothing to do and ends up with little screentime, but she still adds some much needed class and does what she can with what little is provided. Matthew Macfayden doesn't end up doing much, but at least serves as probably the most sympathetic character. (He does a solid job showing grief) Easily, one of the more memorable sequences ends up involving a ballerina (Played by real life ballet dancer, Misty Copeland), in ballet performance part way through the film that shows that there were still hints of something unique in the film despite what it eventually settles on being. (It's an odd mix of trying to include classic musical theater elements and Narnia-esque fantasy.)

"The Nutcracker and the Four Realms" is a mess of an already clichéd story, with too many holes in the plot (Or at least things that don't quite make much sense), and shockingly for Disney, is almost completely charm free. It looks beautiful, with some clear effort put into the art design and a few somewhat inspired uses of nightmare fuel. It still just doesn't seem like the filmmakers has their hearts in it, and it feels like a Disney throwaway that just so happens to have a larger than necessary budget. The film sets out for terms like "Whimsy" and "Epic", but instead settles on "Lifeless" and "Forgettable". To say that, especially about a Disney movie no less, is just plain depressing. In fact, it's a real nutcracker. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Scary Images And Sexy Kiera Knightley Baby Talk. (You Know You Like It.) 

Hunter Killer/Johnny English Strikes Again                                                                      Double Feature: ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Time for something a little different. I've been doing this for eight long, wonderful, still completely unpaid years. During this time, the amount of movies I see a year just continues to grow and grow. I don't write full reviews of everything (That's why you gotta follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd), but I try my best to say what I need to say about almost everything. Sadly this week's new releases are kind of....well....There just isn't all that much to talk about when it comes to either of them. So, I thought it time to improvise a little. 

Image result for hunter killer movieImage: "Man, the Red Sox are running away with this." 

 "Hunter Killer" follows a rather convoluted plotline, with an American submarine getting destroyed while tracking a Russian sub deep in the Arctic. Fearing this could lead to something worse, "Admiral Charles Donnegan" (Gary Oldman) has "Admiral John Fisk" (Common) send in another American sub, commanded by "Commander Joe Glass" (Gerard Butler) to go in and find out what happened, while another team of soldiers, led by "Lieutenant Bill Beaman" (Toby Stephens), head into Russia to spy on a Russian marine base. Turns out the evil Russian Minister of Defense, "Dmitri Durov" (Michael Gor) is staging a coup against the Russian President, "Zakarin" (Alexander Diachenko), taking him hostage, and plotting to start a war with America. While Beaman and his men are tasked to rescue Zakarin, Glass' team discovered a sabotaged sub, bringing the captain, "Sergei Andropov" (The late, great Michael Nyqvist) aboard, despite the protests of some of the crew. Glass is forced to form an uneasy alliance with Sergei, working together to get to Beaman's team and Zakarin, and get them to safety before Durov starts World War III.  

Related imageImage: The fate of the world rests in.....

 "Johnny English Strikes Again" is the apparent third installment in the "Johnny English" trilogy. (There was a second one?) This time, all of MI7's secret agents have found their identities exposed by a cyber attack. With little else to turn to, the unnamed "British Prime Minister" (Emma Thompson) is forced to bring in older, inactive agents to find the culprit. However, after accidentally knocking out all of the others through bumbling comedy, all the remains is the obviously idiotic, buffoon himself, "Johnny English" (Rowan Atkinson). Reuniting with his old partner, "Bough" (Ben Miller), English sets out to find the bad guy, coming across lovely Russian spy, "Ophelia" (Olga Kurylenko), which complicates an already complicated mission, due to English's own incompetence in the new digital age.

 To write full reviews for both "Hunter Killer" and "Johnny English Strikes Again" would just end up wasting both my time and yours. It may not seem like it, but both films are in a way somewhat similar. In terms of quality mostly. "Hunter Killer" is every single submarine based action thriller you've seen before, complete with cheesy dialogue and this constant sense of cheapness. It's not without some solid suspense and thrills (Such as an excellent sequence where the submarine has to avoid an underwater mine field, as well as a small cavern), and even with the questionable CGI (And even more questionable green screen), the action is well done and solidly directed. (It was directed by someone named Donovan Marsh. No clue who that is.) Gerard Butler and his hard to classify accent still has a strong screen presence. Gary Oldman is just here because they wanted someone with Gary Oldman gravitas, and Linda Cardellini (as "Jayne Norquist", an NSA analyst) doesn't really do much. However, the late Michael Nyqvist (In one of his last roles) once again shows he was one of those actors who never truly got the appreciation he deserved, still managing to give a compelling performance. 

 "Johnny English Strikes Again" on the other hand is the definition of getting exactly what you pay for. It's a predictable, almost plot free film whose story is simply there to have excuses to use goofy slapstick. It's a parody we've seen way too many times, and when the movie's jokes fall flat, they fall pretty hard. With that said, it's not without it's moments of inspired stupidity. Rowan Atkinson's style of humor isn't for everyone, but you can never say he isn't giving it his all. His ability to remain completely straight faced no matter he situation can still get a few laughs. (The funniest being a scene involving virtual reality, which turns hilariously violent) Olga Kurylenko is as pretty as ever, and it's nice to see her in something more comedic for once. Emma Thompson is a treasure and can do no wrong, while Jake Lacy (as "Jason Volta", a tech based billionaire who makes for our obvious baddie) is as lame a villain as you can possibly get. The film does at times make a point of the old school spy genre vs. the more modern, tech based one, but the satire isn't focused on near enough.  

 Both "Hunter Killer' and "Johnny English Strikes Again" are essentially filler movies to buy some time till the bigger releases. They're B-Movies, that don't aspire to much. They're not so much bad, with both movies having their moments of enjoyment. It all ends up being so inconsequential. if you're someone who really wants to see them, they're both solid enough to rent, though not something you need to see in theaters in the slightest (Maybe make it a double feature like I did). Both movies have absurd action, preposterous plotting, Russians doing Russian things, and a general lack of knowledge when it comes to global politics. There! The experiment is over! 2 stars all around! "Hunter Killer" is Rated R For Language And Violence, But Just Barely Enough To Qualify. "Johnny English Strikes Again" is Rated PG For Shenanigans And Mugging. 

The Hate U Give                                    ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: The Oscars better show some love.

 It's 2018, over a century after this country was founded, and yet, there is still some things that need to be worked on. One of which being a big one, the discrepancy between the African American community and our police force. Now you can take the easy, overly sensitive white way out and leave it at the standard "Oh you just hate cops" mentality. (Because history hasn't shown us any reason why they would even have an issue in the first place.) People aren't making this sh*t up. There is an issue, that needs acknowledgement first before anything can even be done about it. Granted, I guess it's just easier for some people to just deny it. You can be grateful to law enforcement and still believe it's fallible.

 Based on the acclaimed 2017 novel of the same name by Angie Thomas, "The Hate U Give" follows young high school student, "Starr Carter" (Amandla Stenberg). Starr lives in an all black community, "Garden Heights" with her parents, "Marverick" (Russel Hornsby) and "Lisa" (Regina Hall), along with her half brother, "Seven" (Lamar Johnson) and younger brother, "Sekani" (TJ Wright). Due to the high crime rate, thanks to feared drug dealer, "King" (Anthony Mackie), who essentially runs everything, Starr doesn't go to the local high school. She instead goes to the mostly white school on the richer side of town. Here, Starr acts slightly different around these kids, such as with her white boyfriend, "Chris" (KJ Apa) and her friends, including "Hailey" (Sabrina Carpenter).

 While at a party, Starr comes across an old childhood friend/former romantic interest, "Khalil" (Algee Smith). The two reconnect while Khalil drives her home, getting pulled over by a white cop, who ends up shooting Khalil dead, mistaking a hairbrush for a gun. Khalil's murder sparks citizens all over the city to seek justice, with Starr being the only witness, who can possibly cause some sort of change. Starr is forced to find the courage to overcome her own fears, how her friends will see her, and King's own personal involvement in the community, to stand up to an unjust system. 

 Directed by George Tillman Jr. ("Barbershop"), "The Hate U Give" (The title, which comes from a Tupac Shakur song, with important significance to the story) is one of those small movies that could so easily slip under the radar. While it doesn't appear large in scale, it's nonetheless important and in a certain way, should be a bit of a game changer. The film is unapologetic with it's themes, such as discussions of police racism (Or the assumption that someone of color is up to no good compared to a white person), class inequality, perceptions of poorer communities and the lack of opportunity in those areas, and how some in the African American community would feel the need to act different around white people than how they would act around their own race. (It's almost as if some, even those who may or may not be full on racist, don't feel like they're safe despite claims of acceptance.) The film is well written, with natural feeling dialogue that's profound and moving, never simplifying things too much, but saying everything in a way that logically everyone should be able to understand. 

 Amandla Stenberg ("Everything, Everything", "The Hunger Games") is one of those young actresses who, no matter the actual quality of what she's in, just continues to prove she is one of the best and most captivating young actresses out there. She gives a powerhouse performance, which shows through subtle moments throughout the film, leading up to a spectacular sequence towards the end during a protest that I could see possibly being played during one of those clips they show when presenting the Oscar nominees for Best Actress. (You know. Maybe. To put it lightly.) Russel Hornsby is terrific, along with some great supporting work from Regina Hall, Issa Rae (as "April Ofrah", an activist who helps Starr), and Common (as "Carlos", Starr's cop uncle), who gets an excellent scene to tell his side of the debate. (Which is given just as much depth and understanding.) KJ Apa (From"Riverdale", as my sister has pointed out to me) is a likable character, who doesn't end up as a stereotype, and Sabrina Carpenter gets a chance to be rather vile in a realistic way. Anthony Mackie, who is a menacing presence throughout the film, at first seems like an unnecessary subplot to include a villain, but by the end, you see what the point the film is getting across with him. While Algee Smith only appears briefly, for one long, extended cameo, he is full of charisma, making for a memorable character. (And his fate feels even more tragic the more you learn about him.)

 Aimed at younger audiences, but with messages that not even many adults seem to be able to comprehend, "The Hate U Give" is mature, relevant, and most importantly, bold. Even though it's not exactly one of those grand, big screen releases we're used to, it's just as powerful, if not more so. It's a movie I advise giving a chance, because, who knows, you might actually learn something about an important subject that you didn't quite grasp before. (Or you can keep denying there is a problem. I've heard that's much easier.) 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Language And Heavy Material, Though Still Perfectly Suitable For Families.

Halloween                                                   ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: Man, The Joker sure is going for the brooding look. 

 To me, slasher films have always been the least frightening portion of the horror genre. Which is weird, because it logically should be the scariest. A maniac with the knife is most likely to go after you before some demon or ghost. It's just that I've never really been into it, mostly because of an overuse of jump scares and gore to compensate for a lack of actual scares. The original 1978 "Halloween" in a way served as a reminder of what it could be. After a string of horrible sequels that got wrong what that movie got right, this new sequel takes what worked and may of made something even a little better. 

 Taking place forty years after the original directed by renowned horror icon, John Carpenter, 2018's "Halloween" opens with British true-crime podcasters, "Aaron Korey" (Jefferson Hall) and "Dana Haines" (Rhian Rees), doing a section on the so called Bogeyman himself, "Michael Myers/The Shape" (Played in his unmasked form by the original actor, Nick Castle, then by James Jude Courtney when masked). The cold, murderous psycho is currently in a Sanitarium, where he is in the psychiatric care of "Dr. Ranbir Sartain" (Haluk Bilginer), who took over after the death of "Samuel Loomis" (Previously played in the original by Donald Pleasence). Aaron and Dana are allowed to visit Michael before he's scheduled to be transferred to a maximum security prison, presenting him with the original mask he wore on that fateful night. (You know, the ghoulish William Shatner one?) The two are also able to speak with "Laurie Strode" (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor from Michael's murder spree, who is suffering PTSD from what she went through.

 Over the four decades, Laurie has spent her days living in a heavily fortified, sealed off house in the woods, preparing for the day Michael ever escaped so she could kill him herself. This has led to an estranged relationship with her daughter, "Karen" (Judy Greer), while also having some effect on Karen's daughter, "Allyson" (Andi Matichak), who really just wants to see her family put this whole thing behind them. However, as Halloween night approaches, the bus carrying Michael, along with a few other inmates, crashes. This leads to Michael escaping, getting his old mask back, and returning to his old hometown in Haddonfield to start a whole new night of terror. With her family in danger and with some help from an old officer friend, "Frank Hawkins" (Will Patton), Laurie is set to finally have her reunion with Michael, leading to an epic confrontation forty years in the masking. 

 Retconning into oblivion the many sequels, couple reboots, and remakes, "Halloween" has a clean slate to do something a little different while employing what we've seen before, but effectively.  Directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express", "Our Brand Is Crisis"), with a script co-written by Green and Danny McBride, the movie doesn't do too much to change up the genre. It follows the basic outline, with killer breaking free, offing a few side characters, before going on his killing spree, leading to a final battle with the final girl. At least, for the most part, that's what the film does. Relying on slow building tension, with time taken for the characters, and like the original, using unique camera angles and really clever cinematography to give the most terrifying feeling a horror movie can possibly give you. The feeling that someone, somewhere, is watching you. Yet you can't see him, but instead can hear the breathing. 

 Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic, giving a heartfelt, compelling performance, filled with flaws, moments of weakness, but still proving to be a strong female character. Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are also excellent, with their shared scenes with Curtis being some of the strongest moments of character work. The three of them make for great horror movie heroines (The Scream Queens Trio?) We get some good supporting parts from Will Pattion (One of the smarter horror movie characters), Toby Huss (as "Ray", Karen's husband/One of the dumber characters), along with a few bit parts that come from the victims of the slaughter, which vary from the obvious douchebags who have it coming, to a few people who you kind of hope didn't die so horribly. The subplot with Haluk Bilginer's character doesn't quite mesh well into the overall story, but it's a fascinating concept, which plays into why Michael Myers originally became such a horror icon in the first place. The film, much like the original, leaves things ambiguous, not giving us too many details behind Myers' actions and motivations, along with the nature of his evil. He's a frightening force of pure brutality, who kills like a shark without a purpose, while those desperately trying to get into his mind end up causing more harm than good. (You can't reason with pure evil.)

 "Halloween" can't help itself with a few moments of predictability and of course, people acting and doing stupid stuff. (Hell, the way the whole situation ends up coming together in the first place was because some idiot showed a murderous lunatic his old mask.) Even with those annoying tropes, the movie isn't trying to change up the genre so much, but rather show that some old fashioned scare tactics still can work. The film is still suspenseful, filled with nightmarish images, and even with the violence, the movie leaves enough to your imagination, which is truly something terrifying. (Most of the kills we only end up seeing the gruesome aftermath of.) With characters that you care about, a little humor every now and then, and all leading up to a finale that's nothing short of awesome, this new "Halloween" makes for a sequel that feels like a natural continuation to the original. (And a slightly better one at that.) Once that classic score kicks in, you realize you're in for a good scary story. 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Blood, And Nondiscriminatory Murder. (Myers Goes For Anyone, Any Age.) 

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween                                                                                                                                      ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for goosebumps 2 haunted halloweenImage: The actor in the middle is  bit wooden.

 Sorry I'm getting this review out so late. I have a life outside of this you know. I mean, by life, I refer to my job at a movie theater, the fact I had to see "A Star is Born" again (Go see it! Now!), and writing takes a lot of time out of the day. I have to sit down, keep focused and type till my fingers get tired. Besides, if you were going to see "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween", you've likely already seen it. (Not just saying that because it's the same movie as the first one....Though it is.)

 A sequel to the hit 2015 family film (And based on the successful books and television series), "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" follows a new group of kids, "Sonny" (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his best friend, "Sam" (Caleel Harris), who has come to stay over with Sonny, his older, college ready sister, "Sarah" (Madison Iseman), and their mother, "Kathy" (Wendi McLendon-Covey) for a couple weeks, during Halloween. Sonny and Sam have a job where they clear out junk, going to a house previously owned by "Goosebumps" author, "R. L. Stine" (Jack Black). While cleaning the house, the two boys come across an old book, which turns out is actually the original first manuscript for one of Stine's Goosebumps books that was never completed. They open the book, which if you've seen the first one, is not a good thing.

 The book released the evil ventriloquist dummy, "Slappy" (Previously voiced by Jack Black, though this time it's by his sound alike, Mick Wingert), who wants to make Sam and Sonny his family. However, Slappy is still a sadistic, homicidal psycho, with evil intentions. After Sarah's cheating boyfriend, "Tyler" (Bryce Cass) gets axed by Slappy (Okay, he just gets horribly injured. But still. He could have killed him), Sarah teams up with Sonny and Sam to attempt to get rid of Slappy. Sadly, Slappy has no intention of going anywhere, unleashing an army of monsters on Halloween night to attack the town and create the ultimate Halloween based nightmare, just like in the unfinished book. It's up to the kids, armed only with the book to contain the monsters, to save the day. Basically, it's the first movie again. 

 Okay, so it's not exactly the same, but by the end, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" really is just what was done before, except with less of a budget this time around. The movie doesn't seem to have the aspirations that the first one did, which had a larger scope and more character despite it's already small by comparison budget. The movie has more of a singular story, somewhat TV special feel (Especially in the special effects department), which could of been intentional, considering the original TV series thrived on that kind of old fashioned cheese. Because of this, there are times where the film can be fun. There are a couple spooky thrills, silly comedy, and a certain likability to the cheapness. A there are a couple delightful sequences, such as the gummy bear attack (Which is quite funny, and kind of horrifying in a way) and Slappy's cartoonish, but still somewhat frightening antics. There just isn't enough of it, and because of that, it just feels unnecessary and not exactly something you need to see in theaters. 

 Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Caleel Harris are all decent enough young actors, who are just stuck with character types rather than actual characters. Granted, it's that kind of movie, so you can only do so much. Actors like Wendi McLendon-Covey (Who I still find very much on the attractive side), Chris Parnell (as "Walter", a pharmacy manager, who ends up becoming Slappy's hunchback minion), and Ken Jeong (as "Mr. Chu", the next door neighbor, who gets waaaay too into Halloween), aren't given much to do, outside of play the typical dumb adults. When Jack Black (Who I guess went uncredited in the cast) finally shows up towards the last act in his prolonged, glorified cameo, gets easily the funniest lines and certainly livens things up. In terms of our villain, Slappy, he's still a pretty menacing and darkly humorous villain, who gets a scary moment once in a while, reminding everyone why he's the most popular villain from both the original books and show. 

 Not without it's moments, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween" doesn't have enough of the charm that the original movie had, and will likely only entertain the kids. While that's fine I guess, but as I've said before about other similar movies, they too expect a little more. Nothing bad, but not anything special, with little originality or reason to be on the big screen. And now I feel like a dummy. 2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor, Puppet Jump Scares, And Attempted Puppet Murder. 

Bad Times at the El Royale                     ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for bad times at the el royaleImage: A Priest, a Businessman and a Bear go into a bar...." 

 It's a classic story. A bunch of strangers, who may or may not be hiding secrets from each other, gathering in the middle of nowhere in a secluded location. Of course, there's a bigger mystery at hand, which will result in all kinds of death. Regardless of originality, so long as you got some well written characters, you can have something really different there, especially since we really don't get too many movies quite like this anymore.

"Bad Times at the El Royale" takes place in 1969, in a novelty hotel called the "El Royale", which is located right at the border between Nevada and California. There is something clearly up about the hotel, with the only employee seemingly working at the hotel being the young, awkward concierge, "Miles Miller" (Lewis Pullman). Four strangers arrive to stay the night, including a priest, "Father Daniel Flynn" (Jeff Bridges), a singer going through hard times, "Darlene Sweet" (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum cleaner salesman who won't shut up, "Seymour Sullivan" (John Hamm), and a mysterious woman with a bad attitude, "Emily Summerspring" (Dakota Johnson). It soon becomes apparent that there is something off about this hotel, with dark secrets being revealed, one way mirrors, and a suitcase full of money hidden under the hotel floor. This results in people getting killed, and the involvement of Emily's tied up sister, "Rose" (Cailee Spaeny) and a psychotic, hunky madman, "Billy Lee" (Chris Hemsworth).  

 Both directed and written by Drew Goddard, who previously directed the genre bending "The Cabin in the Woods" and wrote the critically acclaimed "The Martian", "Bad Times at the El Royale" is unoriginal in premise, but unique in it's execution. It's smart in it's dialogue and characterization, with all of them getting enough development in simple monologues or conversations among each other. Though the film is told out of order, the film for the most part finds a way to make a lot of it come together, especially when we finally get in on what's actually going on. It's not a predictable movie to say the least, with there being absolutely no way anyone in the audience had a single clue as to where it's all going. With that said, it's a bit on the clunky side, with the two hour and twenty minute runtime not meshing well in certain parts with the intentionally disjointed story filled with flashbacks and cut backs to other perspectives of scenes we previously saw. 

 The ensemble cast is definitely top notch, with everyone making their characters their own. Jeff Bridges and the terrific Cynthia Erivo have great chemistry together, with their scenes being the most memorable ones. Dakota Johnson is lovely, getting to show off a bit more of her badass side, while we also get great work from John Hamm, Cailee Spaeny (Previously seen in "Pacific Rim: Uprising"), and especially a crazed Chris Hemsworth. The real scene stealer ends up being Lewis Pullman, whose character goes places you would never expect, giving an instant breakout performance. The characters are fascinating, with you becoming engaged in their storylines, even if they all don't quite come together in a truly cohesive manner. 

 "Bad Times at the El Royale" mixes style, humor, and suspense in ways that are at times fairly brilliant, with Goddard's direction and eye for visual flair making for a captivating character driven thriller with hints at connections to real life social issues of the time. It's a bit jumbled in it's execution and needlessly dragged out longer than it likely should of been. However, it's hard to deny the effectiveness behind it's mysteries, and how invested you will end up being by the end. It's a good time, despite what the title implies. 3 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Violence, And A Fixation On Thor's Gyration.

First Man                                               ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: A Few Great Men.

 Time for a little controversy, and I do mean it when I say "Little". Some people, who are either stupid or are simply pretending to be stupid to get others more riled up, have taken offense to the fact that for everything that this new film, "First Man" shows, it doesn't portray Neil Armstrong psychically planting the American Flag on the surface of the moon, which has led to the film being dubbed by said idiots (Who by the way, haven't even seen the movie) as "Unpatriotic".. Now we still see the flag there, with the camera lingering on that shot, as well as the effect this mission had on the country and the rest of the world. If you as me, it all seemed pretty patriotic. Then again, I actually saw the movie, so what do I know? 

 Based on the true story, "First Man" focusing on astronaut/first man to walk on the moon, "Neil Armstrong" (Ryan Gosling) from 1961-1969. The film details his personal family life with his wife, "Janet" (Claire Foy), being forced to deal with the death of their young daughter "Karen", and Neil's involvement in the space race against Russia. The film also shows us the costs of what this mission to get a man on the moon requires (Many of them tragic), as well as the effect it has on both Neil and his family. This all leads NASA's eventual launch of the "Apollo 11", involving Neil and "Buzz Aldrin" (Corey Stoll), ending with Neil becoming the first man to walk on the moon, saying that famous, goosebumps inducing quote, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". 

 Directed by critically acclaimed Director/Oscar winner, Damien Chazelle ("Whiplash", "La La Land"), "First Man" is a more personal story, with a larger scope and word changing side effects. The film, which beautifully utilizes the grainy, gritty stylized form of direction that best symbolizes the time period. The cinematography in the movie takes full advantage of the scope of an IMAX screen (Especially towards the end), with the use of shaky cam to better enhance the terror, suspense, and the unforgiving nausea that a rocket can provide. But it's not just about the mission itself, though the film takes time to focus on the specifics, details, and the failed attempts (That sometimes resulted in death), which led some in the country to question how worth it this whole escapade actually is. The film follows the human aspect of our real life characters, wonderfully capturing the sadness behind them that they try to keep hidden. With a script by Josh Singer ("Spotlight, "The Post"), the dialogue is quiet and simple, with a few moments of humor to form a better emotional connection to the movie. 

 Ryan Gosling's performance is probably destined to be a subject of debate. Some will see his stoic performance as possibly wooden and lacking in much emotion. I saw that as intentional. There are rare moments where he shows his emotions, whether they be happy or sad, but it's clear that while he's appearing emotionless, you can see in his eyes so much inner turmoil that he is desperately trying to keep from getting out. I found it to be a wonderful performance, that shows the character's flawed humanity more than any other previous telling of this story. Claire Foy is awesome here, with her role being the one that other movies would either overlook or not give anywhere near enough focus. Her story is shown to be just as important, showing how the families of those who could possibly die are forced to deal with, and regardless of the tragedies, are pretty much expected to remain helpless and happy in the eyes of those watching from the outside. Others are mostly secondary, but the excellent ensemble still does great work, which includes Jason Clarke (as "Ed White", the first man to walk in space), Kyle Chandler (as "Deke Slayton", NASA's Chief of the Astronaut Office), Ciarán Hinds (as "Robert R. Gilruth", NASA's Director), Shea Wigham (as "Gus Grissom", one of the Mercury Seven astronauts), and a surprisingly, slightly dick-ish Corey Stoll (I guess Buzz just had no filter at all.)

 "First Man" is a terrific, compelling drama that conveys the positives and negative outlooks of people during the time, while also showing why in the end, this was such an important deal. In the film's last twenty to thirty minutes, we get an example of what I would consider to be perfect cinema. The actual launch and moon landing has probably some of the best uses of sound and visual camerawork of any modern movie, resulting in a jaw dropping sequence so strong, you'll feel your ears pop the second our heroes step on the moon's surface. It's unreal how it looks, and I couldn't tell if it was CGI, practical, or an incredible mix of both. It's nothing short of an achievement, and ends on a perfect, somber note that sticks with you once the credits roll. That seems like powerful, patriotic stuff to me right there. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Terrifying Anxiety, Vomit Inducing Shaking, And Reality At It's Harshest. 

A Star Is Born                                    ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Sing "Poker Face"!

 Allow me to paraphrase if necessary. "Music is essentially 12 notes between any octave. 12 notes in the octave repeats. It's the same story, told over and over. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those 12 notes." Probably not the first critic (or the last) to quote this line, but it's too perfect to ignore, and pretty much explains how and why this film works so beautifully. Wise words from Sam Elliot right there. Top that, "Life Itself". 

 "A Star Is Born" opens with famous singer/songwriter, "Jackson Maine" (Bradley Cooper), who suffers from a noise-induced hearing loss and a serious alcohol problem. Jackson wanders into a bar, where he comes across a waitress, "Ally" (Lady Gaga), who just so happens to be singing. Jackson immediately falls in love with Ally, hearing her own songs and knowing she has true talent in her. However, Ally doesn't quite have the confidence in herself. Jackson invites Ally to one of his concerts, convincing her to come on stage, while performing one of her songs, which results in her becoming an instant success. Now a couple, Jackson becomes a mentor of sorts to Ally, introducing her further into this world, resulting in her becoming a rising star, while Jackson's own personal demons continue to slowly destroy him. 

 Directed, Co-Produced, and Co-Written by Bradley Cooper, "A Star is Born" is a story that has been told many, many times before. Originally a 1937 film (Then a 1954 one, followed by another remake in 1976), it's not just something we've seen been remade, but also told through various media and stories. It's a classic tale really of one star discovering another, possibly falling in love with the up-and-comer, and one of them has a downward spiral due to an abuse of some kind. We've seen this before, and will continue to see it in the future. Yet, like the previously mentioned quote said, it's all about how it's told, and Bradley Cooper, who clearly saw that it's a story that can be just as relevant now than ever, crafted it into a masterwork, and one of the best films to come out of 2018. 

 Lady Gaga, whose singing voice I've always been absolutely in love with, gets top billing here, and for good reason. She gives an amazing, thoroughly appealing, strong, but simple performance, that's much like her character in which it shows nothing but true star power. Her chemistry with Bradley Cooper is almost unreal, with these two characters feeling naturally connected, whether it be from simple glances or from the very human dialogue. The previously mentioned Sam Elliot (as "Bobby", Jackson's older brother/manager) gets some brilliant scenes throughout while Andrew Dice Clay (as "Lorenzo", Ally's caring father) gets some comical, warm hearted scenes that never feel cloying. There are some great secondary roles from Anthony Ramos (as "Ramon", Ally's friend), Rafi Gavron (as "Rez", Ally's manager), and a memorable Dave Chappelle (as "Noodles, Jackson's old friend/retired musician), but the film's focus is on Gaga and Cooper, with the audience getting an instant attachment and investment in both of these characters and their relationship. 

 With music being such an important theme in "A Star Is Born", you have to expect the actual music in the movie to be good. It's a fantastic soundtrack, with a few songs (Particularly the main one, "Shallow") I see becoming instant favorites, with the film clearing out awards season in that category. The cinematography is stunning, making for a gorgeous looking movie, and the writing is perfect, with moments of humor, which goes well with the occasional profound and insightful, yet very natural dialogue between characters. Even when you get the idea of where this story is going, you still feel the emotional journey, having fallen in love with these characters, begging for nothing less than absolute happiness for them. What makes the film and it's story so relevant, aside from the changing music industry, is how the film shows the pros and cons of someone rising within this industry. It can be dark, lonely, and even a little dangerous with what types of substances will be available, while also showing the importance of embracing your natural talent, allowing your true voice to be heard, and not letting fame change you for the worse. It's a heartbreaking tale of love that's sure to be an instant classic, and it gives me an urge to just call off the search for "2018's Best Movie" a little early. 4 stars. Rated R For Drug Use, Sexuality, And Realistic Tragedy. 

Venom                                                    ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: The second best onscreen romance of the week.

 I think I understand it now. I understand the now infamous "Turd in the Wind" line. You see, when speaking to the doomed convenience store robber, Venom remarks that he will eat his arms, legs, and face, leaving him as a limbless thing rolling down the street, like the previously mentioned "Turd in the Wind". What he is saying is that he will be some bizarre mess, that will be stupid to look at, difficult to describe, and so out of the blue surreal that whoever sees it will be repulsed, yet intrigued by it. What I'm trying to say is that it's a metaphor for this movie as a whole. 

 "Venom" follows reckless reporter, "Eddie Brock" (Tom Hardy), living with his pretty lawyer girlfriend, "Anne Weying" (Michelle Williams). Eddie learns that Anne's firm is working for the "Life Foundation", an organization that specializes in the future, which is run by the obviously shady, "Carlton Drake" (Riz Ahmed). When Eddie learns, after eyeing some confidential material that's been sent to Anne, that the experiments that Drake has been performing on poor homeless, sick human subjects have a weird tendency of killing the subject. Eddie confronts Drake during an interview, despite being specifically told not to, which results in him getting fired, along with Anne, who breaks up with Eddie. Cut to several months later, Eddie is a complete loser, living in a crappy apartment, and still struggling to control his accent while Anne has already moved on. Eddie ends up meeting "Dora Skirth" (Jenny Slate), a scientist working for Drake, who only just now has realized how crazy he is. Dora explains that the Life Foundation has discovered alien life, with Drake seeing humanity on the verge of collapse and in need of replacing, in the form of strange, gooey creatures dubbed "Symbiotes".

 With help from Dora, Eddie sneaks into the Life Foundation, getting attacked by one of the human test subjects, whose Symbiote ends up bonding with Eddie. After narrowly escaping, Eddie begins to feel more off than usual, feeling hungry constantly, and hearing a demonic voice in his head. The voice is revealed to be the Symbiote itself, named "Venom" (Also voiced by Tom Hardy), who really likes being a part of Eddie, and has plans of his own. Meanwhile, Drake learns that Eddie has bonded with Venom, and sends his henchmen to go after him and bring back Venom to perfect his experiments. Eddie and Venom are forced to become one, taking on all the villains, chomping heads, and smashing bodies, while a separate Symbiote, with evil intentions, makes it's way to set up the climax. 

 Directed by Ruben Fleischer, "Venom" is not the first time we've seen the beloved Marvel Comics/Spider-Man villain turned anti-hero in action on the big screen. He, sort of, appeared as the main villain (Played by Topher Grace) in the last act of 2007's "Spider-Man 3". I say sort of because the movie did nothing with him and really just had him there just to have him. The movie has been bashed by fans long before it came out, mostly due to people having a hard time comprehending how a Venom movie works without Spider-Man, who was integral to his origin in the comics. The good news for the fans is that even without the famous web-slinger, this movie gets the character right. Sometimes. (As a movie, "Spider-Man 3" is still better.) "Venom" is a movie that's not all there in the sense that, I think, it's criminally insane. The film's tone is more comedic than expected, though some of the laughs come from the shear absurdity of what you see. It's odd how the film follows a generic superhero plotline, yet the film is anything but predictable. The steps the film takes to get from point A to point B are so completely off the wall bonkers that it makes for a beautiful disaster of epic proportions. 

 Tom Hardy, even with his occasionally all over the place accent, is actually quite amazing in this movie. I might even say he's brilliant. He commits to the craziness, embracing every nonsensical second. His relationship with Venom is oddly endearing, with Venom's obsession with violence and occasional vulgarity, mixing with Eddie's stammering. These two characters have more chemistry than the actual romantic subplot, with the film never making Hardy's relationship with Michelle Williams in any way believable. While she does get a little more to do than most love interests, the whole time you're questioning what she sees in him. Riz Ahmed is a great actor and he's creepy, but his character's motivation is too far fetched to get into, with his eventual transformation into the villainous "Riot" (Who is essentially just "Gray Venom") doesn't make a lick of sense. Jenny Slate, looking cute with the glasses, is underutilized in the worst way possible.  In terms of visuals, it doesn't look real, but it looks cool. Venom is a pretty badass looking creature, even when we do get to the big, CGI heavy climax, which is nothing but blobs slapping the crap out of each other. 

 The film is full of stupid, to the point you wonder if the filmmakers even realized it. "Venom" is a lot like it's main character. It's an unhinged piece of work that verges on "So Bad It's Good", but you have to admit there are some legitimately good aspects to the movie (I mean, movies like "Green Lantern", "Catwoman", and all of the "Fantastic Four" movies are much, much worse than this.) A better description is that it's more "So, What The F*ck, It's Fascinating". The story makes absolutely no sense, with character development just happening without explanation, humor coming from either actually funny lines or ones that are so out there confusing, and it leaves you with a feeling that you're no longer in the real world. The movie feels like something that's come out of a Pre-MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) timeline.Not so much in quality, but more along the lines that the movie looks like a time capsule of the early 2000s (Whether it be the story, characterizations, the Eminem theme song, or just the head scratching images this movie allowed to exist). Somehow, I kind of loved it. I had a great time analyzing this trainwreck of awesome stupidity and I advise everyone that they need this movie in their lives to make them feel better than we won't be seeing this beloved character in a proper film anytime soon. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Head Biting Violence, Sexy Venom (Yeah I know What It Means. Just Making A Joke Here), And The Constant Feeling Of Insanity. 

Hell Fest                                                  ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Shhhh....I'm hunting Wabbit....Heh, heh, heh, heh!"

 Guess it's that time of year again to pretend it's Halloween, despite having almost a month before the day actually arrives. Once we reach November, we'll start pretending it's Christmas.

 "Hell Fest" starts with two best friends, "Natalie" (Amy Forsyth) and "Brooke" (Reign Edwards), reuniting after some time apart. Brooke suggests that Natalie go with Brooke's new annoying roommate, "Taylor" (Bex Taylor-Klaus), their boyfriends, "Quinn" (Christian James) and "Asher" (Matt Mercurio), along with "Gavin" (Roby Attal), who has a crush on Natalie, to go to a traveling, horror based theme park, called "Hell Fest". Natalie is at first uneasy about going, mostly due to feeling out of touch with Brooke and the rumors of a girl getting both gutted to death, and her corpse being mistaken for one of the park decorations. While at the park, Natalie notices some creepy guy in a zombie mask seemingly following the group around, with everyone else mistaking him for one of the park employees. But as soon as the bodies start to pile up and the blood starts to spill, Natalie and her friends must escape the park to survive. 

 "Hell Fest" isn't without an interesting idea, with the premise of getting stalked through a horror theme park by someone who may or may not be part of the attractions, making for something that could of been fun time. There are creepy looking costumes and clever set designs, along with the film's explanation for how the park works, which are fairly cool. Really the problems is that it's just kind of generic, especially with how many genre thrills and how much the film shows off it's setting, you can't help but think to yourself, that they could of done a lot more with this than they actually did. (There's a scene with a guillotine, and yet, it doesn't actually result in a decapitation in favor of another simple stabbing.) The kills are gorey, but mostly by the book, with the most elaborate one involving a strongman mallet. The film doesn't utilize what it has, and how crazy it could of been. 

 The characters aren't exactly meant to be anything other than their character tropes (Such as nice girl, nice guy, comic relief, etc.), but they are here to do them as well as you really can. Amy Forsyth is a plenty likable lead, who even gets a few badass moments later on, making for a solid horror heroine. The others are fine, though the quick, but delightfully quirky cameo from Tony Todd (as a performer in one of the "Hell Fest" shows), made me kind of wish he was the killer instead. (It would of been hammier, but it certainly would of been more memorable) As for the killer himself, there are moments where he's fairly creepy, though the mask given is easily one of the blander ones they could of got. In fact, with all the killer clowns, and bag masked zombies, (Along with what I can only assume is a Skeksis from "The Dark Crystal"), there were much creepier ones they could of gone with. 

 There are some good moments of dark comedy and the look of the film is pretty awesome (Kind of makes you wish it was an actual place that existed), "Hell Fest" is your standard slasher flick, with little surprises and little memorability. It's audience will likely have a good time, though these days I feel like there are still better choices out there to choose from. I'd say it's not for me, but I was honestly just hoping for something even more over the top. Guess I might be a sicker person than I realized. 2 stars. Rated R For Gorey Violence, Jumpy Scares, And The Fact That I Would Still Get Less Sick Here Then I Did At Six Flags. 

Little Women                                    ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for little women 2018Image: I'm waiting for "Little Men", starring Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Hart, Peter Dinklage, and Danny Devito. 

 Knowing what I know now, that there is going to be yet another "Little Women" adaptation coming out next year, with Greta Gerwig (Who previously gave us one of 2017's masterpieces, "Lady Bird") as the Director, it all makes this one feel just kind of pointless. 

 "Little Women" is a modern re-imaging of the old story by Louisa May Alcott, following the March sisters, "Jo" (Sarah Davenport), "Beth" (Allie Jennings), "Meg" (Melanie Stone), and "Amy" (Elise Jones). While Jo is living in New York, trying desperately to become a writer and get her novel published, the story is told through flashbacks about the maturing lives of herself and her sisters. We see them living with their mother, "Marmee" (Lea Thompson), while their "Papa" (Bart Johnson) is enlisted in the army. The film also shows the sisters' relationships with each other and those around them, such as Jo's close friend, "Laurie" (Lucas Grabeel), who obviously has a romantic interest in her. With Jo being told by her professor, "Freddy Bhaer" (Ian Bohen) to challenge herself and further her own writing, Jo is called back home due to tragic circumstances, which forces her to confront some of the issues that occurred when she and her sisters were growing up. Really, most people should already know what the plot for this is, even for those who have never read "Little Women." Just imagine it being he same, except in 2018. 

 Mostly only distributed by the current box office punching bag, "Pure Flix Entertainement" (So there is a bit more quality in filmmaking this time around), "Little Women" really doesn't do all that much to solidify it's existence, even with it's more modern setting. The film's story is still plenty relevant, and there moments where the themes can still resonate with some audiences. However, the setting just makes things a little awkward, with the fact that the movie's timeline spans almost two decades, yet every scene still feels like it's set in 2018. It's choppily put together, with first time Director/Co-Writer Clare Niederpruem keeping things pretty safe, not really doing anything with it's new premise and going for pure cheese when it comes to the script. With that said, the film isn't without it's charm, such as the overall pleasantness of the movie, and the fact that much of the acting is surprisingly excellent, with our main, and for the most part, unknown cast giving it their all.

 Sarah Davenport, who is in the forefront through most of the movie, is quite terrific. While most of her character's dialogue is definitely on the mediocre side, she delivers them with so much conviction, personality, and enough likability to get through her character's immature flaws. The performances from Allie Jennings (Who gets the most emotional scenes later in the film), Melanie Stone, and Elise Jones all show lots of talent and onscreen charisma to carry the film. Lucas Grabeel is funny and lovable, and Lea Thompson, whose role could almost be considered thankless due to how little focus it gets, still gives it her absolute best, generating a genuine motherly warmth and love. All of these actors and actresses are really good, elevating "So-so" material, helping the film's inner good heart shines through, which should definitely make it very effective for the audience it's trying to attract. 

 "Little Women" is hammy in writing, sloppy in editing, and a little on the cheap side, feeling more like something you'd see on the Hallmark channel, rather than in theaters. Where the movie falters, it makes up for in how strong it's performances are (Which is very important for a character driven movie like this) and a good heart. And while the film's modernization doesn't add much, it's themes of female empowerment are still sure to connect with young girls. It's hard to truly dislike anything with that kind of intention. And to be honest, "Little Men" is starting to sound terrible. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Adult Content And Slight Drinking (Actual Beer This Time Too).

Night School                                             ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: "Get this man a high chair!" 

 Another day, another mostly "Meh" comedy, making for a pretty quick review. Hey, unlike this movie, I don't want to drag things out needlessly more than I need to. An hour and fifty minutes is a bit much for even a good comedy. 

 "Night School" follows "Teddy Walker" (Kevin Hart), a big mouthed troublemaker who dropped out of school, claiming it was because it was beneath him. (The real reason being that he just isn't all that smart.) Years later, he's dating (And planning to marry) his girlfriend, "Lisa" (Megalyn Echikunwoke). However, when his current place of work explodes (Long, contrived story, not worth getting into), Teddy is forced to look for a new job. Teddy's friend, "Marvin" (Ben Schwartz) says he can get him an investment job, which will require Teddy to go back to school to get his GED. Teddy is horrified to discover that his high school nemesis, "Stewart" (Taran Killam), who has become principal and basically rules his school like a tyrant. Teddy enrolls in the night school class, run by "Carrie" (Tiffany Haddish), who doesn't mess around and is well, very Tiffany Haddish about the way she runs her class. Teddy, along with his fellow classmates, including the idiotic, "Mackenzie" (Rob Riggle), the crazy "Jaylen" (Romany Malco), stressed out mother, "Theresa" (Mary Lynn Rajskub), pretty young hipster, "Mila" (Anne Winters), the Mexican one, "Luis" (Al Madrigal), and"Bobby" (Fat Joe), who Skypes into class from prison, now struggle to get through the class, planning to steal the GED answers in typical, goofily comedic fashion. 

 Directed by Malcolm D. Lee ("Barbershop: The Next Cut" and "Girls Trip") and written by six different people (Including Kevin Hart), "Night School" is another one of those live action cartoons that runs like a series of skits, in which the film stops dead to give those skits extra time, while the plot is really, kind of just there. You really just have to hope it's funny enough to make it worth it. Weirdly on occasion, it can be fairly funny. The film's padding is actually where the funniest stuff happens, where the film just proceeds to stop moving and let funny people ramble and quip. It's padding, but it's the best part of the movie. I actually kind of understand why, because everything with it's plot feels made up as it goes along, progressively getting more and more dragged out as it goes along. When you finally realize what's actually going on and how the filmmakers are finding ways around how little they have, it makes you kind of disappointed in yourself for laughing. 

 Kevin Hart is his typically sporadic self, jumping all over the place, and being the adult equivalent of a hyperactive kid on a sugar high (He's still undeniably funny at times). Tiffany Haddish (Who is strangely out of the movie for a decent portion), can get plenty of laughs regardless of how mediocre a script is. Really, the rest of the cast, with Romany Malco, Rob Riggle, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and especially Taran Killam, get funny parts every now and then. The whole relationship with Megalyn Echikunwoke is silly, with little purpose to the conflict, and a lack of chemistry between her and Kevin Hart. (He has much more chemistry with Tiffany Haddish actually.) This movie needed more Keith David (as "Gerald", Teddy's disapproving father), since he only appears two or three times, but gets easily the funniest lines. (I mean, the world needs more Keith David.)

 "Night School" is predictable beat by beat, with so little story that the movie takes time out of it's day to focus on drawn out ad-libbing. While those make for the funniest moments, you eventually realize you don't need to need to pay to see something like this, especially when it all ends up being longer than it needs to be. It's not the worst, mostly because it's just forgettable by comparison. I'll just forget about it by the end of the week, much like I did with most of what I learned in high school. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Wacky Shenanigans And Pointless Padding. 

Smallfoot                                                 ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "And he referred to my hands if they're small, then something else must be small....I guarantee there's no problem."

 Just because you're aimed at kids, and mostly little kids at that, you mostly assume you won't really get much more than that. Which is a fine mentality, especially when you do a good job with it. Then before you realize it, you're cute little kids movie about talking Yetis gets a little deep.....Then it gets really deep. Would you be surprised for me to tell you that it's all an allegory for religion? Heavy.

 "Smallfoot" follows "Migo" (Channing Tatum), who lives in a secluded, ignorant Yeti society on a mountain in the clouds, where everyone follows what is written on small stones (Where if it isn't in the stones, it isn't true), carried by their leader, "Stonekeeper" (Common). Migo loves being a part of their world, hoping to become a gong ringer (To bring about the giant snail in the sky, aka the sun) like his father, "Dorgle" (Danny DeVito). Migo's worldview comes crashing down (Literally), when he spots a plane crash, catching a glimpse of the ejected human pilot (Or a "Smallfoot" as they're called) before he floats back beneath the clouds out of sight. Migo returns to the village to tell the others, but Stonekeeper claims that a smallfoot can't possibly exist because the stones say so. Migo is banished, where he bumps into a group of young Yetis, who believe that smallfoots are real, which include Stonekeeper's curious daughter, "Meechee" (Zendaya), "Kolka" (Gina Rodriguez), "Gwangi" (LeBron James), and "Flem" (Ely Henry).

 They arrange for Migo to travel down the mountains, which results in him falling the whole way, where he comes across the human town. Meanwhile, a washed up TV personality, "Percy Patterson" (James Corden), is very much in need of ratings, using the rumors of the Yeti sighting to stage a fake one, which results in his assistant, "Brenda" (Yara Shahidi) abandoning him. Migo comes across Percy, and decides to um, technically kidnap him, and take him back up to the Yeti village. Migo presents Percy to the others, proving that not only do smallfoots exist, but that one of the all important stones was wrong. However, Migo soon learns of the consequences of tearing down one's worldview, as well as the other hidden lies that their society was built on. 

 From Warner Bros.' animation production company, "Warner Animation Group" (Or WAG), who previously gave us the "Lego Movie" franchise and the much underappreciated "Storks", "Smallfoot" has a little more to say than just having a Yeti dance on screen for an hour and a half. (Although it's actually a musical, kind of.) Visually, the film is stunningly animated, with each character's stretchy, lively nature, providing some good old fashioned slapstick comedy. (Very Looney Tunes-eque.) The musical score itself is great, with the musical numbers, while nothing special and certainly not on par with anything from Disney, serving a purpose, and utilizing their colorful animation well. The story mostly falls a generic, but always welcome route, with the typical hero's journey of discovery offering few surprises at first. However, a little more than halfway through, the film's messages and themes get much more complicated. At first, it does all seem to be a simple religious metaphor, but the film later show it can be a little more complex than the simple good guy being right and the bad guy being wrong. 

 The film also provides an excellent cast to voice it's delightful characters, with Channing Tatum, showing off more of his comedic chops, some actually solid singing talent, and his general likability. Zendaya once again shows how much star potential she haas, with the funnier moments coming from a hilarious James Corden, LeBron James, and Ely Henry. Some actors, such as Danny DeVito and Gina Rodriguez, do solid jobs, despite not having quite as big roles as everyone else, with Common getting the most memorable musical number. It's also the one that results in a big twist, that's rather shocking for a fairly predictable kids flick, and adds a few extra layers to what the film is trying to say. No real villains here, just antagonists of sorts, who simply have a different way of thinking, and even if they're wrong, do make a few solid points. (Sometimes it is easier to believe something untrue, and it is going to take a lot of work to help those, who have lived their whole lives believing in something, coping with that truth.)

 "Smallfoot" is something that could of so easily gone the lazy route. With a more kiddy sense of humor, a standard climax, and by comparison to other family fare this year, it still feels lesser. With that said, credit to the filmmakers for making a movie, gearing it to little kids, but never talking down to them, handling it's intent with maturity, which is something most movies aimed at adults struggle to do. If it takes a bunch of dancing Yetis can get kids to question things and think for themselves, I'm all for it. 3 stars. Rated PG For Some Crude Humor, And Non-Conformist Beliefs.

Life Itself                                                             ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for life itself movie 2018Image: Your child deserves better than this movie.

 Allow me to give you a quick rundown of how this movie starts. Sort of an introduction into complete and utter insanity. We open with narration from Samuel L. Jackson, talking about...things and stuff. Then Annette Bening, after saying hello to Oscar Isaac, gets hit by a bus and dies gruesomely, leading to Samuel L. Jackson to declare "F*ck it" before leaving, never to be seen or heard from again. What does it mean? What does it have to do with anything? Not sure, but looking back, I should of taken Samuel L. Jackson's lead, and jumped ship too. 

 After that bizarre opening, "Life Itself" is actually an anthology of sorts, following specific characters whose lives intertwine (Somewhat). First, we are introduced to "Will" (Oscar Isaac) explaining to his therapist, "Dr. Cait Morris" (Annette Bening) about what led to the collapse of his marriage to the love of his life, "Abby" (Olivia Wilde). (Sort of. It's all leading to a big-ish twist.) Then we cut ahead to Will and Abby's young angsty adult daughter, "Dylan" (Olivia Cooke), living with her grandfather, "Irwin" (Mandy Patinkin). We take time away to move over for some reason, where we follow the relationship between "Javier" (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and his wife, "Isabel" (Laia Costa), along with the interference from Javier's rich, but well intentioned boss, "Saccione" (Antonio Banderas). Our last segment (Sort of. Can't spoil, but it's complicated to put it bluntly.), the story follows the full grown son of Javier and Isabel, "Rodrigo" (Alex Monner), leaving home to go off to college, bringing all the stories together full circle. Well, not really. Yeah the movie says that it does, but it really doesn't. Nothing comes together. Everything falls apart. Everyone loses. 

 Directed (And Written) by "This Is Us" creator, Dan Fogelman, "Life Itself" is a sick, twisted, Frankenstein-esque disaster of a film that does at least prove that people are the ones who are in fact cruel and sadistic, rather than life itself as a whole. Basically because the filmmakers decide to go for fake, forced melodrama, poorly injecting it with awkward and unpleasant humor, along with needlessly sappy, horrific drama that leaves you sad for the wrong reasons. The film's script is full of the most basic of attempted inspirational dialogue clichés, that are more painful to listen to than you would think. Most of it just not meaning as much as the film's seems to think it does. Due to this, the film constantly shoves it in your face in an attempt to look insightful, when in reality it's all mumbo jumbo. (The film's obsession with the idea of the unreliable narrator makes for one of this year's weirdest arguments) The film's segments are all cobbled together poorly, barely having a real connection to each other (And certainly not having any connection at all to reality), with none of it coming together till late in the film. However, when it all does seemingly come together, it mostly happens off screen. (I guess it was all a build up to a relationship? But we don't really see that relationship, but instead get told about it through narration.)

 We have a large ensemble cast that appears to be held hostage by the film's pretentiousness, with a couple of them only giving moments of a good performance. Oscar Isaac , Olivia Cooke (Who gets the least interesting of the stories), and Annette Bening are trying their damnedest with what they have to work with, looking as professional as they possibly can. Others like Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, and Antonio Banderas aren't given much to really do, with the exception of the occasional, poorly written monologue that goes on for much longer than it should. Sergio Peris-Mencheta has no real reason to be here, and doesn't need the focus the film places on his character, especially when it all goes nowhere. There's a weird and uncomfortable scene with Jean Smart (as "Linda", Will's mother who is a little over excitable about Abby's parents being dead due to her selfish need to be an only grandparent.), while Alex Monner is a completely blank slate of blandness. Probably the best performance comes from Laia Costa towards the end of the film, with her character's story, while still forced, feeling more genuine than anything else in the movie, and that's mostly by default. None of these character act or react like real people, so it's left up to the actors to try to make something out of it, but sadly they can only do so much. 

 With a horribly constructed narrative and humor that falls flat with an Earth shattering thud, "Life Itself" is kind of a vile, shockingly mean spirited movie that claims to be optimistic and inspirational, despite wallowing in pain, misery, and death. It's a baffling experience that could almost be considered torture porn if it were any gorier. (How was it that the Eli Roth movie I saw this weekend was more pleasant than this?) You're basically watching a depressed, drunk person spout out nonsense for almost two hours, while constantly getting distracted by outside forces that have nothing to do with what's being said. All it does is take time out of your own life, which is probably the biggest crime a movie like this can possibly make. You'll get way more enjoyment out of reading the hilariously dumbfounded critical reaction to this movie online, which is all this movie is eventually be known for. That is a suitable fate. 1/2 star. Rated R For Strong Language, Nonsensical Rambling About Life, And Bus/Car Crashes That Perfectly Symbolize This Movie As A Whole. 

The House with a Clock in its Walls                                                                                                                                ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

 Image result for the house with a clock in its walls

Image: Eli Roth sets up his victims for more torture and gore.

 Director Eli Roth, known for his exploitation films (Though they aren't quite labeled as such), such as "Hostel", "The Green Inferno", and for giving us that awful "Death Wish" remake a few months back, appears to have decided he's tired of chopping up people, riddling them with bullets, and letting their squishy innards splattering out in gratuitous fashion. Instead, he appears to have decided to let the inner kid in him break free, in a whimsically goofy fashion. Honestly, he should do that more often.   

 "The House with a Clock in Its Walls" takes place in 1955, with the nerdy young, "Lewis Barnavelt" (Owen Vaccaro), who after the death of his parents, is sent to live with his estranged (And strange) uncle "Jonathan" (Jack Black). Jonathan takes Lewis to his large, creepy house, full of all kinds of weird things, including an onslaught of clocks to go with the mysterious ticking sound coming from within the walls. Lewis also meets Jonathan's neighbor, "Florence" (Cate Blanchett), who despite bickering with Jonathan often, is actually his best friend. Lewis eventually discovers his uncle Jonathan's secret, which is that he is actually a Warlock, which is the technically term for a "Boy Witch". Lewis, hoping to find a way to fit into school and become best buds with the popular jerk, "Tarby" (Sunny Suljic), begs Jonathan to train him to be a Warlock as well, which he agrees to do mostly due to suggestion from Florence, who is also a good witch. While Lewis begins his training, big evil forces start to reveal themselves, with Lewis discovering that the ticking sound is in reality, a clock within the house. The clock was left behind by a now deceased wicked Warlock, "Isaac Izard" (Kyle MacLachlan) and his wife, "Selena" (Renée Elise Goldsberry) in hopes of bringing upon the end of days. Now with Isaac plotting to make a big comeback and his cursed clock ticking away to a possible catastrophic doomsday event, Lewis, Jonathan, and Florence are the only ones left to stand in his way. 

 Based on a beloved book of the same name by John Bellairs, "The House with a Clock in Its Walls" is Eli Roth's first family/non-torture porn film. And while he still somewhat struggles with tone, the film has a sense of wonder and fun, along with some delightful characters to go with a kooky, darkly humorous tale. The film's look is beautifully weird, with some awesome looking art design that ranges from playfully imaginative to even a little creepy and unsettling at times. (There is actually quite a bit of nightmarish images that while nothing too bad for a kids film, does push it a bit more than you would expect.) The movie does sadly suffer from the occasional odd tonal shift, with some out of place fart and pee jokes, that while common in many kids movies, just make the film seem more juvenile than it the rest of the movie actually is. For the most part however, the film's quirky sense of humor generally works, which adds to the film's amusement park mentality. 

 Jack Black is perfectly cast, getting to be his usual funny, lovable self, with the still very sexy Cate Blanchett getting in on the film's eccentric nature with some laughs and heart. They both have terrific chemistry with each other, and look like they are just having a great time. Owen Vaccario is a likable lead, carrying the movie with a few funny reactions and some heartwarming moments Black and Blanchett. Kyle MacLachlan and Renée Elise Goldsberry are suitably creepy villains that don't get much to do, but serve their purpose, as well as Lorenza Izzo (as Lewis' deceased mother, who appears to him in visions.) Visually, the film varies, with most of the effects work looking cheap and fake, though it oddly fits. The film is going for late 80s/early 90s filmmaking vibe, common for the film's production studios, "Universal Pictures" and "Amblin Entertainment", and it succeeds at that.

 "The House With a Clock in its Walls" isn't without it's flaws, whether it be some inconsistency with tone or it's out of place moments of potty humor, but excels in an overabundance of whimsical charm and plenty of creepy, good natured fun for the kids to enjoy. It's also just nice to see Eli Roth putting his violent cravings aside to simply let characters be characters and let your weird, inner kid out for once. Before he eventually kills us all. 3 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor And Some Shockingly Scary Images. (Don't Like Scary Puppets? Don't See This Movie.)

Unbroken: Path to Redemption             ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for unbroken path to redemptionImage: That will be me in 10....Maybe 20 years.

 I have got to hand it to Pure Flix, they're really trying to expand. I'll even give them credit for moving away from their usual somewhat bigoted, mean spirited, questionable material in favor of actually preaching good, honest Christian values. Movies like "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness" and "Samson" do at least show they are trying to improve what they do. Now, "Quality Filmmaking" is a term that still eludes them, but they're not alone I guess. 

 "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" tells the true life story of the captured Olympian runner, "Louis Zamperini" (Samuel Hunt), after his return home when World War II finally came to an end. We follow Zamperini as he tries to get back into his life, with hopes of running again, falling in love with his future wife, "Cynthia" (Merritt Patterson), while still haunted by what he had witnessed while a prisoner in a Japanese prison camp. Zamperini is particularly tormented by visions of the ruthlessly brutal, "Mutsuhiro Watanabe" (David Sakurai), a.k.a. "The Bird", who he wishes to get revenge on, causing him to drink his problems away. Feeling as if his life has no meaning and that God is to blame for it all, Zamperini dives further into despair, threatening to ruin his relationship with Cynthia and the rest of his family. However, through a little pushing from Cynthia and after attending one of the church revivals run by evangelist, "Billy Graham" (Will Graham), Zamperini's renewed faith leads to his eventual forgiving of those who tortured him and himself. 

 Acting as an unofficial sequel to Angelina Jolie's 2013 film "Unbroken", "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" decides to focus more on the religious, faith based aspect of the story of Louis Zamperini, which is something the previous movie sort of skimmed through. It's a heartwarming, wonderful story that deserves some recognition, especially for those in a crisis of faith. It's too bad it's given nothing more than a made for TV movie that somehow found it's way into a nationwide theater release. This movie has no place on a big screen, with everything looking cheap, sloppily made, and the most basic form of direction you can imagine. When the film tries to add a little flair, it looks incredibly cheesy and even a little unintentionally humorous when it's clearly not supposed to be. Directed by Harold Cronk (Responsible for both "God's Not Dead" and "God's Not Dead 2"), the movie is not as mean spirited as his previous movies, with the film's positive message still resonating regardless. However, it's still feels so poorly constructed, as if it was cobbled together as quickly as possible, which is especially noticeable due to how much story is crammed into less than an hour and forty minutes. 

 The original "Unbroken", while not a great film, did have an impressive performance from its lead (Previously played by Jack O'Connell, which this movie doesn't quite have, though nobody is terrible per se. Samuel Hunt is fine, and definitely likable, and his scenes with Merritt Patterson are well done. She is also cute, with a few good emotional scenes. They are giving their all with the simple, clichéd script. Nobody else is given much of a role, or leaves much of an impression, with the exception of David Sakurai, who mostly appears in cartoonish fantasy sequences, and is as over the top evil as you can make him (Though I'm sure he was in real life). There aren't exactly bad performances, but rather just little to quite talk about. It's mostly because the film lacks much focus early on, with the faith based aspect only coming in after the first act. Not to mention because the film needs to play things safe, it never truly gets into the main character's inner demons and troubles. 

 "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" should resonate with a Christian audience, and for good reason, because it's all well intentioned, strong, good messages that are being preached. You just don't have any reason to see this in a theater, especially with today's prices. It's lame and forgettable, but it's not harmful in the slightest, and the story is undeniably powerful stuff, regardless of the fact that it's not very good. It would be far more powerful if it had been genuinely great. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Dark Subject Matter, But Not Too Much To Push It's Rating.  

A Simple Favor                                        ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for a simple favor movieImage: "This is going straight to TMZ."

 Imagine one of those psychotic, outrageously nonsensical, sensual thrillers that you see appearing in marathon form on "Lifetime", except made by competent people, who know how to make a movie, embracing every single moment of insanity it possibly could.....That's this movie, and it's kind of awesome. 

 "A Simple Favor" opens with perky mommy blogger, "Stephanie Smothers" (Anna Kendrick), who is widowed, raising her son, "Miles" (Joshua Satine). Stephanie takes an interest in the beautiful, charismatic, and mysterious, "Emily Nelson" (Blake Lively). Emily's son, "Nicky (Ian Ho) has become friends with Miles, asking for Miles to come over and play, leaving Stephanie to befriend Emily. Stephanie soon sees that Emily is unlike any person she's ever met. She's totally hot and has personality to spare, but also oddly secretive and pessimistic, even with her husband, "Sean" (Henry Golding), despite the fact they are clearly doing it often. One day, Emily calls Stephanie and asks to do her a simple favor of picking up and watching Nicky for her, which Stephanie, eager to please, does without question.

 Things get weird when Emily just up and vanishes for a few days, with nobody able to figure out where she is, including Sean. An investigation into what happened to Emily begins, with Stephanie taking an active role in it. While everything progresses, Stephanie gets more involved into Emily's disappearance, along with her family life, growing closer to Sean in the process. Then that's when everything call it, odd. Stephanie begins looking further into Emily and her past, realizing there is more to her supposed "Best Friend" than she at first realizes. Something much darker (And completely bonkers) than she could of possibly imagined.  

 Based on the book of the same name by Darcey Bell and from Director Paul Feig, known for his comedic films such as "Bridesmaids", "Spy", and the lady based "Ghostbusters" reboot that pissed off all those nerds, "A Simple Favor" not exactly what you would expect it to be. With a script by Jessica Sharzer ("American Horror Story") that doesn't quite pick a specific tone, but instead seemingly toys with them all. It's not a comedy per se, though there are comedic undertones. It's also not quite taking itself too seriously, but instead embracing it's crazy, soap opera-ish nature to the point where it could almost be considered a parody, except played completely straight. The movie is stylish and is portrayed as if it were truly this dark, mystery thriller, despite how intentionally nonsensical it gets. That's precisely the point, and it's kind of brilliant because the mystery and the many twists and turns, are all still really good. You're still munching down on your popcorn, sitting on the edge of your seat the entire time. (You have no idea where this movie is gonna go, and when it does, you can't believe it.)

 The film isn't only playful in it's writing and direction, but also in it's performances. Anna Kendrick gets to be her usually quirky adorable self, while also toying with some darker territory. Blake Lively is here to remind us how great an actress she can actually be, getting the role of a lifetime, with a character that's instantly engaging, fascinating, and so unlike anything you imagine she would be. The two of them together have perfect chemistry and some truly spectacular scenes. Henry Golding continues to impress with how much onscreen charisma he has, while we get a few strange moments of comedy from Andrew Rannells (as "Darren", one of the gossipy "mothers", who constantly judge Stephanie) and a bizarre small part from Rupert Friend (as "Dennis Nylon", Emily's boss) that oddly don't feel out of place in the slightest. It's hard to describe what the actual tone of this movie is, yet it finds a way to make it all come together. 

 "A Simple Favor" is unapologetic in it's outrageousness, which might leave more people confused as to what they're actually watching. However, what you have to understand is that it's all meant to be. It's not a parody, yet feels like one. It's not a serious thriller, though it's more thrilling than most I've seen this year. It's not an outright comedy, but you'll find yourself laughing hysterically at points. It's made like an actual movie, with a sinister, darkly humorous tone lurking throughout that all comes to a head by the film's jaw dropping (And just plain deranged) final act that shows you can go even crazier than just crazy. It's all just so much fun. Rated R For Language, Sexual Content, And Um, Brotherly Love..... 

The Predator                                                ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Bring me the head of Schwarzenegger!"

  After "Mission: Impossible", I decided to go through actual franchises I've neglected. (We got a new "Halloween" coming out next month, so I'll get to that soon.) One of them being the "Predator" series. You remember right? GET TO THA CHOPPAH! and whatnot? Now granted, I did realize that this series really never followed each other all that much, so I guess it wasn't necessary. But regardless, I did thoroughly enjoy the ultra macho, occasionally really clever first film. Then the second one ("Predator 2"), while having it's moments, was mostly just the same thing, with the third film ("Predators") feeling more like a proper sequel, with some more memorability. Each one has had it's genre, with the first being a war film (With an alien), followed by a cop movie (With an alien), and finally, a survival horror (....With aliens). This one is.....a family movie? ....With aliens? 

 "The Predator" opens with a rogue alien ship crash landing on Earth, right into the sights of trained sniper, "Quinn McKenna" (Boyd Holbrook). McKenna witnesses the driver of the ship, a terrifying, armed, masked creature, dubbed a "Predator", slaughter his entire team. McKenna escapes, taking the Predator's mask and some of his tech while the Predator himself is captured by government agents, run by the somewhat villainous "Will Traeger" (Sterling K. Brown). Before getting captured himself, McKenna sends the Predator technology back home to his ex-wife, "Emily" (Yvonne Strahovski) and his gifted son, "Rory" (Jacob Tremblay), who already decides to start messing with the stuff. While McKenna is sent to be silenced along with a busload of loonies, pretty biologist, "Casey Bracket" (Olivia Munn) is brought in by Traeger to study the Predator, who ends up waking up, causing chaos and escaping.

 Casey, who knows too much about what Traeger is up to, ends up in the company of McKenna, along with his gang of kooky military characters, including "Nebraska" (Trevante Rhodes), "Coyle" (Keegan-Michael Key), "Nettles" (Augusto Aguilera), "Lynch" (Alfie Allen), and "Baxley" (Thomas Jane). They realize the Predator is going after Rory, who is thoroughly enjoying the alien technology he's been playing around with. This team of unlikely heroes band together to save the boy from the killer alien, only to discover there is something more going on here involving another bigger, more monstrous Super Predator, who has come to kill the other Predator, and complete his own dark goal. 

 Directed (And Co-Written) by Shane Black (Known for "Iron Man 3" and "The Nice Guys, as well for being the first guy to die in the original "Predator"), "The Predator" is more of an reinvention of the franchise, going for something different from the rest of the series. Oddly, it's more of a strange hybrid of comedy, horror action, and an 80s family movie. (You know, with tons of swears of course.) In terms of it's plot, it's a convoluted mess of nonsense and silliness, but thankfully, the film is clearly not taking itself too seriously at all. You get onslaughts of goofy one liners and jokes, with even the gratuitously over the top violence feeling a bit comical. Because of the film's dark sense of humor, and nonchalant attitude to it's own stupidity, there's actually a decent amount of fun to be had with it. Still it's almost baffling the decisions the film takes, with the plotline involving the rival Predators not quite making much sense. (So one was a good guy? Somewhat? Then why is he going around killing everyone? Also, you have this whole conspiracy for alien domination that you're doing a poor job keeping a secret!)

 Boyd Holbrook is a solid action hero, playing a likably sarcastic straight man, with Olivia Munn actually getting take part in just as much fun as the guys do. Sterling K. Brown is a delightfully slimy dirtbag, and is clearly having the time of his life being one. Jacob Tremblay is one of those reliable young actors, who still delivers a good performance, even if his abilities are a bit questionable. (Movies will never know how autism works, will they?) Most of our soldier characters fade into the background, but are weirdly endearing in a way, with the standouts being Trevante Rhodes (Previously seen in "Moonlight"), Thomas Jane, and Keegan-Michael Key. The Predator itself (Or at least the original one) is still a cool creature, with it's excellent makeup and costume design. Our new, Mega Predator (And his Predator Doggies) look awesome, even though they're mostly CGI (And not really the best CGI) and don't quite have that same scare factor that the original ones do. 

 "The Predator" is narratively all over the place, with some questionable story decisions, and an ending that I guess sets up a sequel, but I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean. Still, you get the glorious amount of gore you want from the franchise, along with snarky, pitch black humor, and a sense of sense awareness that should make for a good, fast paced time for anyone looking for the cinematic equivalent of junk food.  2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Gruesome, Gorey Violence, Strong Language, And Predator Abs. (Still Got Those Predator Abs.) 

Peppermint                                                ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: This Alias movie sucks. 

 Remember that horrible "Death Wish" remake that came out earlier this year? The one with Bruce Willis? Yeah, imagine the same movie, just with Jennifer Garner. It's the same damn movie, complete with questionable morality, an onslaught of gratuitous violence, constant stupidity, and this nonsensical belief that it's just the coolest thing ever. Yeah, I did not need to get out of this movie at 12:30 a.m......

 "Peppermint" follows loving wife and mother, "Riley North" (Jennifer Garner), living a nice, peaceful, non-death filled life with her husband, "Chris" (Jeff Hephner) and young daughter, "Carly" (Cailey Fleming). Chris as it turns out is in need of a little money, but declines a friend's offer to steal from vicious kingpin, "Diego Garcia" (Juan Pablo Raba). Sadly, Garcia is crazy (And stupid), so he doesn't like people even considering stealing from him. While out for Carly's birthday at a carnival, Riley watches in horror as Garcia's henchmen gun down Chris and Carly, while getting wounded in the process. After waking up from a coma, Riley's case is taken up by a pair of detectives, the newbie "Stan Carmichael" (John Gallagher Jr.) and his cynical superior, "Moises Beltran" (John Ortiz), with Riley being able to identify who the killers are.

 But Garcia apparently owns everyone, resulting in a hilariously inept court session that doesn't even remotely try to not look corrupt. Riley doesn't take her family's killers walking free, and vanishes off the grid. Five years later, the deceased bodies of the killers turn up, with FBI agent, "Lisa Inman" (Annie Ilonzeh) concluding that Riley has returned and has become a vigilante, taking the law into her own hands by killing all the violent Mexicans. Carmichael and Beltran work with Inman to track down Riley, all while Garcia, realizing his life is in danger, sends out his army of goons to kill her. 

 Directed by Pierre Morel ("Taken" and that horrifying Sean Penn movie, "The Gunman"), "Peppermint" first seemingly starts off with some possible potential. It's an idea we've seen done before in many revenge action movies. But you know, you got Jennifer Garner, who is a great dramatic actress, as well as someone who can handle herself in an action scene. It's fairly early on when you realize there's something off about the movie. Sequences are cobbled together with shoddy editing and needlessly added flashy, seizure inducing images for no reason. The actual killers are offed in the first few minutes (Mostly off camera), with the film just meandering around, with Jennifer Garner just killing minorities till we get to the dragged out finale. 

 Garner only has moments where she shines, such as in the surprisingly few dramatic moments, but she's oddly not given much of a character once the plot gets going. It's damn near kind of insulting how little of a role she actually has despite being the main character. Juan Pablo Raba, along with the rest of the villainous brown people in the movie, are all so over the top and are simply walking stereotypes that would border on offensive if the film actually knew what the Hell it was doing. John Gallagher Jr., at first, was probably the one character I kind of liked. His part with John Ortiz, while incredibly cheesy and full of every cop cliché out there, but unlike "Death Wish", the cops this time around at least seemed competent and were attempting to do good. However, where this whole arc ends up going is brutally stupid, completely comes out of nowhere, and just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. (In a way, it kind of makes cops look even worse than just simply being dumb and ineffective.)

 "Peppermint" (Which was titled that because the daughter ate peppermint ice cream before she died? I think?) is just a really ugly and unpleasant movie, not just in how it looks, with the sloppy editing, ridiculous amounts of violence, and poor attempts at stylish flair.  But also, in how the film portrays itself, with you questioning if the film just lacks enough basic common sense to realize how dangerous it's vigilante way of thinking really is in today's society. Worst of all, it's just so freakin stupid, while thinking it's actually trying to make a relevant statement. (Such has how people on Twitter would react to someone like this, or the dissonance between the people and the police). It's a gung-ho, rah rah, wannabe vigilante's wet dream, and not even a very good one at that. With vengeance in my heart, I cannot forgive anyone involved. Except Jennifer Garner. 1 star. Rated R For Gruesome Violence And Drug Dealing, Crime Bringing Mexicans. (But Not Rapists, So Some I Assume Are Good People.)

The Nun                                                  ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the nun movieImage: "Holy sh*t!"

 You know, a demonic nun, with sharp yellow dentures, blue skin, and an obsessive need to kill and torture, while grinning maliciously, is honestly not the scariest thing to come out of the Vatican as of late.....

 "The Nun" takes place over twenty years before the original "Conjuring" films. The film starts in a Catholic monastery in Romania, with some nuns being haunted by am evil satanic presence named "Valak", which takes the form of a corpse like, demon nun with sharp teeth (Bonnie Aarons). This results in a nun hanging herself and her corpse being discovered by "Frenchie" (Jonas Bloquet), a dummy from a nearby village. Word gets out to the Vatican, who decide to send in "Father Burke" (Demián Bichir), a priest with a troubled past, along with the open minded, young nun in training, "Irene" (Taissa Farmiga) to investigate and see if the monastery is still holy despite what's occurred.

 With some aid from Frenchie, Burke and Irene head to the monastery, where they are instructed to stay for weird plot reasons that don't quite add up. (Well, the movie has to happen somehow, right?) Bottom line is, they end up stuck inside, and all start to see and hear weird things in the night, along with various attempts on their lives by jump scares. Burke starts to investigate into what exactly is going on, discovering Valak's origins and goals of escaping into the world. Meanwhile Irene has her faith tested as the demon nun starts to haunt her in hopes of taking her soul. Now our heroes must work together to put a stop to Valak's plot, and restore their own faith in the process. 

 Both "Conjuring" films, which were directed by James Wan (Serving as only a producer this time), are essentially the movies that proved to me that horror films can be great again. They can offer spine chilling scares, memorable characters, and true horror that will stick with you, showing that something scary can come out of the least conventional of places. Directed by Corin Hardy, "The Nun" is certainly well shot, with plenty of dark atmosphere. It's competently made, with a few spooky sequences and nightmarish imagery. Sadly, the film itself, especially the more I think about it, just doesn't give much reason to exist, which makes it shockingly kind of a bore. It doesn't help that the plot is a little hard to follow, with the characters' reason to even be stuck there seeming forced, and following a predictable structure to an obvious twist you see coming a mile away. 

 The film isn't without some good characters, who are easy to root for, despite not leaving much of an impression. Demián Bichir, always an underutilized actor, does solid work, along with Taissaa Farmiga (Sister to Vera Farmiga, who starred in the "Conjuring" movies), who is lovably cute and has a solid character arc. Jonas Bloquet is essentially our out of place comic relief, who does actually start to grow on you the more the film goes on, with his charming personality and a few funny quips. Then we get to our villainous nun, Valak, with Bonnie Aarons not getting as much screen time as she should. It seems they wanted to go for a less is more sort of vibe (Like "Jaws" in a Habit), which ends up kind of hurting the film when this character is who everyone paid to see more of. With that said, when Valak does make an appearance, it's suitably creepy, especially towards the end when we see more of the character's almost gleefully sinister nature. 

 "The Nun" doesn't offer enough scares, but isn't without some admittedly cool (And towards the climax, some pretty badass) moments, thanks in part to some likable characters, and our titular villain. However, the movie only briefly delves into some backstory, which is pretty simple and could of been summed up elsewhere, making the movie not particularly necessary to watch. It's much better (and less lazy) than the first "Annabelle", but its a prequel that doesn't offer anything all that new to the "Conjuring Universe". 2 stars. Rated R For Nightmare Faces And Religious Impurity. 

Kin                                                                   ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for kin movieImage: Those Nerf guns keep getting more elaborate.

 What is it with movies lately and sequel baiting? I'm not talking about franchises, big budget blockbusters, or films with a large amount of source material. Movies like "A-X-L", "Mile 22", and now, "Kin" all seemed to get the idea that their stories and characters were so strong, and we so sure, that they had the balls to add in a little something to make way for a sequel. Next time don't come in 11th at the box office!

 "Kin" opens in Detroit, with young teen, "Elijah" (Myles Truitt), who goes by the nickname "Eli", living with his strict, but loving, widowed stepfather, "Hal" (Dennis Quaid). On his way home from school, Eli comes across a bunch of dead bodies and a strange, high tech, and totally marketable space gun, which he accidentally activates. Eli returns home to find that his stepbrother, "Jimmy" (Jack Reynor) has gotten out of prison and is already looking for more trouble. Jimmy as it turns out owes a crapton of money to evil gangster, "Taylor" (James Franco), who intends to collect.....despite the fact that Jimmy literally just got out of prison and is flat broke. (Seriously, what the Hell do you expect him to do?) So anyways, while Eli goes back to get that gun (Because you gotta pack some heat today), Jimmy decides to allow Taylor to sneak into his dad's office and steal some money from his safe.(Crappy thing Jimmy does #1) Bad luck for Hal, when he decides to walk in right into the office while this is going on, resulting in Taylor shooting him dead and Jimmy, after taking the money and killing Taylor's brother, making a run for it, back to Eli. (Crappy thing Jimmy does #2)

Jimmy decides to continue his horrible streak by lying to Eli about Hal's death and convincing him to go on a trip out of the city. (Crappy things Jimmy does #3 and #4.) Taking the space gun with him, Eli and Jimmy make a pit stop at a strip club (Crappy thing Jimmy....Ah forget it!), where an incident involving a stripper, "Milly" (Zoë Kravitz) and her jackass bosses, causes Eli to fire the gun, blowing a massive hole in the building. So our heroes neglect using the gun for good, in favor of holding up rich guys and abusing the absolute sh*t out of it. Meanwhile, Taylor is out for vengeance, sending his goons to track down Jimmy and Eli, all while a pair of masked, possible alien people are tracking down the gun and intend to get it back.  

 From Directors Jonathan and Josh Baker, and based on a short they also directed, "Kin" seems to be more of an idea movie that might of sounded fun on paper, but when executed, is just all over the place, awkwardly put together, and just plain wacky when it's clearly not supposed to be. Part family drama, part Sci-Fi adventure, and part road trip sex comedy, the movie doesn't seem to figure out what tone it's going for exactly. You can see glimpses of something that could of worked on occasion, with better than average effects, some solid camera work which give a late 80s/early 90s movie vibe, and even a couple decent enough performances. Where it all collapses is because of the lame, somewhat lazy script, lack of actually likable characters, and few story decisions that are just kind of questionable. (If there ever was a movie revealed to of been made on drugs, this is the one.) 

 Myles Truitt does a fine enough job with what's given, along with Jack Reynor (Who has at least improved as an actor since "Transformers: Age of Extinction"), despite the fact he could possibly be one of the more despicable characters in any movie this year. Their chemistry is off because their relationship is so dysfunctional to the point of unpleasantness. Zoë Kravitz really doesn't have much of a role here (She doesn't even become a love interest. She's just there), while Dennis Quaid only appears briefly, but does a shockingly solid job when he could of just phoned it in. James Franco plays slimeball very well, and appears to be having fun, although the longer the movie goes on, you question why he's even there. Also, Carrie Coon (as an FBI agent who appears in the last 20 minutes) is in it. Don't know why, but she's there. 

 "Kin" completely loses it's mind in the last 10 minutes, with a big reveal that's incredibly stupid and had me questioning reality in general. It's baffling where this movie decides to go and where it deems it necessary to end. The ending itself feels like one you would see in a YA novel adaptation, except this movie isn't a novel. (Although bombing big time is a tradition with those kinds of films. So this movie has that in common.) The movie is a hybrid of conflicting storylines, that do have moments of intrigue, but it all just collapses on itself once it's over. You know insanity when you see it. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, Violence, And Poor Brotherly Role Models. 

Searching                                                ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "7 to 10 business days? I knew I should have signed up with Amazon Prime!"

 I'm assuming that Producer Timur Bekmambetov really, really wants the whole filmed on a laptop style of storytelling in film? He did after all produce both "Unfriended" films, which utilized the gimmick, If you would call it that. I honestly think it's a cool idea in need of further exploring. I think this movie right here proves that you can definitely do it well, in a way that tells a powerful, cohesive story with depth, twists and turns, and an unexpected amount of emotional strength. 

 "Searching" takes place entirely through the point of view of computer and phone screens, following "David Kim" (John Cho), father to young teen, "Margot" (Michelle La). Having lost her mother, "Pam" (Sara Sohn) a few years prior, David has become more protective, but in some ways more distant from his daughter. One night, Margot leaves to hang out with her study group for a late night session, which David doesn't think twice about, not noticing the many calls he gets from her in the middle of the night. The next morning, Margot is no longer answering her phone, didn't go to school, and has completely vanished. When David discovers that not only Margot has not been attending the piano lessons that David has been paying for, but that Margot has been transferring the funds to a now deactivated Venmo account.

 This sparks David to involve the police, with him working closely with the officer assigned to the case, "Detective Rosemary Vick" (Debra Messing). David is allowed by Vick to help with the case, such as looking into Margot's apparent friends (Who all weirdly know so little about her), where and what she looks up online, and eventually learning that he might not really know as much about his daughter as he at first thought. While the investigation intensifies, David is forced to confront the secrets Margot has hidden from him, while also discovering a few other unexpected surprises.  

 "Searching", which was directed by first time Director Aneesh Chaganty, is one of those films where I'm sure somebody said that it wasn't going to work, claiming there would be nothing more to it than a simple gimmick with little substance. What's amazing about all that is not only is the film extremely effective in utilizing it's style and premise to deliver on nail biting suspense, but it's also able to bring about some compelling and heartfelt drama from it's characters. The film brilliantly takes this idea, and uses it to immerse the audience into the mystery, which unfolds through various videos, phone calls, and articles that appear throughout. The film does this in a way that doesn't feel the need to spoon-feed information to it's audience, and simply letting them figure out for themselves. The limited space makes everything feel tighter, well paced, and more frightening. There is also a bit of a message hidden through the film about how people can use the internet to do whatever they want with little consequences, and how some are not who they appear in real life compared to how they act online, along with a few stating their unnecessary and mean spirited opinions despite having no involvement in what's going on. There is a little humor in that, but not in the "Ha Ha" sense. (Satirical would probably be the best way to describe it.) 

 John Cho, who the film relies on more than anything, has always shown himself to be a reliable actor, but never truly getting his time to shine. He's amazing in this movie, going through many stages of grief and paranoia, and showing his character's humanity and flaws through actions, words, and expressions. Debra Messing is excellent, with her character's complexity playing a large part in the film's narrative, giving a better understanding of who she is and her investment in the case. Michelle La, who does spend much of the film offscreen, gets a lot of range just from the emotional looks on her face, giving you all you need to know about her character without saying much. The rest of the cast of unknown actors, such as Sara Sohn, Joseph Lee (as "Peter", David's brother, who may have a secret of his own), and a few others, all play a role of some sort in the story, further escalating the mystery, keeping you guessing what's going to happen next, and most importantly, if a happy ending is even possible. 

 "Searching" tells it's seemingly straight forward story in an unexpected and relevant way, leaving more of an impact. This movie is a perfect example of understated, yet thoughtful and original filmmaking. You become immersed in it's premise, become enamored with the characters, and feel the sense of dread and heartbreak that they feel, all leading up to a reveal that you'll never see coming. (But looking back, there were clues littered throughout the entire film.) It's smart, unique, and we just plain need more movies like it these days. And, I learned that if I ever have children, i'm implanting tracking devices. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Parental Fear. 

Operation Finale                            ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Hey, there were good and bad people on both sides!"

 The summer movie season is official over! We'll be taking time off from the big budget, mostly superhero based blockbusters and franchises that critics will constantly say they're tired of, but will usually be shut up the second they see the films and realize how good they are. (With "Avengers: Infinity War", "Incredibles 2", "Deadpool 2", "Ant-Man and the Wasp", "Mission Impossible: Fallout", etc,) It's been a great year with great movies big and small. Sadly, now you all got school, work, or other previous engagements you can't wiggle out of. Less time to see anything due to so little time. Luckily, that's what movies such as "Operation Finale" are made for.  

 Based on true events, "Operation Finale" follows a plan to track down and capture high ranking Nazi Officer, "Adolf Eichmann" (Ben Kingsley), the only remaining top lieutenants to Adolf Hitler and one of the architects to the so called "Final Solution". Security service director, "Isser Harel" (Lior Raz) arranges a team of Israeli spies, led by "Peter Malkin" (Oscar Isaac), to go into Argentina where Eichmann is in hiding with his family under an alias and sneak him out, bringing Eichmann to Israel to stand trial for his atrocities. The team of spies, which also includes intelligence officer, "Rafi Eitan" (Nick Kroll) and Peter's former love interest, "Hanna" (Mélanie Laurent), go undercover into the country, spying on Eichmann on his daily life before striking, taking him to their safe house.

 However, things don't go so smoothly when Eichmann's son, "Klaus" (Joe Alwyn), who has previously been manipulated into allowing this whole situation to go down by his girlfriend/Jewish refugee, "Sylvia" (Haley Lu Richardson), is able to piece together that his father is missing. Klaus quickly deduces his father has been kidnapped, gathering his Nazi sympathizer allies to find out where he has been taken. Now Peter's team is forced remain hidden with Eichmann, due to the police now searching for them, which would mean if they're caught, they could end up causing an international incident. Things go from bad to worse as they are now also forced to get Eichmann to give his written consent to be taken to Israel to stand trial, which he obviously refuses to do. Now everyone must keep their cool to make it out of this situation alive, with Peter getting the most one on one with Eichmann, who is quite the manipulator. 

 Directed by Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass"), "Operation Finale" is a tame, simple historical drama, that certainly plays it safe, but not without plenty of suspense and compelling intrigue. It's a movie that never truly gets too into the dark center of it's story (Mostly due to the PG-13 rating), leaving things implied or in the background. Despite this, you still get the idea of what this man did and allowed to happen. You still understand the dread and conflict that our heroes are feeling, with you forgetting the fact that this is a true story and wondering what's going to happen next. (Or in some cases, wondering if anyone is just going to snap and blow the whole mission.) There are some excellent scenes involving our characters discussing the importance of this mission as well as what it means for their people, along with some great parts involving some more complexity with our villains (I mean, Nazis are still evil. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.) But it's interesting to see how people can say that what they did was justified, and to a certain degree might even genuinely believe it. 

 The ever reliable Oscar Isaac is once again excellent here, along with an equally terrific Ben Kingsley. Their scenes together are some of the most effective, with Isaac conveying his character's inner conflict and Kingsley providing some human elements to his detestable villain. The conversations between them can range from somewhat humorous, to sympathetically heartfelt and suspenseful, as the actors provide their characters with enough to help us understand who they are, and why they became this way, while never truly giving any sympathy to our Nazi villain. (He's still pure evil, but a human sort of evil, proving that people like this do exist.) Mélanie Laurent is fine with what she is given, and Nick Kroll gets to show off some more of his dramatic chops. The whole plotline with Haley Lu Richardson and the bland Joe Alwyn doesn't amount to much, and by the end, serves little purpose. 

 "Operation Finale" has a couple plotlines that don't amount to much, and overall, it isn't exactly one of those films I could tell anyone to drop what they're doing and rush out to see. With that said, it's a well made, terrifically acted, thoroughly fascinating drama that isn't without tension and heartfelt importance. If you find yourself with little choice but to see it, there's nothing to complain about, and considering we're in the after Summer dumping ground, this isn't a bad one in the slightest. A history lesson, even one not incredibly complex, seems right this time of year. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Dark Subjects And Nazi Behavior.  

The Happytime Murders                      ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: " So Statler finally snapped and killed Waldorf.."

 Nearly 10 years this movie has been in development. It was an idea thought up by the Jim Henson Company, and had been mostly just an idea for the longest time, despite casting rumors, and concept art circling around online for years. It's easy to see why people were so adamant about getting this movie made. It's a hilarious idea that just sounds fantastic on paper, and when you think about it, should make for something pretty awesome. This should work......Why doesn't it work? 

 "The Happytime Murders" takes place in a world where humans and puppets coexist, although the puppets are mostly second-class citizens and are seen as lesser than humans. The story follows a puppet, "Phil Phillips" (Voiced by Bill Barretta), a former cop turned private investigator, working at his own office, with his secretary, "Bubbles" (Maya Rudolph). Phil is cynical towards the world around him, especially since his failure to act under pressure resulted in him being removed from the police force and has prevented any other puppets from signing up. Phil is met by a sex addicted new client, "Sandra" (Voiced by Dorien Davies), who hired him to look into someone demanding money from her. During Phil's investigation, his actor brother "Larry" (Voiced by Victor Yerrid), ends up murdered (Or in this case, ripped to shreds by dogs), along with another former star, a porn addict named "Mr. Bumblypants" (Voiced by Kevin Clash). These murders reunite Phil with his old human partner, "Detective Connie Edwards" (Melissa McCarthy), who Phil previously had a falling out with. 

 The death of Phil's brother and Mr. Bumblypants, who were stars in the beloved 1980s television series, "The Happytime Gang", lead Phil to believe someone is specifically targeting the cast for the show. This prompts "Lieutenant Banning" (Leslie David Baker) to force Edwards and Phil to work together to solve the case, with the rest of the cast now in danger of becoming this serial killer's next victim, including Phil's former lover, "Jenny" (Elizabeth Banks), the only human cast member turned burlesque dancer. The bickering duo investigate further into the case, only for conveniently placed clues making it seem like Phil is the one committing the murders. Now Edwards and Phil must put aside their differences and work together once again to prove Phil's innocence and solve the murders before more cotton filled, sock-like bodies start to pile up. 

 Directed by the son of Jim Henson himself, Brian Henson (Who previously directed "Muppet Treasure Island" and "The Muppet Christmas Carol"), "The Happytime Murders" is one of those ideas that you immediately would assume to be comedy gold. At times, the film realizes that and relishes in it, with raunchy, gross out, adult centered gags, all involving puppets. It's hard not to get a laugh. Sadly, there just isn't all that much of it, which leads to a shockingly minimum amount of laughs, and makes the movie's poorly constructed nature even more noticeable. The plot is all over the place, taking the most predictable route, and mostly just getting by on the novelty of puppets swearing and having sex. And while that's funny as Hell at times, you realize that there isn't much else to it. Compare it to 2016's "Sausage Party", which ended up being much smarter than advertised, with a bit more to say and good characters to go along with the dirty sense of humor. This movie just doesn't have much that's memorable about it. 

 Melissa McCarthy does get a chance to remind people that she can be funny, without just falling over or getting knocked into things. She does a good job, having surprising chemistry with our puppet lead. Bill Barretta is great, playing his character completely straight as if he was in an actual cop movie, despite being you know, a purple, goofy looking puppet. Maya Rudolph is cute and gets a couple fun moments, along with Joel McHale playing Joel McHale. Elizabeth Banks is wasted completely in a storyline that doesn't really need to be there. Our highlights end up being the puppets themselves, with the voices and puppeteering all done by professionals, who know exactly what they're doing, and know exactly how to get some laughs out of it. The most memorable one being Drew Massey (as the voice of "Goofer", a former star turned sugary drug addict). 

 "The Happytime Murders" falters in not truly going all out in what it's been advertising. It's not without funny or even hilarious parts (The puppet sex scene freakin cracked me up), but it feels oddly tame, which is disappointing when you've been advertised as the filthiest, most outrageously shocking comedy of the year. (I've seen "Meet the Feebles". This is nothing by comparison.)  Just having kid friendly looking puppets say "F*ck" over and over isn't enough to compensate for a garbage story, that granted isn't exactly the point, but makes the movie kind of boring. It's been called the worst movie of the year by many critics, and I find that ridiculous, seeing as there isn't much truly offensive or harmful about it. It's nothing that bad, and it's not even the worst Melissa McCarthy movie I've seen this year. ("Life of the Party" was just plain insulting). You just have an idea, one that is rather brilliant and could of been amazing, that doesn't get followed through anywhere near enough. Maybe a filthy "Bert and Ernie" movie will be better. 2 stars. Rated R For Puppet Violence, Puppet Sex, And Puppet Drug Use. 

A.X.L.                                                  ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for axl movieImage: "Nice Doggy...Cute little pooch....Maybe I got a metal milk bone."

 We've had a lot of dog movies this year haven't we? We've had stories about dogs stuck on an island of garbage in Japan, dogs engaging in romantic activity, wolf dogs saving hairy cave people, dogs saving people in World War I, and we've also had them get their balls fondled by Will Arnett. (At least in the uncut version) So why not? Let's toss a robot one in there too. 

 "A.X.L." is about a top secret robotic dog, codenamed "A-X-L" (Standing for Attack, Exploration, Logistics), created by a morally dubious scientist, "Andric" (Dominic Rains), who will be handing it over to the military as part of a new, deadly weapon to use on the battlefield. The dog escapes, running off into the desert to escape his abusive creators. While this is going on, "Miles" (Alex Neustaedter), a young motocross racer, is having his own problems, with his dad, "Chuck" (Thomas Jane) trying to convince him to set his sights on other lines of work, and having to deal with his competition, "Sam" (Alex MacNicoll), the overly privileged rich jerk, who thinks he's the greatest thing in the history of the world. (Think of an even more villainous Logan Paul). After seeing Miles flirt with his not-girlfriend, "Sara" (Becky G), Sam decides to play a prank on him. Sam invites Miles to do some tricks outside of their town, resulting in Miles crashing, mostly due to interference from Sam's minions. Miles is left by himself, discovering A-X-L, who ends up damaged.

 Miles repairs A-X-L, which results in the robot becoming paired with him via the owner pairing tech put inside of him. The two quickly become loyal friends, with A-X-L becoming his protector and evolving further than expected. Andric, who has sent his drones to survey what's going on, allows this to happen as a way of completing the final trials on his experiment. But when Andric's military higher ups demand results immediately, Andric sends in his forces to take back his creation, no matter who gets in the way or ends up getting hurt. Determined to protect his new friend, Miles, along with Sara, who becomes his love interest, work together to help A-X-L escape from his evil former owners. 

 Sort of a bargain bin version of that upcoming "Bumblebee" movie, "A.X.L." is a movie that's easy to write off the minute you see the trailer, due to it's cheap look and cheesy, unoriginal story. However, the filmmakers did appear to be trying to be a bit more, and even has a few moments of charm and heart. The effects are fairly on the cheap side, but are enough for what the movie is, with the dog himself ranging from a decent enough looking CGI effect to an impressive, cool looking animatronic design. (I thought it was kind of adorable actually, even with the dead looking eyes.) As far as plots go, it's as generic as they come, with every trope you would see in every family oriented, boy finds special animal (or robot) film you would of seen in the 90s or early 2000s. It doesn't do anything new, and mostly just drags around it's quick runtime without much identity of it's own.

 The film's basic story can be done well, with last week's underrated "Alpha" doing something similar. Where that movie succeeded because of an excellent lead portraying a likable main character. Alex Neustaedter is neither of those things. He's just a blank slate, with no personality or screen presence in the slightest. It's not entirely his fault though, because the character has even less of a persona. Without a lead that gives a reason for the audience to care, everything else just sort of suffers because of it. Becky G is showing a lot of charm (And is clearly giving more than her love interest), but can't even force any romantic chemistry that just isn't there. Both Thomas Jane and Dominic Rains give better performances than what was likely asked of them, while Alex MacNicoll is that annoying and obnoxious kind of evil that makes you beg for his character's death. Easily the best character is A-X-L himself, who is just a big robotic puppy, who can be scary and intimidating at times, but also sweet and loyal, much like a real dog can be. 

 "A.X.L." is short, simple, and for kids, there's some enjoyment to be had, mostly because of solid pacing, and a tone that knows when to be dark and knows when to pull at the heartstrings. It's just when you have a bland lead, a lack of originality, and a disposable story that you pretty quickly forget about (Not to mention a weird ending that I'm not sure is setting up a sequel or not), it ends up being a movie with no consequence. It's a movie you rent for your kids to keep them busy, while you waste your time doing something else with more meaning. Go outside and play with your real dog. 2 stars. Rated PG For Some Teenage Debauchery And Illegal Use Of ATMs. 

Blaze                                              ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for blaze movieImage: Blaze of glory.

 There are a few things I need to talk about first before we really get into this movie. First, I wanna brag...I mean, I met Ethan Hawke at my theater! Shook his hand, mentioned what I do, and he suggested I go for professional. (Trying there. Still trying,) It was pretty freakin awesome. (Although I didn't get to see Richard Linklater, who was also there) Now for the complicated part, I actually did something that in these eight long years as an unpaid film critic that I've never done. I saw a movie twice. Not just because it's a well made, compassionate film, but because I didn't know how to process it and what to say about it. Sometimes you just need a little extra time (And a second viewing) to grasp fully what you watched. (Now that doesn't mean I need to watch "Death of a Nation" again. There is nothing complex about that one.)

 "Blaze" follows the sweet, complicated, and eventually sad life of country music singer and songwriter, "Blaze Foley" (Ben Dickey). He was a good natured ball off joy and life, who didn't have aspirations to become a star, but instead became a legend. The film follows a series of events, along with an interview between a radio DJ (Mostly just the voiceover of Director Ethan Hawke and the back of his head) and a couple of Blaze's friends, country singer, "Townes Van Zandt" (Charlie Sexton) and "Zee" (Josh Hamilton). We also see Blaze's relationship with the love of his life, "Sybil Rosen" (Alia Shawkat), Blaze's personal problems involving drugs and alcohol, and more detail into why he didn't make it bigger. Throughout the film, we also see Blaze's final day, with him going to play at a bar as the opener for Townes, which by the end, results in his tragic death. 

 Based on the true story and novel "Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze" by the real life Sybil Rosen (Who also serves as a co-writer with Ethan Hawke), "Blaze" is a bit of an enigma of a film. It's not structured like your average biopic, nor is it just simply told out of order. It's more of a series of scenes, coming and going, with the interview portion only somewhat telling the story. It's all interspersed with the other parts of the story occasionally making appearances when the film decides it wants to talk about them. None of that I mean in a bad way. In fact, I would even consider it pretty brilliant. It's almost like you're listening to some random guy you just met, who keeps getting distracted while telling you a story, pausing because he remembered something else and decided to focus on that for a second before returning back to the main story he was already telling. Much like the true life Blaze Foley, the film is a bit all over the place, but also larger than life, heartfelt and lovable, and with a bit of a bittersweet, sad edge hidden beneath the surface. 

 Ben Dickey, a country singer giving his first ever film debut performance, is absolutely wonderful. He incorporates the charismatic charm, big heart, and his inner demons perfectly. What's amazing about his performance is that it's nothing overly grand and in your face, but instead is very restrained, subtle, and most importantly, human. It makes for a memorable role. Alia Shawkat is sympathetic, with her role also being subdued. However, it's because these performance are steady and soft that make them so terrific, instead of someone going out of their way to force a powerful Oscar worthy one. Charlie Sexton and Josh Hamilton (Who we previously saw in "Eighth Grade") are both excellent. We also get some memorable small parts from Kris Kristofferson (as Blaze's father), Alynda Lee Segarra (as "Marsha", Blaze's sister), and prolonged trio of cameos from Richard Linklater, Sam Rockwell, and Steve Zahn (as a trio of record label producers). 

 After two viewings, I see "Blaze" as experimental, but still strong in what it sets out to accomplish. Ethan Hawke's direction is beautiful and moving, with the film's occasional distracted nature feeling intentional, and in a way, rather fitting. It's a complicated story about a complicated person, who undeniably was likable and was overall good natured. It's a bit difficult to comprehend and might be seen as too small for some people to truly grasp, but I think that's what makes it so effective. It's not big and explosive. It's subtle, sweet, and it hits you when you least expect it. I'm not just saying that because of my buddy Ethan. Hey, we shook hands! 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And Heavy Alcohol Abuse.  

Mile 22                                                        ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for mile 22 movieImage: "You have the right to remain silent, an attorney, blah, blah, blah..."

 Are Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg like a thing now? They are a team for sure, with four movies in a row, popping out one after the other without delay. (What would their couple name be? Bergberg?)  Either way, with "Lone Survivor", "Deepwater Horizon", and "Patriot's Day", which were all excellent films, it's not shocking that....they had to have a misfire at some point. 

 "Mile 22" follows an elite CIA task force, known as "Overwatch" (Minus the genetically altered gorilla with a jetpack), which is led by "James Silva" (Mark Wahlberg), who is in serious need of an anger management class. Silva's team, which consists of their supervisor, "Bishop" (John Malkovich), along with "Alice Kerr" (Lauren Cohan), "Sam" (Rhonda Rousey), and "Douglas" (Carlo Alban), are based at the time in Southern Asia, tasked with finding out where some shipments of cesium is located to prevent a disaster. Alice's asset, "Li Noor" (Iko Uwais) shows up at the United States embassy, with an encrypted disc revealing information on the cesium. With the information on the disc destroying itself, Li Noor demands that he be escorted out of the country to safety, and he will reveal how to bypass the encryption. Overwatch only has a limited time to do so, with 22 miles between them and an airport, where a plane should be waiting for them. Further complications arise when a government agent, "Axel" (Sam Mendina) shows up, demanding that Li Noor be handed over to him. Realizing there is more to their unlikely "Ally" than it would appear, Silva leads his team in a race to get to the airport and get Li Noor to safety, with Axel's men going after them, guns blazing, not caring who gets caught in the crossfire. 

 Another Berg/Wahlberg collaboration, "Mile 22" once again has plenty of Director Berg's flair for mixing sound and action beautifully on an epic scale that almost literally explodes into the theater. It's just too bad that the movie suffers from an uncontrollable amount of unhinged testosterone and a lack of actual characterization besides people yelling at each other and measuring dick sizes. The problems all lie in the script, which consists of constant uses of the word "F*ck", even when the sentence doesn't require it. (One line of dialogue uses it five or six times within the same sentence.) Hardly any of the characters leave much impact, with their personalities mostly limited to them just being really, really angry. Because of this, it's really hard to have any interest in what's going to happen to them, which is especially weird for a Peter Berg film, who is known for giving you characters to care about. 

 Mark Wahlberg isn't so much giving a bad performance, it's mostly that his character is so annoyingly in your face with his anger and manliness that you almost want the bad guys to win simply to see this guy lose. I get that he's supposed to be a little off, but it's so cartoonish to the point it doesn't even feel real. Lauren Cohan and John Malkovich are trying their best, with Rhonda Rousey getting a few great moments despite limited screentime, while Sam Mendina is a rather lame, throwaway villain. Iko Uwais, (Who actually is a known martial artist,) is hands down the most memorable and complicated character. His action scenes are the ones that leave the most impact. The stuntwork here is impressive, with the kills looks effectively gruesome. The rest of the characters are mostly just cannon fodder, spending their time getting killed in typically violent and explosive fashion. 

 "Mile 22" has plenty of  well made action and even a few moments of intrigue, especially once we reach a big reveal that while doesn't feel particularly earned (And certainly feels as if it only happened to set up a sequel), at least shows that Peter Berg knows how to amp up some suspense, even when the film is lacking everywhere else. The runtime feels padded out (Which is barely over an hour and a half), and by the end, you will likely have trouble remembering much of what happened. It's just a weak, disposable action thriller that runs out of gas long before mile 22., It feels even more forgettable after something such as "Mission Impossible: Fallout" (That's the new action movie standard for me right now). 2 stars. Rated R For Strong, Bloody Violence And Strong, Bloody Language. 

Alpha                                                        ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for alpha movieImage: "IT'S BACON!!!!"

 I know I wasn't the only one who remembers seeing a trailer for this movie almost a year and a half ago. It seemed interesting, though didn't really show much. I was getting the trailer every few movies, with the poster always being one of the first things I saw when I walked into the theater. Then it mysteriously vanished, only to reappear again with a different date. It's a movie that's been pushed all over the place, tossed around, and cast aside, and after seeing the film, I think I understand why. It's because it might just be too ambitious for any money-grubbing film studio to see much profit in. 

 "Alpha" opens 20,000 years ago in Europe, where a small tribe, led by the chief, "Tau" (Johannes Haukur Johannesson), who will be leading a hunting expedition, which includes his young son, "Keda" (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who does not appear ready for such a task, due to not having the heart to kill to survive. Tracking down some bison, the hunters engage them, which ends up going horribly wrong, resulting in the presumed death of Keda. Tau, heartbroken, is forced to leave with the rest of his team, believing to have lost his only son. However, it turns out Keda has survived, though injured badly, and lost in the middle of nowhere, with little knowledge of how to get back to his tribe. While trying to get back home, Keda ends up attacked by a pack of wolves, wounding one of them (Played by a wolf dog named Chuck), who in turn is abandoned by the rest of the wolf pack. Keda, feeling sympathetic to the wolf, ends up taking care of it, with the two of them slowly growing to trust each other. Naming the wolf "Alpha", Keda now has a companion to join him on his quest to find his home before the harsh Winter comes. The duo become fast friends in an adventure for survival that will test their strength, and eventually lead to the creation of what we would later know as the bond between humans and Man's Best Friend. 

 Directed by one of the Hughes brothers, Albert Hughes ("The Book of Eli", "From Hell"), "Alpha" is not what you expect it to be. When you see a movie like this, you expect it to be cheaply made, poorly and quickly put together, and well, for everyone to speak English for some reason. Amazingly, the film makes up for it's simple, but effective story with stunning cinematography, beautiful imagery, and a commendable amount of attention to detail. The film is actually subtitled, with none of the characters speaking any English. The film even doesn't have much of that either, because there are long stretches of no dialogue, letting the scenery, character reactions, and the simple story tell itself. Visually, the CGI is obvious, but it's filmed in such a lovely, suspenseful manner that you are still invested. (It also helps that this is some of the better 3D I've seen in some time.)

 The film relies on the performances of two stars. First, it's Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler in "X-Men: Apocalypse"), who mostly has the carry the film entirely on his own, sometimes with his expressions alone. He gives a terrific performance, that shows his fear and eventual bravery when forced into a live or die situation. Then we have Chuck, who is an adorable creature, that's lovable as Hell. These two characters are compelling to watch, with their fight to survive being brutal at times, but overall heartwarming and emotionally resonating. There are actually some frightening moments throughout where you do wonder if they will truly live through it all. (In this time period, literally everything was trying to kill you. Not like now) You've seen this story before, just not handled so maturely and with enough respect to it's audience to hope that they follow it despite not giving easy answers.

 "Alpha" is one of those movies that comes out of nowhere and probably wont leave much of an impact in terms of it's box office returns, which is definitely too bad because while the film is flawed, it's moments of brilliance show something special. Whether it be the amazing visuals, capable leads, or just simply the emotional payoff, the film aspires to be something different and provide you with an exciting, mesmerizing experience. It's a sweet, wonderful shaggy dog story. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images And Harsh, Unforgiving Weather. 

Crazy Rich Asians                                  ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for crazy rich asians movieImage: "I can't believe they didn't cast Matt Damon instead."

 To all future filmmakers trying to get their romantic comedy greenlit (Or those poor, desperate ones forced to do one), this is literally all you have to do. Be charming. Don't force it. Don't fake it. Just let it come out naturally, let your characters and story speak for themselves, getting plenty of laughs, and providing heart. You don't have to reinvent it, just do it with respect for the audience and demographic, especially when they're one who still haven't quite gotten the same deserved amount of attention and respect as the rest. 

 Based on a 2013 book of the same name by Kevin Kwan, "Crazy Rich Asians" follows economics professor, "Rachel Chu" (Constance Wu), being asked by her longtime boyfriend, "Nick Young" (Henry Golding) to come over to Singapore to meet his family and to attend the wedding of his best friend, "Colin" (Chris Pang) and her new fiancée, "Araminta" (Sonoyaa Mizuno). Rachel soon discovers that Nick is actually part of one of the most wealthiest families in the world, with Nick being seen as the one to take charge of it at some point. Turns out Nick doesn't have the best relationship with his family at the moment, with the exception of his beloved cousin, "Astrid" (Gemma Chan), with many of his friends and family members warning him of how his mother, "Eleanor" (Michelle Yeoh) will react. Eleanor sees Rachel as just another American and will never be good enough to be with Nick, due to how she was raised and where she comes from. Rachel needs to overcome the scrutiny and insanity of Nick's family, to prove herself to the rest of them and to herself that she and Nick are meant to be.  

 It's so easy to fall into the played out tropes that plague romantic comedies, and even easier to go down the predictable route. "Crazy Rich Asians" really isn't all that different in that regard, since it's all things you've seen before. However, it seems the filmmakers have decided to create an almost whimsical, fairy tale-like atmosphere and look to the film, which in part is thanks to Director Jon M. Chu (Who gave us um, classics like "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" and "Jem and the Holograms). It's filmed beautifully, with an amazing attention to the production design and the art direction, which I would consider Oscar worthy. (There is one wedding scene that's absolutely stunning) Credit to the screenwriters (Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim), who don't set out to avoid many of the clichés (Aside from the really bad ones), but instead give us a great, massive cast of characters and smart dialogue with plenty of humor and tons of good natured heart. 

 Constance Wu is wonderful, and has excellent chemistry with Henry Golding, who is charming as Hell. These two are easy to root for and their scenes together are realistic, making for the perfect onscreen couple. Our comic relief is well used and brightens up the screen every time they're one, with Awkwaifina (as "Peik Lin", Rachel's best friend) and Nico Santos (as "Oliver", one of Nick's cousins, who is seen as lesser by the rest of the family) get some laugh out loud moments, but never act cartoonish. Gemma Chan's subplot doesn't really have much of an effect on the main story, but she's still giving a calm, subtle, sympathetic performance that you still welcome it and care about what happens. Michelle Yeoh could seem at first as your typical rom com antagonist, though she does have a certain likability to her as well, which is thanks to both the writers and to her strong performance, showing how human she is. These characters are all just people, and while some are crappy, you do get where a lot of them are coming from. It is also just awesome to see such a huge cast, mostly made up of Asian actors (Or those of Asian descent), without any need to throw in some random white guy because the studio doesn't seem to give it's American audience enough credit. 

 With "Crazy Rich Asians", the comedy lands without being forced, the drama and conflict is realistically portrayed, and there is no need to fake any charm. There is a little extra style and loads of character, making up for the rare moments when the film can't seem to avoid predictable plotting. Even that doesn't drag the film down, because since you care about the people involved, you still can't help but feel invested. Far more than I would watching "Crazy Rich Caucasians". 3 1/ stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Obviously For Some Crazy Rich Asians. 

BlacKkKlansman                                   ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for blackkklansmanImage: "Wow....A testimonial from Donald Trump. How about that!"

 After seeing "Death of a Nation" last week, it's appropriate that I see something like this. How else do I counteract the stench of lies, racism, pandering to people who don't realize (Or pretend that they don't) they support Nazism and the KKK, and mean spirited, anger fueled rage at people who happen to not support the political party you've sold out your conscience to willingly? ..........Damn right I needed this.

 Based on true events, "BlacKkKlansman" follows "Ron Stallworth" (John David Washington), who has just been hired as the first black officer in the Colorado Springs, Colorado police department in 1972. Slowly rising up, Stallworth is sent undercover, with help from fellow officers, the Jewish "Flip Zimmerman" (Adam Driver) and "Jimmy Creek" (Michael Buscemi), to go to a local rally run by "Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture" (Corey Hawkins), where he meets the pretty activist, "Patrice" (Laura Harrier). This sparks Stallworth's interest and also elevates him up further into the intelligence division, leading to him coming across an advertisement fro the "Klu Klux Klan". Stallworth calls in, pretending to be a white man over the phone, tricking the members into thinking he is just another racist white guy, looking to join their cause.

 Despite making the mistake of using his real name, Stallworth's plan to infiltrate the Klu Klux Klan (Or the "Organization" as they prefer to be called) is approved by the department, with Stallworth recruiting Flip to pretend to be him and find out what exactly the Klan is up to. Flip, pretending to be Stallworth, meets a collection of members, such as the leader of the town's division, "Walter" (Ryan Eggold), the suspicious (And slightly crazy), "Felix" (Jasper Pääkkönen), and the possibly inbred, mouth breathing dumbass, "Ivanhoe" (Paul Walter Hauser). Eventually, Flip is able to become further integrated into the Klan, working with Stallworth, discovering that they're planning an attack of some sort on a group of Black activists, run by Patrice, who has become Stallworth's girlfriend. When the grand wizard of the KKK, "David Duke" (Topher Grace), who Stallworth has also been talking to over the phone, plans to come to town to recruit more to their hateful cause, the case becomes even more important than ever before. 

 Directed (And co-written) by the occasionally controversial, critically lauded, and the thoroughly unapologetic Spike Lee ("Malcolm X", "Do the Right Thing", etc) along with Producer Jordan Peele, "BlacKkKlansman" is exactly what I've been told this director is capable of. Aside from that mostly meh 2013 "Oldboy" remake, I've never actually seen a Spike Lee movie (Or a "Spike Lee Joint" as he prefers it to be called).The film is fantastically crafted and put together, with it's two hour and fifteen minute runtime hardly being noticeable, and the ability to create a suspenseful, edge of your seat crime film that also finds ways to get you to laugh despite the disturbing things you witness. There are actually a lot of very funny, damn near laugh out loud moments, whether it be in the dialogue or simply how our characters react to some of the absurdity. Despite this, the film is very thought provoking and deep, with it's meaningful themes being still plenty relevant despite what some people will say. (Such as corrupt and racist cops, the power that KKK supporters or sympathizers have, and their warped version of America) Lee also provides the film a grainy, old fashioned, 70s era based look to the film, which could be seen as an homage to "Blacksploitation" films of that time. (The film's music could also be a reference as well)

 John David Washington (Son of Denzel) shines in his first starring role, along with Adam "Kylo Ren" Driver once again showing how fantastic an actor he really is. The both of them on screen together makes for one of the best duos in any movie this year. Laura Harrier is great, with a complex arc with Washington, which does not go the way you expect (And even sheds a bit more light on the whole divide between the police and the black community). Topher Grace is terrific and plays a different kind of evil. One that can be charismatic, almost likable to a degree in the simplistic, friendly manner he speaks, but with hidden layers of sinisterness sprinkled throughout. We have a great ensemble of actors, with the rest of our villains, from the crazed Jasper Pääkkönen and the hilarious Paul Walter Hauser (Previously seen in last year's "I'Tonya") being portrayed not sympathetically, but as human. (In the end, it's not monsters that commit these horrible acts. It's just bad, disgusting people, who could be your neighbor for all you know.) We also have a cameo from Harry Belafonte in a effectively strong scene that should get anyone who's ever tried to condone (Or at least rationalize) racism to at least think about it a little differently. (Or maybe not. Some things never get better.)

 Humorous, thrilling, intelligent and brilliantly directed, "BlacKkKlansman" is light on subtlety (Especially once you reach the film's final moments), but with something such as this, you have to shove it in people's faces whether they want it or not. (Some people will just deny it anyway.) It hits you where it hurts and leaves you uncomfortable in a way that you need to experience. It's a cool, exciting movie that will get you to laugh, make you uneasy, and leave you thinking. That is truly how you make a powerful film. It's the one "Joint" I' will definitely recommend. 4 stars. Rated R For Language And Timeless Racism. (It Doesn't Just Reset Itself.) 

Slender Man                                            ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "This is 2009 calling....Your movie is WAY outdated."

 Does anyone actually care about the Slender Man anymore? You know, the guy who looks like Jack Skellington with hentai tentacles? This whole character, which was created as a creepypasta internet meme (Basically just scary images you find from weird people online), lost relevance back when I first heard of what it was in 2012. (It was created in 2009) Then there was that whole stabbing in 2014 with those young girls, and then even just talking about it made people uncomfortable. (There was even a documentary some time ago) I know people really wanted to get this made, but it doesn't seem to be something anyone these days actually cares about. All you can really hope for in this case is that it's scary......or at least ends up as a completed film.

 "Slender Man" follows a group of young friends, "Hallie" (Julia Goldani Telles), "Wren" (Joey King), "Chloe" (Jaz Sinclair), and "Katie" (Annalise Basso), hanging out one night. They decide to screw around with dark forces  (Just like I assume all teen girls tend to do.) Hearing about the legend of "The Slender Man" (Javier Botet), a well dressed supernatural being without a face, the girls decided to summon him through the internet by watching some kind of psychedelic video full of weird images. Nothing happens and the girls move on with their lives. However, they all start to experience disturbing dreams, see odd images and hallucinations, and of course, get quick glimpses of the Slender Man. Katie mysteriously vanishes, causing Hallie, Wren, and Chloe to try to investigate her disappearance, discovering more videos of Slender Man sightings on her computer. Hoping to maybe rescue her from the Slender Man's evil clutches, the girls try to bargain with him, only to discover that he wants all of them for his own despicable purposes. Now he proceeds to haunt the girls, drive them insane, and eventually take them to wherever the Hell he takes his victims.  

 Hope you enjoyed a lot of those kooky shots from the trailer to "Slender Man" (Like crazy girl with bloody mouth, people writing weird messages, and girl stabbing herself in the eye), because there are many scenes missing from this movie. It's a complete mess actually, with some bizarrely edited moments and the feeling of missing content, which can be felt throughout the entire movie. Directed with such a gloomy, gray feel, I get the idea of what the filmmakers were going for, trying to add some atmosphere and a little bit of a creep factor to the look of the film. However, the movie itself is so uninteresting and generic, that it all leaves you bored, with absolutely nothing scary in the slightest. (Unless you like that jump scare music blaring every time someone walks by.) The film follows a predictable plotline that you've seen many times before, with the missing sequences making the film confusing as Hell, such as characters just ceasing to exist, subplots getting dropped before they begin, and a lack of information on our actual monster. The movie only briefly gets into the lore behind the Slender Man, barely even referencing the impact he's had on young people and the internet. 

 Some of the acting is solid enough, with Julia Goldani Telles being the one to carry most of the movie, and doing the best she can possibly do with what's given. Joey King, who is way too good an actress for this, plays the one who loses it the most, and does a great job playing crazy. (She needs to stop being in so many bad horror movies lately) Jaz Sinclair also does a fine enough job until she stops being relevant. (Um, what happened to her? Did they ever actually clarify that?) Javier Botet is stuck with lame looking effects, but has this sort of creep factor that leaves a sinister presence. It does feel like a bit of a waste of potential with how little they do with this villain, especially with how much the character has had an effect over the years online. There are moments when they play up his look, such as him simply appearing in the background and just watching people, but it's rare and becomes almost irrelevant when it all goes into typical PG-13 horror movie territory. 

 "Slender Man" is the incomplete, awkwardly constructed, undead remains of an already pretty basic collection of  clichés, that doesn't even appear to have a proper ending. Instead of leaving you scared and traumatized by the horrors you witnessed, once the movie stops, you're left with the urge to yell "That's it?". It feels like they either ran out of ideas, money in the budget, or just plain ran out of time to shoot, because the film ends in such a strange, almost nonchalant manner, you gotta wonder just how much was cut from the film. (And for what purpose? If anything, it ruined the narrative). You get some flashy imagery and moments pf where this possibly could of been salvaged. The movie doesn't seem to want to do much of that though in favor of taking the lazy route, which after something as scary (And memorable) as "Hereditary", just feels even more insulting. Maybe now we can bury "Slender Man" for good. Died from Incompetence, and other natural causes.  1 star. Rated PG-13 For Spooky Images And Sharp Dressed Demons.

The Meg                                                 ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the meg movieImage: "Shut up, Meg."

 What do people love? What have people always loved? When it comes to movies, there are a couple types of films that audiences will just never truly get tired of. They love their giant monster movies and they love their crazy shark movies. So why don't we just take both of those types of movies, put it in a blender, and give the audience what they paid for? 

 "The Meg" opens with rescue diver, "Jonas Taylor" (Jason Statham) being forced to abandon a few people during a disastrous mission, which appeared to of been caused by some kind of giant, monstrous being. Years later, we cut to a underwater research facility, run by "Dr. Minway Zhang" (Winston Chao) and funded by rich dick, "Jack Morris" (Rainn Wilson), who are on a mission to dive deep into the ocean to explore what's down there. Of course, something terrible happens when their mini-sub vanishes, along with Jonas' ex wife, "Lori" (Jessica McNamee). Due to possibly sighting the same sort of creature that matches the description previously provided by Jonas, Zhang and Jonas' old friend, "Mac" (Cliff Curtis) go off to track him down and bring him to the facility. Jonas, with help from Zhang's pretty (And totally single) daughter, "Suyin" (Li Bingbing), techies "Jaxx" (Ruby Rose) and "DJ" (Page Kennedy), and the rest of their gang of edible characters, proceed with the rescue mission. While down below, they discover the monster Jonas had claimed to of seen before, revealed to be a Megaladon, aka "The Meg". When the Meg finds it's way further up into the ocean, setting it's sights on eating everything and everyone in it's path, it's up to our heroes to track it down and send it Hell. (Look, in a situation like that, screw animals rights. That thing could eat my whole apartment!) 

 Based on an apparent book that exists, "Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror", and took years to finally see the light of day, "The Meg" does exactly what you would expect, but just happens to have competence behind it. From Director Jon Turteltaub, the movie is full of ridiculousness and knows it. It embraces that aspect, while at least dialing it back just enough due to the filmmakers also trying to make an actual movie out of it. Not to say the many times the film slows down for character work always gels with the already insane tone already set up. However, you gotta give credit to the filmmakers for at least trying to make us care, while providing a funny line or two every now and then. The movie itself looks good (Especially in IMAX), with a very slick style and a few cool action scenes. (The film was also made by a Chinese film company, and panders to that audience hilariously.) 

 Jason Statham is pretty perfectly cast here, getting to show a little humanity and even a sense of humor. (Did you see "Spy"? He was hilarious in that.) Li Bingbing is stuck with the basic love interest role, even if they give her a bit more to do. Rainn Wilson is having a ton of fun, getting some of the funnier moments, with the underutilized Cliff Curtis mostly just getting to make some quips. The biggest scene stealer comes from Shuya Sophia Cai (as "Meiying", Suyin's precocious daughter), who is a delightfully, adorable little actress that has a few sweet moments with Jason Statham, and just ends up being charming as Hell. As for the Meg itself, it's a cool design, with the scope of the monstrous creature engulfing the screen, making up for the fact that the effects are fine, but mediocre compared to what you've seen in other films like this. It's not quite scary, but it does have a certain intimidating presence to it. 

 "The Meg" is the goofy monster movie that's been advertised, full of cheesy one liners, dumb science, and some awesomely stupid images that should should draw applause from anyone looking for a big budgeted B-Movie. In terms of other popcorn munching monster flicks this year (Like "Pacific Rim: Uprising" and "Rampage"), it does feel a bit less memorable, though it is certainly better made than say any of the "Sharknado" movies. Came to see Jason Statham growl and take on a giant shark? That's exactly what you get. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sharky Jump Scares And Delicious Beachgoers Getting Chomped Good. (Though As Bloodlessly As Possible. PG-13 After All.)

Dog Days                                          ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for dog days 2018 movieImage: Hey! That looks just like my Chihuahua! I better give Vanessa Hudgens my number.

 This should be one of those quick, over and done with reviews. Not that there isn't anything to recommend or anything like that. It's just when you're not really the demographic for something, but still realize that in the end, it's just too cute to dislike. 

 "Dog Days" follows a series of people in Las Angeles, whose stories consist of romance, drama, family values, and of course, dogs. We have talk show host, "Elizabeth" (Nina Dobrev) getting cheated on by her boyfriend and moving out with her dog, only to get into a relationship with her new co-host, "Jimmy" (Tone Bell). There's "Tara" (Vanessa Hudgens) volunteering at a doggie adoption group, pining for dreamy vet, "Mike" (Michael Cassidy), despite the dorky head of the group, "Garrett" (Jon Bass) being actually interested in her. Then we got slacker "Dax" (Adam Pally) being forced to take care of the slobbering dog belonging to his sister, "Ruth" (Jessica St. Clair) and her husband, "Greg" (Thomas Lennon). And last but not least, we also got young teen, "Tyler" (Finn Wolfhard) befriending lonely old man, "Walter" (Ron Cephas Jones), while searching for his chubby Pug, who has ended up in the hands of married couple, "Grace" (Eva Longoria) and "Kurt" (Rob Corddry), trying to connect with their newly adopted daughter. Soon all the stories somewhat intertwine, connecting mostly due to their themes, and just to tug at your heartstrings. I mean, everyone with a soul loves dogs right?  

 Directed by Ken Marino (Who you might recognize from "Children's Hospital"), "Dog Days" is similar to those weird holiday based romantic comedies by the late Garry Marshall ("Valentine's Day", "New Year's Eve", and "Mother's Day"), in which it's just following very sitcom-esque storylines that don't have many real surprises. We get some forced conflict and misunderstandings, along with predictable outcomes you see coming the second you saw the trailer. Luckily, the film makes up for these many tropes in favor of some good laughs, charming actors, and a ton of genuine heart. It's almost an onslaught of heartfelt fluffiness that's damn near too much to handle, with the film shoving cute puppies in your face constantly. 

 The ensemble cast all do well with a script smart enough to know what it is, and capable enough to know when to dial back the schmaltz and let them just be natural. The storyline with Nina Dobrev and Tone Bell is easily the weakest, with little actual interest aside from solid chemistry and the fact she's thoroughly cute. Vanessa Hudgens is wonderfully sweet, with Jon Bass (Previously seen as the annoying chubby guy in "Baywatch) coming across really likable. We get some pretty funny stuff from Adam Pally, Thomas Lennon, and Jessica Lowe (as "Amy", Elizabeth's friend with a cutesy voice). The best storyline comes from Finn Wolfhard and Ron Cephas Jones, along with a lovable Eva Longoria and Rob Corddry. It's a plotline you've seen before, but it's sweet natured, leading to an obvious outcome that's emotional and well done.

 When it comes to emotion, "Dog Days" shockingly works. It's nothing original or exactly something I say you should rush off to the theater to see. The usual romantic comedy trappings are there, though when the film calms down and simply lets the heart (And the dogs) do the talking, it's hard not to find something to like about it. By the end, it's about how these lovable, fluffy animals can bring us together, and how much of an impact they have overall. What can I say? It made me wag my tail a little. Rated PG For Some Suggestive Content. (Honestly, This Got Away With A Bit More Than I Expected.)

Death of a NAtion                                 NO STARS OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Show Me What You Got!"


 "Death of a Nation" is a documentary-ish film, starting with actor portrayals of the suicides of "Adolf Hitler" and "Eva Braun", with Hitler blowing his brains out and Braun taking some pills which make her cough and die. (Although she is still clearly breathing afterwards. Maybe it just made her really sleepy.) After that, esteemed, recently pardoned criminal and filmmaker, Dinesh D'Souza (Best known for his many propaganda films and for making illegal campaign contributions in 2014), sits us down to make a fair, balanced, thoughtful argument about how America as we know it could be on the brink of collapse and the only true savior could be former host of "The Celebrity Apprentice", stereotypical privileged billionaire, and living dried up pumpkin, "Donald Trump" (Also, he's our current president for some reason). You see, D'Souza is going to explain how old Trumpie is actually just like beloved president (And Daniel Day-Lewis lookalike), "Abraham Lincoln". At least, I think that's what the intention was. Really, he just spends the whole movie talking about how Democrats are all actually racist Nazi lovers, how Hitler was a Democrat, and how we should all come together as one America.....except for Democrats.....who are evil. 

 We'll get into politics a bit later because right now I have a job to do. Film critic first, so I'll have to say what's wrong with this movie as an actual movie. To be honest, it's kind of hard to do. Aside from the fact that I rarely review documentaries, it's hard to truly classify this as a movie. It's more of a strange, rage filled fever dream, that has no idea what it's actually mad about and who's only argument is the hour and forty minute equivalent of "I know you are, but what am I?" D'Souza doesn't reveal any counterarguments against people calling Donald Trump racist or how the Republican party seemingly allow bigotry to run the party, but instead just says that Democrats are the racist ones, without actually showing any proof and just telling you to take his word for it. You can't even really even consider it a documentary either because the movie relies on dramatizations to show its so called facts, which are all filled with horrible actors doing silly voices and accents. (When I review a documentary, I never thought I would have to talk about the acting!) 

 Then there's the interviews themselves, which just seem off. Usually a film is meant to provide you with a name and description of who these people are and what they have done. However, D'Souza only gives vague descriptions and talks to them in a way that almost sounds rehearsed. (Complete with dramatic pauses, constant quick cuts, and little actual debate.) The closest the film actually gets to an actual conversation is when he interviews Alt-Right, white supremacist, living cartoon man, "Richard Spencer". Even then, the entire talk just consists of D'Souza trying to convince Spencer that he is actually a Democrat, instead of asking him the first question any person actually trying to get to the bottom of something would ask. ("Why do you gravitate towards Donald Trump?") The proof and facts provided are also vague, with D'Souza saying things are happening instead of showing them, such as saying Hitler's writings are similar to that of major Democrats, or that the Democrats in reality loved them some Hitler, but bailed when public opinion turned against him, then instead pretended that they didn't like him. (Conspiracies. Gotta love them.) 

 Come to think of it, Donald Trump and Abraham Lincoln are barely even in the damn movie. They both vanish for long periods of time, with D'Souza only bringing up Trump to say all allegations (Whether it be criminal or sexual assault) are all fake because he says so, or saying they are like each other because Democrats were the racist, slave owners back during the days of the Civil War. (Which they were, granted. But you all already know this. You learned that when you were like 12.) However, when confronting the accusation that the racists switched sides at some point (Such as the Klan supporting Donald Trump, Republicans defending the Confederate flag, or at least, trying to make the Confederacy not look like they were all horribly in the wrong), all he has to say is that it isn't true. No proof given. Just him saying, "No, you're wrong." (This brings up a good question. If people constantly point out to me that the Democrats were the southern slave owners back in the day, why are Republicans always the ones trying to demonize them less or even defend their actions more than Democrats?)

 As a movie, it's sloppy, unfocused, poorly crafted, and made with little intention to teach. Instead, it's angry, mean spirited, lazy, and thoroughly stupid. Before anyone starts calling me some biased, Kool-Aid drinking Liberal, allow me to explain something. I wasn't raised politically. Yeah, my dad always yelled at the radio, while my mom blissfully couldn't give a crap. But I wasn't told to follow anyone or told to stick to one specific party. I was allowed to simply get invested into politics whenever I chose to. It was around when Donald Trump first made the claim that Obama was a Kenyan Muslim, and the fact that nobody on the right seemed to care about what he was saying, or in some cases, believed it themselves. The whole time I was thinking to myself "Why is this man getting praised for this?, "Why are the Republicans rallying around him?", and "What in God's name is going on here?". Those are the questions that should of been asked, but D'Souza doesn't care. He's just here to tell you about some evil Democrats, the deep state keeping him down, and that it's okay to support racist (Or at least racist sounding things) that normally we should be angry at, but because it's Trump, its ok. Politically, "Death of a Nation" is full of crap, and intentionally so. As a movie, it's scum. No stars. Rated PG-13 For That Horrifying Poster Art. 

The Darkest Minds                                     ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the darkest minds movieImage: Thanos' finger snap claims yet another. 

 Aw, this movie is adorable. It really is. I mean, they set it all up, borrowing from everything else, playing it all as safe as possible, while hinting at something bigger. They leave it all open for more. For the millions of fans who....never showed up. Yeah, you're not getting a sequel. Sorry. That's the business. 

 "The Darkest Minds" opens with a strange, worldwide disease has been kill random children, while the survivors are instead given strange new abilities, ranging from increased intelligence to superhuman powers. "Ruby Daly" (Amanda Stenberg) also has a new ability, which causes her to manipulate the minds of anyone she touches, having discovered this after accidentally erasing her from her parents' memories. Now Ruby is stuck inside a military camp, where "President Gray" (Bradley Whitford) has the children sent to, claiming to cure them like he seemingly did his own son, "Clancy" (Patrick Gibson). In reality, the camp separates the kids by colors (Such as blue, green, and orange), indicating who is labeled as most dangerous (And the ones they want to kill). Ruby as it turns out is an "Orange" (One of the dangerous ones), but is able to hide that from the villains.

 Sometime later, Ruby is later broken out by a doctor, "Cate Connor" (Mandy Moore), who is actually part of a resistance known as "The League", who intends to fight back against the government. Ruby eventually finds out there might be some issues with The League, running away and bumping into a trio of travelers, such as the hunky love interest, "Liam" (Harris Dickinson), the genius comic relief, "Chubs" (Skylan Brooks), and the little, electrical powered "Zu" (Miya Cech). The group lets Ruby join them in searching for another resistance group, that's instead run by other uniquely powered kids, while avoiding the ones after them, including bounty hunter, "Lady Jane" (Gwendoline Christie).

 To be fair, compared to many of the Sci-Fi YA novel turned into films, "The Darkest Minds" doesn't have the same annoyance factor that something such as "Divergent", "The 5th Wave" or "The Host" had. It just does everything you would expect it to do, with ideas that you've seen both better and worse in other franchises, from "The Hunger Games", The Maze Runner", and the most obvious one being "X-Men" (I thought it was one of those straight to DVD ripoffs the first time I saw the trailer). Based on some book your pre-teen daughter has possibly heard of and directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Who did "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Kung Fu Panda 3"), who does add a moment of flair every once in a while. But the film itself is so basic and cheap looking, with most of the budget going to certain powers. The story follows predictable beats, such as our apocalyptic romance, evil organizations, needlessly complicated details, with obvious reveals and absolutely no originality whatsoever. 

 Amanda Stenberg (Who I instinctively keep wanting to simply call "Rue", from "The Hunger Games"), is continuing her trend of being a much, much better actress than the material she's given. She's trying her absolute best here, as is Harris Dickinson and Skylan Brooks, who all seem like they could turn into solid actors. Everyone is just stuck with a cruddy script, lame characters, and an obligation to go through the typical character moments that are expected of this genre. Meanwhile, Mandy Moore (Only in it briefly at the start and at the end), Gwendoline Christie (Who just stops existing in the movie at some point), and especially poor Bradly Whitford (Who's entire storyline happens offscreen aside from a cameo) have nothing to do aside from attempting to add a bit more recognizability to the cast. 

 "The Darkest Minds" is not as bad as many other movies like it, mostly thanks to actors showing more talent than the movie itself deserves and the fact that you just don't care enough about what's going on. Once we get to the mandatory cliffhanger ending, it comes across as more laughable, because you just don't give a crap about anything that was set up. Not to mention, you know you're never going to see the continuing adventures of these characters on the big screen ever again. (You want your sequel? Read a book) It's just trying to reignite something that to be honest, died out a while ago. R.I.P. "End of the World" YA Novel genre.1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Dystopian Violence, Rapey Villains, And Terrible Contact Lenses. 

The Spy Who dumped Me                              ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the spy who dumped meImage: "Don't shoot! I'll change my review!"

 Bad comedies can leave different kinds of impacts on you. You will either be left unfazed, without much recollection of what you just watched. There's the major ones that leave horrific impacts on you, that will leave you pissed, annoyed, and in just a bad mood. And then there's this movie, that just leaves you really, really sad.

 "The Spy Who Dumped Me" follows the wacky antics of best friends, "Aubrey" (Mila Kunis) and "Morgan" (Kate McKinnon). Aubrey has recently been dumped by her boyfriend, "Drew" (Justin Theroux), with Morgan being the one to comfort her. Next thing Aubrey realizes, she's abducted by a couple of spies, such as the future love interest, "Sebastian" (Sam Heughan) and the dickish "Duffer" (Hasan Minhaj), who reveal to Aubrey that Drew is a spy and is being hunted down by a terrorist organization, with evil plans for the world. Aubrey and Morgan bump back into Drew, who gives Aubrey a flash drive with important plot device information before he's killed by the bad guys. Now Aubrey and Morgan are on the run to Europe, avoiding villains and assassins such as the killer ballerina "Nadedja" (Ivanna Sakhno), as well as CIA, MI6, and all those big name agencies who want the flash drive, while retaining their BFF status. 

 Directed and Co-Written by Susanna Fogel, "The Spy Who Dumped Me" is essentially the wrong way to go of what made that hilarious, Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy collaboration, "Spy" from a few years ago. The movie has the same style of humor, with a shockingly dark, violent edge that can be a very dangerous route to tread with comedies, and when it doesn't work, it ends up just being kind of uncomfortable. The laughs are few, with some of them mostly just hitting their mark because the actors are good. And with how grisly the film is, the tone ends up just being all over the place. It doesn't help that the movie is nearly two hours long, paced poorly, and not funny enough to compensate. It sucks because the whole time you can see where this could of gone right, whether it be with the people involved or the idea itself that, while it's been done before, surely should be able to get a few good laughs out of you.

 Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon are still giving it their all, even with the weak script. McKinnon in particular is better than the material given, getting a couple weird laughs every now and then. The two of them somehow still are better than what's provided, yet even they can't make it truly work. Justin Theroux tries his absolute best, but doesn't have anything to work with in his rather brief appearance. The romantic subplot with Sam Heughan is pointless, Ivanna Sakhno is odd and creepy and not much else, while Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser (as Morgan's parents) pop up for a second to do nothing funny. The funniest moments come from Hasan Minhaj, who gets a few funny reactions and enjoyably dickish lines, and Gillian Anderson (as "Wendy", Sebastian and Duffer's stern superior), who doesn't get much to do, but at least looks really lovely and has one of those really attractive proper British accents (It's my weakness.)

 "The Spy Who Dumped Me" doesn't do it's pacing problems any favors with how predictable it's plotting is, with every twist and turn being obvious, including a major one towards the end that makes absolutely no sense. If it were funny enough, nobody would care about the predictable plotting. But when your laughs come so rarely and when you can feel how unnecessary much padding there is, it all ends up just becoming a bore, with the audience left wondering when they can just go home. A comedy is supposed to make you laugh till you cry, not just make you cry for it all to just stop. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Violence, And Secret Female Hiding Places.

Christopher Robin                                    ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Pooh Bear and his friends bask in the glow of stardom before experiencing the dark side of fame.

 How can you not love Winnie the Pooh? I mean, look at that fuzzy belly, that innocent smile, and his almost alcoholic levels of addiction to honey. You just want one of your very one or at the very least someone that looks like him....which would be a chubby, hairy guy, who never wears pants........Nevermind. 

 "Christopher Robin" opens with imaginative young "Christopher", hanging out in the Hundred Acre Wood, with his stuffed pals (Though a couple are actual animals), the lovable "Winnie the Pooh" (Voiced by Jim Cummings), the bouncy "Tigger" (Also voiced by Jim Cummings), the timid "Piglet" (Voiced by Nick Mohammed), the always depressed "Eeyore" (Voiced by Brad Garrett), the questionably wise "Owl" (Voiced by Toby Jones), the overly neat and tidy "Rabbit" (Voiced by Peter Capaldi), mother kangaroo "Kanga" (Voiced by Sophie Okonedo) and her son, "Roo" (Voiced by Sara Sheen) before leaving for boarding school. Years later, a now adult workaholic "Christopher Robin" (Ewan McGregor), who works at a luggage company, barely able to make time for his wife, "Evelyn" (Hayley Atwell) and daughter, "Madeline" (Bronte Carmichael).

 Christopher works at a luggage company, where his snooty boss, "Giles Winslow Jr." (Mark Gatiss), tells Christopher that he will have to work through an onslaught of paperwork and figure out which employees to fire, which gets in the way of Christopher's plans to go away with his family for the weekend. Evelyn and Madeline leave unhappy, with Christopher home by himself. Around this time, Pooh wakes up one morning, unable to find all of his friends. Pooh decides to wander off, eventually coming out of the wood and into the real world, reuniting with Christopher. Christopher is forced to put work aside to help Pooh get back home and find all his friends, while also finding a way to make time for his family, and remembering his childhood, along with the importance of doing nothing. 

 In times where nostalgia runs the world (In both good and bad ways), it's nice that "Christopher Robin" opts not to go for anything cynical, in favor of just being innocent and whimsical, while at least addressing some darker moments in terms of both it's story and the way the film looks. The film, directed by Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland" and um, "World War Z" apparently), is a bit more gloomy than you would expect, with some heavier themes and a lot less light than you are used to from a "Winnie the Pooh" story. However, it fits the film's narrative perfectly, with the message of growing up, while never forgetting your childhood wonder serving as the reward for the more melancholic scenes. Shot beautifully, with some surprisingly perfect looking visuals, such as the characters themselves who blend in seamlessly and remain full of life when interacting with the real life backgrounds and characters. For a movie aimed at a young audience, much like most "Winnie the Pooh" movies, the film is also very funny, with some of the back and forth between the characters delivering on the charm these beloved characters are known for. Where the film lacks is in it's story, which is predictable and not really all that focused.

 Ewan McGregor, who I've always thought was always an underatted actor, is well cast, fitting into and reacting to the silliness perfectly. Hayley Atwell makes the best out of a relatively simple role with her natural charm and loveliness, while Bronte Carmichael is a solid child actor. (She actually does an excellent job acting against animated characters who aren't even there.) Jim Cummings, who has been voicing Pooh and Tigger for almost thirty years, is as wonderful as ever. Pooh is endearing and thoroughly cute, and Tigger is as excitable and hilarious as you remember him. Brad Garrett is also a perfect fit Eeyore, who gets some of the best lines. The rest of the voice cast, including Nick Mohammed, Toby Jones, Peter Capaldi, and the rest all doing good work, mostly get put in the background. On a side note, I also find it kind of funny that the film never truly explains what these characters are. They're clearly real, but what are they? Imaginary friends? Adorable little demons? Never explained, but that adds to the whimsy. 

 Much like that silly old bear, "Christopher Robin" is a little slight and somewhat all over the place, but is thoroughly sweet, charming, and utterly adorable, with a little extra mature edge. There are good morals and plenty of laughs for the whole family. It's not as good as the other talking bear movie this year, nor is it as memorable as 2011's 2D animated "Winnie the Pooh" (Which still has moments that crack me up). It's just a small scale, likable, heartwarming little movie that doesn't disrespect it's young audience. Even when it's not great, you just leave with a big happy smile on your face. That's what Pooh does to people and it's infectious. 3 stars. Rated PG For Some Gloomy Moments, But It's Still Suitably For All Audiences. 

Teen Titans Go! to the Movies                                                                                                                                          ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for teen titans go to the moviesImage: Everybody say "Bat nipples!"

 People are just so unwilling to admit that this movie is good aren't they? Most of it has to do with the still going show it's based on. There are some complaints that can be given to Cartoon Network's hit parody series, "Teen Titans Go!", such it being on constantly, with the network shoving it into your face as much as they can, along with some occasional flat jokes, and probably most importantly, the fact that we lost the original classic 2003 series (Remembered as dark and mature, despite the occasional and intentional goofy moment) in favor of something much sillier. However, once I figured out what it actually was, I've found the show to be pretty funny, made by people who do their homework when it comes to references and don't take themselves too seriously. Plus, I gotta commend the show for how out of nowhere weird it can be. (Such as Cyborg summoning the ghosts of the "Golden Girls", an episode where everyone becomes puppets for no reason, and Weird "Al" Yankovic voicing famous DC Comics big bad, "Darkseid", because it just sounds funny) Take all the things that make the show work and stretch it to an hour and a half, you get something not just better than most DC movies. You get something that's actually better by a long shot. 

 "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies" follows the "Teen Titans", consisting of the baby handed boy wonder "Robin" (Scott Menville), the half man, half machine "Cyborg" (Khary Payton), the awkward alien princess "Starfire" (Hyden Walch), the shape shifting "Beast Boy" (Greg Cipes), and the sometimes demonic, mostly emo "Raven" (Tara Strong), a team of young, immature superheroes who never do anything. The teens are always being looked down upon by supervillains and superheroes, such as "Superman" (Nicolas Cage), who in the meantime are gathering for the premiere of the newest "Batman" movie. The Titans sneak in, because nobody wanted them there, with Robin becoming upset at the fact that everyone is getting a movie before he is (Including Alfred). 

 The Titans get the idea that they need to be taken more seriously and should definitely get their own movie. Thinking that getting an arch-nemesis will prove that, the Titans run into evil, sword and gun carrying/Deadpool lookalike, "Slade" (Will Arnett). Slade also wants nothing to do with the Titans, more annoyed by them than anything, focusing on his own plans for world domination. The Titans continue with their plan to get a movie made about them, no matter the costs, such as messing with some superhero origins, trying to convince the famous filmmaker responsible for the many superhero movies being made, "Jade Wilson" (Kristen Bell), and a few extra run-ins with Slade, which will require the Titans to actually doing some super-heroic things for once. 

 At first seemingly just filled with nonsense and immature jokes, "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies" is in reality an intelligent satire of superhero movies (And to a certain degree, Hollywood in general). The movie is kind of ruthless in how much it mocks everything around it, not caring who gets caught in the crossfire, while even bashing itself whenever it sees fit. (Think "South Park", except for kids) It's not cynical so much as it's just having fun, while also making pretty good points when parodying DC movies, Marvel movies, and superhero movies in general, along with other basic tropes that you see in film overall and the fact that people are more interested by the onslaught of films, rather than actually having our beloved heroes be well, heroic. There are so many in-jokes and background gags that you want to see it again just to catch them all. (Yes, they do work in a Henry Cavill mustache joke in there) The kids will enjoy the bouncy characters, wacky antics, and the occasional lowbrow joke (Which the movie also makes fun of itself for having in the first place), while the parents (Especially the ones with comic book knowledge) will enjoy the references and will find themselves maybe even having more of a good time than their children. (It may be aimed at young audiences, but there is plenty here for the adults.)

 Our excellent voice cast, which carried over from the original series to the new one, are all professionals, getting plenty of laughs and even having a surprising amount of chemistry with each other. The characters are actually  insanely lovable, even when they're being complete jerks. Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Greg Cipes, Hyden Walch, and Tara "The love of every geek boy's life" Strong are all perfect. Will Arnett sounds like he's having the time of his life, and especially after "Show Dogs", he really needed it. There are a few fun cameos, with the sound of Nicholas Cage's voice coming out of Superman making the film worth the ticket price. 

 "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies" may seem nonsensical, silly, and full of bathroom humor.....and it is. However, it's also laugh out loud hilarious, with moments for both kids and adults to get a kick out of, some lovely 2D animation (Which will always look great on the big screen. We need more of it), and some darn good satire, showing that it's much smarter than we give it credit for. Toss in a little heart, a bizarre reference to "The Lion King", and even a little black comedy involving the tragic origins of some beloved superheroes (The Thomas and Martha scene is so funny, it almost made me cry), it serves as a reminder that the DCEU (Or "The Worlds of DC" as it's now called I guess), still has a lot to live up to. It probably won't win over the angry nerds, but don't worry. You guys got that new dark, gritty "Titans" show coming up. You know, the one with all the blood, "Mature" content, and Robin dropping an "F-Bomb"? Happy Now? 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor, Some Violence, And The Funniest Hit And Run Ever Put To Film. 

Mission Impossible: Fallout                                                                                                                                              ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for mission impossible falloutImage: I'm starting to think this mission is actually possible.

 We can all enjoy movies like "Rampage", "Skyscraper", "The Equalizer 2", or any of the "Fast and Furious" movies. However, sometimes we can forget, that it's possible not just for an action movie to make for a straight up great movie, but it's just as gripping and effectively memorable as any drama, indie movie, or whatever else the academy acknowledges instead. This right here is how it's done. 

 "Mission Impossible: Fallout" opens with yet another mission being given to IMF (Impossible Missions Force) agent, "Ethan Hunt" (Tom Cruise), which requires him to acquire some stolen plutonium cores that are in the hands of a new terrorist group called "The Apostles". The Apostles, formerly part of "The Syndicate", which was run by the last film's slimy villain, "Solomon Lane" (Sean Harris), plan to use the cores to start a new world order, even if it means uniting the world through fear and death. Ethan, along with his friends, "Luther Stickell" (Ving Rhames) and "Benji Dunn" (Simon Pegg), meet up to finish the mission and get the plutonium back, only for the mission to fail and the plutonium to end up stolen, because of Ethan's refusal to let one of his own die.

 Against the wishes of IMF secretary, "Alan Hunley" (Alec Baldwin), CIA Director, "Erica Sloane" (Angela Bassett) takes command of the operation, seeing the IMF as ineffective, sending her top assassin, "August Walker" (Henry Cavill) to work with Ethan. The two are sent to find out where the plutonium is, tracking down the unknown leader of the Apostles, "John Lark", which leads them to black marker arms dealer/daughter of Vanessa Redgrave from the first movie, known as "The White Widow" (Vanessa Kirby). The mission becomes more and more complicated, with the two being forced to work with the White Widow, requiring them to bust the now more deranged Lane out of custody, putting Ethan at odds with his old friend/possible love interest, "Ilsa Faust" (Rebecca Ferguson), who has been tasked to assassinate Lane no matter the cost. 

 Once again Directed by Christopher McQuarrie ("Jack Reacher" and "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation") and Produced by J. J. Abrams, "Mission Impossible: Fallout" is brilliant in it's action, strong in it's story, and a great ensemble of characters that you care about. This movie shows that you are getting more than just big setpieces, though the ones we get are possibly some of the greatest moments of pure adrenaline fueled, stunt crazy action that will leave you constantly on the edge of your seat, craving more, and once it's all finished, damn near exhausted because of all the gasping and jaw dropping you were just doing. Speaking of which, the various exhilarating sequences are nothing short of fantastic, but the finale is a completely separate entity. These last 40 minutes are as perfect as you can possibly get, with one of the greatest climaxes I've ever seen, making me realize that I should be allowed to expect more from your average action flick. 

 Tom Cruise is very...Tom Cruisey in real life (You know, aside from a little kooky to say the least), but I should really stop being surprised at how committed he is as an actor. He is once again terrific here, with Ethan Hunt making for an action hero who is also just plain likable. He's just such a cool guy when everything's said and done, which plays into a theme of the movie, with the character being forced into situations that would make the hero question if it's even possible to save everyone. Henry Cavill (And his amazing facial hair) is the walking personification of intimidation, Rebecca Ferguson is once again lovely and totally badass beyond comprehension, and both Ving Rhames and the lovable Simon Pegg get some great comic relief, while also playing important parts themselves. There are fun small parts with Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, and it's great seeing Michelle Monaghan (as "Julia", Ethan's former wife) once again, along with Vanessa Kirby stealing some scenes. Sean Harris also returns to ooze sinister villainy, with an extra creep factor that just sends chills down your spine every time he speaks. 

 With some stunning cinematography, the great score (How can you not get pumped up when you hear the theme song burst into the theater?), and a few much needed moments of depth and character work, "Mission Impossible: Fallout" is everything you want for a summer movie. Endearing heroes, evil villains, some laughs, some drama, Tom Cruise running (Probably the most he's ever ran in any movie), and a spectacular ending that will set a new standard for movies. In general, Mission yet. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Nail Biting Action, Dark Subjects, And The Power Of Scientology. (It's What Gives Tom Cruise His Immortal Strength.) 

Eighth Grade                                           ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for eighth grade movieImage: She could have gotten one of those flip track phones for a lot cheaper. Just sayin'.

 One thing I've learned reviewing movies for over eight years, without any payment or appreciation from any serious publications at all (Still looking guys. Come on, you'd love me!), I've noticed that a great film experience can come from anywhere. We got our big summer blockbusters, feel good family adventure, biographical dramas, and maybe something based on a true story or two. Then there's something simple. Just a story about a little girl, living in the modern age, going through the basic things we all do. Or at least any young girl might. It's the smaller stories that are the most surprising, and possibly the one that will leave the most lasting impact. 

 "Eighth Grade" follows little "Kayla Day" (Elsie Fisher) on her last few days of Eighth Grade. Living with her goofy, well intentioned father, "Mark" (Josh Hamilton), Kayla does motivational videos on Youtube, dealing with achieving self-confidence. Her videos mostly do "Meh" in terms of how many views she gets, with Kayla in real life generally remaining in the background at school, with all the more talkative ones remaining in the spotlight, including her jerky crush, "Aiden" (Luke Prael) and the popular girl, "Kennedy" (Catherine Oliviere). We follow Kayla in these last days, with her being invited to a pool party by Kennedy (Mostly because her mom forces her to invite her), her relationships with the people around her, including her father, and her meeting with some high school students. We also see how big a part social media and her electronic devices play in her life. (And the life of everyone else, if you really think about.) While she prepares for the next stage in her life, Kayla learns more about the awkwardness of growing up, and eventually has to learn more about herself, further expressing herself as a person and who she will grow up to be. 

 Directed (And Written) by comedian/YouTuber (It's a thing!), Bo Burnham in his first full length, feature film, "Eighth Grade" is not what you would at first expect it to be. You might think it's just going to be another coming of age story, which we get all the time. (Granted, they're usually pretty great, such as "The Edge of Seventeen" or "Lady Bird") However, thanks to some skillful direction, and a intelligent, funny script to make it feels different from the others, and stand out on it's own. It's an oddly unpredictable movie, with it's story told in a way that's probably more realistic, with flawed characters, who do remain very lovable, even when they make mistakes. (Such as Kayla, acting like a bit of a twerp and Mark really just letting her walk all over him) It helps that they're very well written, with a lot of humor, sweetness, drama, and a lot of awkwardness (And uncomfortableness), which is basically what I assume a teenage girl's life would be like. (I wouldn't know. I was never a teenage girl.) 

 Elsie Fisher (Who voiced one of the little girls in the first two "Despicable Me" movies) is an instant star in the making. Perfectly balancing out the shy, quiet type when she's with the other kids, and then the little ball of pure personality, charm, and energy that she is when doing her videos. You can still see that this is the same person, who is one way with other people and acts a different way when alone. It makes her story of opening up stronger, when the audience knows how expressive a person she actually is, and are just waiting for the other characters to realize it. Josh Hamilton is also wonderful, with the character's sweet, if not imperfect, relationship with his daughter making for some of the funniest moments, and by the end, one of the most heartwarming. There's also a hilariously adorable subplot involving Jake Ryan (as "Gabe", a weird boy, who seems to like Kayla) that's bound to charm the living Hell off of you. 

 "Eighth Grade" deals with some cringey topics, seems to have something to say about the importance of social media and online devices, that can be seen in both negative and positive lights. Bo Burnham details a simple, straight forward story that hits you right in the emotional core, while remaining unpredictable and most importantly, respecting the intelligence of the audience. It's a different kind of crowd pleaser full of likability and will surely become an instant favorite. Much like it's star, it's impossible not to love. 4 stars. Rated R For Awkward, Uncomfortable Subjects.

Unfriended: Dark Web                          ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for unfriended dark webImage: "No, you're holding it wrong....Just push the button on the screen! No, With your thumb You're THUMB!!!!"

The internet is an evil place. We all know this, but we've oddly just accepted it. Jokes aside, I know the importance of what the internet has given us. I mean, I use it all the time to talk to friends, do my reviews, videos, order things, look up things, meet interesting girls you'll never have a shot with, and well, everything. But like every good things, there's a dark side. A...ahem, Dark Web if you will. I mean, where do you think YouTube commenters come from? 

 A sequel that really doesn't have anything to do with the first film, aside from the same filmmaking style, "Unfriended: Dark Web" opens with "Matias O'Brien" (Colin Woodell) finding (Or stealing) a new laptop, using it to attempt to video chat with his deaf girlfriend, "Amaya" (Stephanie Nogueras). Their relationship is strained because of a lack of communication and a lack of being able to communicate, with Matias fearing a possible break up. Luckily, a bad break up is going to be the least of his problems. When Matias, while doing a video chat game night with his friends, "Nari" (Betty Gabriel), "Serena" (Rebecca Rittenhouse), "Damon" (Andrew Lees), "Lexx" (Savira Windyani), and conspiracy theorist, "Aj" (Connor Del Rio), discovers that the laptop has access to the "Dark Web". (The vile, evil part of the internet, full of all kinds of bad stuff such as, black market dealings, illegal porn, etc.) Things get even more terrifying when he discovers the previous owner's involvement with a mysterious organization, who have cameras in the homes of everyday people, have dealings with kidnapping young girls, and making horrific, grotesque, snuff films, for the sick enjoyment of the members. When the previous owner starts to communicate with Matias, threatening to kill him, his friends, and even Amaya unless he gets the laptop back, Matias and his buddies are pulled further into a sick, twisted game that can only get worse from here. 

 It's kind of awesome when a movie is made in secret, then just released as a surprise, much like with "Unfriended: Dark Web" getting it's premiere at South by Southwest earlier this year. More of a continuation of the premise provided in 2014's "Unfriended" (Which wasn't for everyone, but I thought it was pretty solid), this new film gets rid of the supernatural element, instead relying on utilizing it's idea to it's fullest potential. The film is shown entirely through the point of view of a computer screen, with videos, chats, and messages showing the story (Taking place over the course of a single night), which puts you in the position of the characters, making for a more thrilling experience. On the downside, with the more supernatural element out of the film, it doesn't make anything any more or less plausible. (There's probably no chance of things happening this way realistically). 

 As far as our characters go, they're a lot less horrible this time around, while doing the occasional typical horror movie mistakes, they're not bad people. They are fairly likable actually, with better intentions than most, which does help you care a bit more about what happens. While most of the acting just requires them to scream, cry, and yell, they do a solid job of it, with the standouts being Colin Woodell being our main character and the one with the most depth, along with Betty Grabriel (Who you might remember from "Get Out" and "Upgrade"). As for our villains, while some of their capabilities are hard to believe, they are certainly diabolical and much more frightening than any ghost or demon, mostly because there is a likely chance these people exist in some shape or form. Imagine, a group of people, using a part of the internet off the grid, participating in horrible acts, and either controlling, surveying, or at least, influencing the lives of every day people without their knowledge. Now that's terrifying. 

 While far fetched and even a little on the trashy side due to the film veering dangerously close to almost being considered torture porn (It never really gets that violent, but the focus on death and acts of sadism make it uncomfortable at times), "Unfriended: Dark Web" embraces the atmosphere provided by it's premise, with some clever twists, and some truly traumatizing ideas that should keep any conspiracy theorist awake at night. On a side note, there are apparently two endings that were released during screenings of the film, with the audience not knowing which one they will get. After reading up on it, I think I got the weaker of the two. With the one I got seeming appropriate, it not a little predictable and maybe too unnecessarily cruel, while the other seemed longer, more drawn out, and somewhat scarier sounding. (Implications are always more frightening than actually showing) It's not for everyone, but I found it plenty effective. And for anyone watching me through a computer screen in some dark, secluded place, that's your fault you don't like what you end up seeing. I'm not your toy! 3 stars. Rated R For Violent Images, Horrible Implications, And The Most Evil Of All Entities Of The Internet, Facebook. 

The Equalizer                                        ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the equalizer 2Image: "Oh, you think you want a piece of Denzel..." Nah, I cant do a Denzel impersination.

 By this point, if the film is good, bad, just okay, or really just leave any impact in a positive or negative way, Denzel Washington is going to be terrific in it no matter what. It's honestly the easiest, most predictable thing to write about, because he's always great. Whether the film is big, small, a drama, an action movie, or even something kind of schlocky, Denzel is going to give it his all, turn out a good performance, and just plain make everything better. It's what he does. He's an equalizer, if you will. 

 "The Equalizer 2" once again follows retired CIA Black Ops agent, "Robert McCall" (Denzel Washington), who has been working as a Lyft driver (Uber doesn't pay enough), mostly so he can go to town on helping people and beating the living sh*t out of the bad guys. (Usually while setting a timer on his watch to see how long it takes) Living in an old apartment, while also serving as a mentor of sorts to troubled teen, "Miles" (Ashton Sanders), McCall has remained off the grid, thanks to help from his friends, "Susan" (Melissa Leo) and her husband, "Brian" (Bill Pullman). However, someone is going around and killing some important figures, with Susan going to investigate, only to end up brutally murdered herself. Now coming out of hiding, McCall learns from an old teammate, "Dave York" (Pedro Pascal) about Susan's death, prompting McCall to look into it himself. While dealing with his personal issues and dark past, McCall sets out to find Susan's killer (or killers) and return the favor by slaughtering them all as viciously as humanly possible. 

 Once again by the reliably competent Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day", "The Magnificent Seven", "Southpaw", and the first "Equalizer"), "The Equalizer 2" is a mostly typical, slightly too subplot heavy, action packed sequel, full of violence, but a fair amount of clever ideas, a charming lead, and a few extra moments where the film slows down to add a little depth. It's an action movie that is at least trying to have some actual drama, with it mostly working because of the cast. However, the film loses sight of it's main plot when it takes detours to give time to ongoing small plotlines, mostly involving McCall's relationships with the people around him, who are in need of help in some way. I get the idea they're going for, showing how he is just a man, seeking redemption for his still unexplained (But hinted at) past, and how much good he does for the people he meets without them even realizing it. It's just that it feels like filler, and for a film that's over two hours, it just drags it down. Granted, the main plot itself is as basic as you can get, with obvious plot reveals and predictable outcomes. 

 Denzel Washington brings his usual charisma, powerful screen presence, and his off the charts, extreme levels of badassitude to every movie he's in, and does so once again here. He takes control of every scene, showing how capable he is in the action scenes and how strong he is in the more dramatic scenes. Melissa Leo and Bill Pullman have small roles, but are both still excellent enough actors to leave an impression, with Pedro Pascal also doing a solid job, despite also not getting much of a role. Ashton Sanders (Who you might remember from 2016's masterpiece, "Moonlight"), does some good work, in particular when he has some emotional scenes with Denzel Washington, making for some of the best scenes in the film. Our villains are typical, but menacing and diabolical enough, with their gruesome deaths being warranted and should generate a crowd-pleasing reaction from the audience.

 "The Equalizer 2" is a generic action movie sequel, that is made by professionals, who at least know how to make the film worth some entertainment value, with some much needed serious moments to help you care about what's going to happen. Even though you know where it's all going, you like the hero and like the people he spends his time with, while detesting the villains he dispatches. You have reliable actors, working with a reliable director, making the most of a mostly "Eh" script and story, and throwing in enough stylized action to compensate. As far as all that killing, at least when Denzel does it, you have to admit, it would be kind of an honor to be offed by him. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Violence, Language, And Brooding. 

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again                                                                                                                                               ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for mamma mia here we go againImage: This movie is going to make money, money, money.

 Ten years? Good lord, it's been that long since the first "Mamma Mia!"? You know, the movie based on the musical dedicated to the work of ABBA? Gave it plenty of time to gather a big, committed fanbase that loves the Hell out of it. It also had time to gather a group who hates everything about it. It's a movie that I can definitely see someone loving. Although I never understood the hate though. I get not liking it, but hate is a little much. I mean, it came out the same year as the first "Twilight", "Disaster Movie", and "The Happening"......"Mamma Mia!" is a masterpiece of cinema and basic entertainment compared to those. (Also, "Speed Racer" came out that year....Oh, and "10.000 B.C."......Man, 2008 had a lot of bad movies....)

 Another one of those prequel/sequels, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" takes place a few years after the first, following "Sophie" (Amanda Seyfried), taking over the villa previously belonging to her now deceased mother, "Donna" (Meryl Streep), on an island in Greece and re-opening it as a hotel under the name "Bella Donna" in her owner. Her relationship with her love interest, "Sky" (Dominic Cooper) is strained due to him being gone all the time, leaving Sophie to doubt she is capable of any of this without the guidance of her mother, despite getting some minor assistance from her mother's friends, "Tanya" (Christine Baranski) and "Rosie" (Julie Walters), her stepfather "Sam" (Pierce Brosnan), and the hotel manager, whose name is technically a spoiler (Andy Garcia).

 Sophie has to make sure everything goes according to plan, with important people coming to the re-opening, apparently aside from Sophie's other dads, "Harry" (Colin Firth) and "Bill" (Stellan Skarsgård). Throughout the film, we are shown flashbacks involving a younger Donna (Lily James) and her adventures with the younger versions of her friends (Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies). Which also includes Donna's first meetings with Sam, Harry, and Bill (With their younger selves played by Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, and Josh Dylan). Through this series of events, we see just how exactly she became the person she was, eventually becoming pregnant with Sophie and not knowing (Or caring) who the father is. Cher (as Donna's estranged mother) is in it too by the way. 

 Whether or not you like the first "Mamma Mia!" (I think it's alright. Nothing to complain about really), it made a lot of money (It is a rich man's world after all). This time written and directed by Ol Parker (Who wrote the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" movies), the film takes what people love about the first film and just goes all out with it, but on the bright side, it also appears to of listened to the criticisms of the first film. The plot is less goofy and seems much more focused this time around. It's all still silly stuff, but the movie relies on less cartoonish antics in favor of focusing on it's likable cast and characters, endearing musical numbers, and a surprising amount of laughs. The movie is actually very funny (Intentionally so), with some snappy dialogue and well timed visual moments that work very well, which also help elevate the movie's heartfelt story which is much more bittersweet and emotional than expected. 

 Amanda Seyfried is as adorably wide-eyed as ever, along with pros such as Pierce Brosnan,  Stellan Skarsgård, and Colin Firth, who all still can't sing, but bring their usual charisma to carry the movie's cheesy-ness. (Hey, they're still better singers than I am.) Christine Baranski and Julie Walters get some funny moments throughout, Andy Garcia once again reminds us that he is freakin' charming as Hell (And whoever in Hollywood took the time to remember that deserves praise), Dominic Cooper looks a little bored, but at least doesn't sleepwalk through the movie, and Cher is well, Cher. (It's essentially a glorified cameo, but the audience seemed happy, so why complain?) With Meryl Streep mostly only appearing briefly (But she's a multi-Oscar nominee, so she's still good regardless), the movie instead gives more of the spotlight to the perfectly cast Lily James. She's excellent here, full of personality, can sing the Hell out of the musical numbers, and has the ability to simply charm everyone and everything thing around her simply with her smile and incredible cuteness. The rest of the younger actors are also well cast, and the musical numbers, while probably running out of ideas (The movie repeats a few from the last movie. ABBA only has so much to offer.), are delightfully kooky and lively, and will certainly give the fans exactly what they came to see.  

 Aside from the fact that the last act was pretty much shown in the trailer and the film starts to get just a bit distracted during this last portion of the film, "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" is as ridiculously cheesy as ever, and while it probably wont bring in anyone new, the fans will definitely leave madly in love with it. Luckily, the film has plenty of laughs, and a more grounded story that leaves time for the emotional core to shine through. (I'll admit, there is one scene involving Meryl Streep at the end, that's much more emotionally effective than a movie like this generally provides.) It's sweet, good natured, and perfectly harmless, giving those ABBA fanatics, girls of all ages, and over the top homosexual guys (My entire audience in a nutshell) something to sing and dance to. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, White People Shenanigans, And Manly Gyrations In Tight Outfits.

Skyscraper                                                   ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for skyscraper movieImage: C'mon little guy! You can do it!

 Another day, another "Die Hard" clone, another Dwayne Johnson action movie. It's the combination that we've been expecting to come into reality for years. You know the drill! Let's do this!

 "Skyscraper" follows former FBI agent, "Will Sawyer" (Dwayne "Is he still the Rock?" Johnson), who retired from that line of work after a hostage situation went horribly wrong, resulting in him losing his leg and getting a prosthetic leg. Will has settled down with his wife, "Sarah" (Neve Campbell), who he met after the accident, along with his kids, "Georgia" (McKenna Roberts) and "Henry" (Noah Cottrell). The family has currently been staying in the residential area of a massive, thousand foot story, super building in Hong Kong, known as "The Pearl", where Will works as a security supervisor. The developer of the building, "Zhao Long Ji" (Chin Han), who assures Will that nothing bad could possibly ever happen in the history of ever. (Have you ever seen an action movie? This was never going to end well.) With aid from Will's traitorous friend, "Ben" (Pablo Schreiber), a group of terrorists attack, led by the violent "Kores Botha" (Roland Møller).

 The villains set a floor on the building on fire, arranging for Botha's pretty henchwoman, "Xia" (Hannah Quinlivan) to steal a tablet from Will, which gives her complete control over the security to the Pearl. Zhao and his assistants are all trapped inside the building, including the obviously, totally not evil, "Mr. Pierce" (Noah Taylor), along with Will's family. Now believed by the cops to be part of the terrorist group, Will has to avoid the police and make his way up into the Pearl, in spectacularly ridiculous fashion, dodging evil villains, explosions, and all kinds of video game-esque obstacles, in an attempt to save his family. Eventually, Will discovers what the bad guys are after, along with their plans for Zhao, resulting in him becoming that badass superhero we would all wish we could be in a situation like this. (To be honest, I'd fall to my death 10 minutes in. Very anti-climatic.)

 From the director of "We're the Millers" and "Central Intelligence", Rawson Marshall Thurber (I'll admit, not a bad first action movie outing), "Skyscraper" is the silly, big budgeted action movie you would expect  it to be. (And honestly, want it to be) So really, there isn't much to complain about. It's a movie that's exactly what's advertised to you, without too many surprises, but also nothing so outlandish that it completely ruins the ridiculous amount of fun the movie has to offer. Solid visuals and despite it's rehashed plot, the film's action scenes are certainly original. Preying off the audience's fear of heights (Realistically, everyone should be afraid on heights. Falling from thousands of stories? How is that not terrifying?), the movie is surprisingly suspenseful, with a few moments that will likely have you on the edge of your seat. Even when the film goes down the predictable route, you feel oddly invested, mostly because our heroes are very likable, very relatable, and even in the most preposterous of situations, come across fairly realistic. (Well, as realistic as you could possibly be in a movie like this.) 

 Dwayne Johnson can carry a movie like this without even trying, but one thing I've learned about him as of late, is that he will give it his all regardless of what the movie is. Neve Campbell also gives capable performance, getting way more to do than your average damsel in distress. (In fact, she handles herself very well and rarely needs to actually get saved.) Chin Han pretty much just has the same, stoned face expression the entire film. Our villains are as over the top as they can possibly be in the best way possible, with Roland Møller being a capable threat, Hannah Quinlivan being cutely evil and shooting people for no reason (That's absolutely a thing), and the still obviously, totally not evil Noah Taylor smarming the crap out of his role. On the downside, our police characters (As usual) are as stupid as ever. (At what point did Will look like he was one of the bad guys? I get the whole "He's returning to the scene of the crime" mentality, but he's literally jumping head first into it. He's obviously not one of them!)

 "Skyscraper" is cartoonish as Hell, Then again, what did you expect? It's supposed to be. It's also a ton of fun, with some original action set pieces that are the right amount of dumb and the right amount of exhilarating. It's not as good (Or as intelligent) as action movies can aspire to be, but it's got a hero that's easy to root for (Who also keeps his humanity in tact, even when performing crazy, unrealistic stunts) and enough thrills to make for a quick, competently made, undemanding sit. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Blood, And Death From Fall/Exploding At The Same Time. (Come On, You Know That Was Awesome.)    

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation                                                                                                                   ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for hotel transylvania 3 movie

Image: "I promise I'll stop sucking this time!"

 Everyone should know I've never been much of a fan of the "Hotel Transylvania" franchise, with it seeming like another vehicle for Adam Sandler and his buddies to just hang out and phone it in, with an overly in your face, obnoxious nature (Both figuratively and literally). The first one, while not the absolute worst, was just annoying, with limited plot and the second one was just, well, the worst. Yet, they had a fanbase and a big one at that, with the series making piles upon piles of money. It's funny though, while the fans seem to be considering this latest entry to be the weakest out of all of them, with too much frenetic humor and little story. Did you guys....Did you guys see the others? That's right! I still don't get it, but I oddly somewhat, awkwardly recommend it! 

 "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" sees the return of all those monsters voiced by comedians with little shame. Hotel owner, "Count Dracula" (Adam Sandler) is lonely, not having been on a date since the death of his wife. To get him out of his rut, Dracula's daughter, "Mavis" (Selena Gomez) decides he needs a vacation. Arranging for a cruise, Mavis brings Dracula, along with all their friends, including her still dangerously stupid husband, "Johnny" (Andy Samberg), "Frank the Frankenstein" (Kevin James), and his loud wife "Eunice" (Fran Drescher), "Wayne the Werewolf" (Steve Buscemi) and his wife, "Wanda" (Molly Shannon), "Murray the Mummy" (Keegan-Michael Key), "Griffin, the Invisible Man" (David Spade), Dracula's dad, "Vlad" (Mel Brooks), and uh, well, the rest. (There are way too many characters in this series)

 While on the cruise, Dracula meets the captain, "Ericka" (Kathryn Hahn) and immediately falls in love with her, or "Zinged" as the characters say. (Stop trying to make that a catchphrase. It's never gonna be one! Never!) Little do Dracula and his buddies know however, Ericka is the great, granddaughter of famed monster hunter, "Abraham Van Helsing" (Jim Gaffigan), who is so old, he is basically just a head and arms connected to robotic parts. Van Helsing has a plan to kill all the monsters and finally get his revenge on Dracula, with Ericka being part of his grand scheme. Ericka sets out to finish the job herself, with the love-struck Dracula desperately trying to woo her. 

 Once again directed by critically acclaimed animator (And a guy way too talented for this), Genndy Tartakovsky (Creator of "Samurai Jack", "Dexter's Laboratory", and that "Clone Wars" cartoon that's no longer canon), "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" seems somewhat different from the other movies in the series. Everything feels much calmer, less sporadic, and most importantly, there's an actual plot this time! Yeah, it's a simple, fairly predictable one. However, the movie seems much more focused than before and while there is still some filler here and there, the movie never loses sight of what actually works and leaves behind (Or at least limits) what doesn't. It probably helps that Tartakovsky also wrote the script this time, which doesn't have many big laughs, but at least offers plenty of chuckles and clever moments. (Such as an Airline run completely by Gremlins, or a giant monster puppy named "Tinkles", who is the one of the cutest animated characters I've ever seen.)

 Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, and all their pals are all basically just here to play exaggerated, animated monster versions of themselves once more. Hands down, the most enjoyable one of the group being Steve Buscemi (And Molly Shannon, actually getting something to do for once). We get a few funny lines from the still underutilized, but always welcome, Mel Brooks and Chris Parnell (as "Stan", a fishman, whose only human part is his giant feet). The new additions are easily some of the best, with Kathryn Hahn and Jim Gaffigan perfectly cast as our villains, who are both a delight. The real star here is the animation, with the lively world and characters, which was always impressive regardless of the quality of the actual films themselves. It's very bouncy, wiggly, and constantly moving like a Looney Tunes cartoon, but for the first time in this entire series, the film realizes that it needs to take a chill pill and just let a slow moment happen. (The kids will remain focused. Don't worry.)

 I'm not going to say I like this franchise now, because it's obviously still not too much different from the others. It's still occasionally loud, too many characters with little to do for all of them, and a big dance party finale (Why was the "Macarena" a thing?). With that said, "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" tones down those annoyances, showing off some genuine charm and cleverness, along with positive messages about prejudice that were only hinted upon in previous movies. It's just a nice little kids movie that doesn't treat them like idiots, but instead just plays itself in a safe, though sweet way. See? I've just been incredibly fair to what is yet another obvious Sandler cash grab. That....That wasn't easy for me. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Goofy Humor And Shapely, Animated Derrieres. (Seriously, What Is With Animated Movies And Booty Lately?)

Sorry to Bother You                           ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for sorry to bother you movieImage: "I'm just going to put you on hold for 12 minutes....Or so."

 Another movie I had no intention of originally writing a full review for. I only have so much time on my hands. I work, I provide (For my cat), I am constantly seeing movies, and sometimes, some smaller films have to be left out mostly because I don't have the time for it. (Also, typing so much hurts my fingers.) Then like "First Reformed", you get a movie that leaves you so awestruck by insanity, that you just gotta talk about it. Sure, I gotta be vague, but I have to say something. 

 Set in some surreal, alternate version of preset day Oakland, "Sorry to Bother You" follows "Cassius "Cash" Green" (Lakeith Stanfield) who, despite having a pretty, artistic girlfriend, "Detroit" (Tess Thompson), lives a poor, difficult life. Living in a garage belonging to his uncle, "Sergio" (Terry Crews), Cash can't seem to find a job, until he finds a position as a telemarketer for a company known as "RegalView". Having some difficulty getting people to listen to him over the phone, Cash is suggested to by a co-worker, "Langston" (Danny Glover) to instead use his "White Voice", while on the phone with people. Soon, Cash's white voice (Which is dubbed over with David Cross) begins to help him shoot up the telemarketing hierarchy, all the way to the fabled superior position known as "Power Caller", while his friends/co-workers, "Salvador" (Jermaine Fowler) and "Squeeze" (Steven Yeun) fight for better working conditions.

 When Cash starts to getting buddy buddy with the um, interestingly named boss, "Mr. _______" (Played in person by Omari Hardwick, with his white voice dubbed by Patton Oswalt), eventually leading to Cash meeting the eccentric CEO of a exploitative, nearly world dominating corporation, "Steve Lift" (Armie Hammer). I'm gonna stop right here in terms of detailing an actual synopsis. So here's the quick rundown. Cash becomes more successful at the expense of those around him, slowly losing himself and then things get freakin crazy in unimaginable ways. That's all you need to know. 

 From Writer, Director, Rapper, Producer (He does it all), Boots Riley, "Sorry to Bother You" is a bizarre piece of satirical filmmaking unlike any film you'll ever come across in your life. When it starts, you think you're in the real world, then next thing you know, our main character is being hoisted into the same room as the person he is on the phone with. You get out of nowhere cutaway gags, strange imagery and apparel, and all kinds of things I can't talk about without spoiling where it all goes. It's a sporadically directed film, that actually benefits from it. You're supposed to feel off throughout the movie, while laughing hysterically in an uncomfortable manner, and getting a few concepts and ideas explained in a complex, but crazy way that you would never think you'd see in the same film.

 Lakeith Stanfield, known for his memorable part in "Get Out" and was probably the best part of the live action version of "Death Note", gets to completely take over the spotlight. He carries the film with charm, personality, and tons of star power, with some hilarious reactions to the insanity and plenty of likability. Tessa Thompson is all kinds of awesome, with some funny moments from Jermaine Fowler, Kate Berlant (as "Diana DeBauchery", the middle manager who is way too horny), and Omari Hardwick. There are some fun small parts from Danny Glover and Steven Yuen, along with David Cross' voice being both awkwardly off putting and funny. (Not to mention a few unexpected surprises that you need to stick around during the credits to see). Then there's an absolutely riotous Armie Hammer, whose honestly pretty brilliant here. It's a flawlessly deranged caricature of the worst kind of rich white dude you can possibly imagine. (Then again, these days you swear those kinds of people exist.)

 "Sorry to Bother You" is what I assume it's like to be on drugs. (Only going on assumption here.) It's full of wacky visual symbolism (And sometimes things that are just weird for the sake of being weird.), some great characters, and some laugh out loud dialogue. It's a bit sloppy at times (Some characters just sort of fade into the background or straight up vanish), but the film's main focus remains on the point. We get discussion about police brutality, corporate greed, worker conditions, artistic integrity, our current politic environment, and minority representation. It's crazy good satire at it's best. And straight up trippy. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And Horse Penis. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp                         ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for antman and the wasp movieImage: The insects are huge in this building.

 We all needed this. After getting our hearts brutally ripped out of our bodies by Thanos earlier this year with "Avengers: Infinity War", witnessing beloved heroes just fading from existence, with little to no hope remaining in the power of good being able to triumph over the ultimate evil......We needed to see a human sized ant play some drums. 

 "Ant-Man and the Wasp" starts with former criminal, "Scott Lang/Ant-Man" (Paul Rudd), forced to remain under house arrest for two years following the events of "Captain America: Civil War" (Where everyone beat each other up). He is unable to have contact with the original Ant-Man, "Dr. Hank Pym" (Michael Douglas) and his daughter/Scott's love interest, "Hope/The Wasp" (Evangeline Lily), who are currently in hiding and pissed off about it. While Pym and Hope work on finding a way into the microscopic quantum realm, where Pym's missing wife/the original Wasp, "Janet" (Michelle Pfeiffer) may still be alive within, Scott spends his time hanging out with his daughter, "Cassie" (Abby Ryder Forston). Scott has a dream where he sees Janet within the quantum realm (Which is where he went to during the first film), calling Pym, who sneaks Scott out of his house to get his help in finding a way inside.

 The trio work within a portal lab (Which can be shrunken down into a suitcase), but end up losing the lab after getting double crossed by southern black market dealer, "Sonny Burch" (Walton Goggins). The lab ends up in the hands of the mysterious "Ghost" (Hannah John-Kamen), who has the ability to faze in and out of reality. Ghost has a personal grudge against Pym and plans to use the lab for her own goals, with Scott, Hope, and Pym, with some help from Scott's talkative friend, "Luis" (Michael Peña) are on a mission to track Ghost down and get the lab back. This all leads to a series of chases, narrow escapes, lots of shrinking and growing, all while Scott pretends to still be home, avoiding FBI agent "Jimmy Woo" (Randall Park). 

 The 20th entry into the still expanding, still strong Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" is a light hearted romp that's definitely necessary after the dark, powerful ending to "Infinity War" (Still having trouble recovering here.). Once again directed by Peyton Reed, the movie is full of laughs and charm, with enough cleverness to overcome the simplistic, but still very effective plot. It's one of the more straight up comedies to come out of the MCU, which works in part to it's cast, but also to the smart script (Which Paul Rudd is credited as one of the Co-Writers). Even with all the humor, it's still a superhero flick, so you get plenty of action, which plays with the constant size changing, making it all the more exciting than you would expect. (The big car chase at the climax is one of the most original action scenes to come out of the entire film universe, and is a highlight.)

 Paul Rudd is essentially the perfect choice for this character, remaining lovable, funny, and serving as probably one of the most normal superheroes in film. (He's really just some guy who got caught up in everything.) Evangeline Lily is totally badass, getting her time to shine, even when sharing the limelight with Rudd. Michael Douglas brings his A game, getting to have fun and deliver some of the more serious moments, along with Laurence Fishburne (as "Bill Foster", an old friend of Pym before a falling out), who seems to have left DC for the winning team. (Seriously though. DC, step up your game!) Some of the funniest moments come from out supporting characters, like Tip "T.I." Harris and David Dastmalchian (as "Dave" and "Kurt", Luis and Scott's bumbling partners), Randall Park, and the once again, absolutely hilarious Michael Peña. Michelle Pfieffer (Though she appears briefly) is great, Abby Ryder Fortson is a little ball of personality, and Walton Goggins, who may or may not even need to be here, but is always welcome and is a delight as always. Our villain (If you would even completely consider her one), Hannah John-Kamen gets a bit more complexity than most antagonists in superhero movies, with a motivation and backstory that make you understand her character's situation and sympathize with her. 

 For something that could of just simply been a throwaway sequel, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" delivers on plenty of comedy, insanely clever action, and even a few heartwarming moments, which make for a tamer, but still plenty fun Marvel outing. (And yes, there is a tie in to "Infinity War" during the post credits scene, and yes, it may serve as an explanation for what is to come.) It goes to show that Marvel just has this whole thing down, and even when they're not going for anything grand, I just can't see anyone logically disliking it. It's smaller in scale (See what I did there?), but big on what we already love about Marvel. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor, Ant Warfare, And Size Comparisons. 

The First Purge                                  ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Not real life....Not real life.

 I'm gonna admit to everyone, I get a little disappointment when we go a year without a "Purge" movie. Yeah, it's silly, overly violent, and lacking in any subtlety whatsoever. But there is something to them that just fills me with a bizarre sense of joy. You get craziness, some solid creep factors, and even with in your face politics, there are points to be made. Trump just said Putin was fine! Just great! The real world doesn't make sense anyway anymore!!!  

 Taking place years before the first "Purge" movie, "The First Purge" (The fourth in the series, that comes before the other three, but is labeled as the first due to continuity. The Fourth, But First Purge.) opens with America getting a new leadership in the form of the "NFFA" (New Founding Fathers of America). Naive (To put it in nice terms) psychologist, "Dr. May Updale" (Marisa Tomei) suggests a strange social experiment, which will require people to let out all their hate, rage, and aggression for one full 12 hour night, which would be later referred to as "The Purge". Containing the event to Staten Island, the night is closing in with many of the civilians either preparing to go nuts or simply preparing for the worst. Beloved community, uh, drug dealer, "Dimitri" (Y'Lan Noel) is more concerned about keeping the people he cares about safe, along with his ex, "Nya" (Lex Scott Davis), who is worried for her brother, "Isaiah" (Jovian Wade), and heavily protests the Purge.

 Isaiah meanwhile, gets cut by psychopathic addict, "Skeletor" (Rotimi Paul), who is hungry to purge, kill, and just plain do whatever he wants, prompting Isaiah to remain on the island when the Purge commences for a little revenge. Soon the night gets underway, with people looting, having wild parties, and all kinds of crazy debauchery. Of course, the slimy Chief of Staff, "Arlo Sabian" (Patch Darragh) is completely with the NFFA's true intentions, which is to take care of the supposed overpopulation problem. (Which means, send in Nazis, rednecks, KKK members, and mercenaries to kill poor minorities.) Chaos reigns, the bodies begin to pile up, and eventually, the people start to fight back. 

 "The First Purge" continues the series' streak of hypocritical celebration of guns and violence, while also telling everyone how bad this all is. It's full of blood and gore, with people dying in over the top, exploitative fashion. The premise is as silly and possibly unrealistic as ever, but there's some solid world building, expanding and elaborating on what led up to how the series began. There are a few extra bits of information that may not be entirely necessary. However, they feel very much welcome, such as the fact when the actual "Purge" starts, people are instead partying in the streets, having orgies, an stealing stuff, while the killing itself escalates until later in the night. (Which feels a bit more realistic. Never understood why killing was the go to activity for this thing.) 

 While the script relies more on the trashy side, which constant swears and goofy dialogue, the cast itself is more solid than probably needed. Y'Lan Noel (Whose character of drug dealer looking for redemption....through vigilantism is a bit odd.), Lex Scott Davis, and Jovian Wade all do some good work here, actually taking the ridiculousness seriously and selling it. We get some random moments of sass from Mugga (as "Dolores", the big, sassy wisecracking lady), and Rotimi Paul just lets it all out in glorious, cartoon villain fashion, with eyes bulging, teeth rotting, and mad cackles. (Gotta love "Purge" villains) On the down side, Marisa Tomei (Who is still doing a fine enough job for what she has to do), makes for possibly the dumbest character I've seen in a long time. Seriously, how did you not see any of this evil crap coming? You suggested a night of free crime! How are you shocked by the outcome? 

 "The First Purge" is a glorified exploitation film, which is what the series always has been. The violence is constant, with how extreme it all goes leading to some questionable material that probably shouldn't be as successful as it is. With that said, there is some suspense, some creepy masks and costumes, fine performances, and political commentary that might seem heavy handed, but with the current state of politics (And what people in politics feel content saying), it's all fair game. (Although that mid-credits scene, which was just a TV spot for the upcoming TV series was stupid and kind of pathetic really) It's a series that remains enjoyable in spite of it's in your face attitude, and actually even seems to have evolved a little from where it began. Can't we all just evolve? 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence Involving Knives, Guns, Explosives, And Political Subtext.

Uncle Drew                                                 ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for uncle drew movieImage:  The Dream Team?

 I'm a complete nerd in a lot of things. "Star Wars", DC Comics (And a few Marvel ones), pointless facts to geeky related stuff. But sports, everything involved with them, completely goes over my head. Football, Baseball, Basketball, all the balls. Don't get any of it. Never played them. Never had any interest in them. Never really thought much about them. Unless it's in a movie. I'm a dork okay. You guys should know this by now. Enjoy your Hockey, or Soccer, or whatever. To each his own. But, of course I'm rooting for the U.S.A. in soccer's World Cup....Wait, really? 

 "Uncle Drew" opens with down on his luck hero, "Dax" (Lil Rel Howery) losing his life savings trying to get a team together for the big Rucker Class street ball tournament, with his star player, "Casper" (Aaron Gordon) and his selfish girlfriend, "Jess" (Tiffany Haddish) to his longtime, somewhat crazy rival, "Mookie" (Nick Kroll). Looking for a replacement team for the tournament, he comes across an old, legendary Basketball player, "Uncle Drew" (Kyrie Irving, in old man makeup). Seeing that the old fart still has skill, Dax gets Uncle Drew to be a part of his new team, so long as Drew gets to get his old crew back together. The duo sets out to gather the old squad, consisting actual players in old people makeup, including "Big Fella" (Shaquille O'Neal), who isn't on speaking terms with Uncle Drew anymore, "Lights" (Reggie Miller), who is legally blind, "Preacher" (Chris Webber), who is forced to flee from his crazy wife, "Betty Lou" (Lisa Leslie), and the handicapped "Boots" (Nate Robinson), who also brings along his granddaughter/Dax's new love interest, "Maya" (Erica Ash). This new squad has a goal of proving that they can still play the game, prove those naysayers wrong, and mostly just confuse a guy like me with all those Basketball terms. I don't understand any of it! 

 Apparently based on some "Pepsi Max" advertisements that were a thing at one point (I had no idea what that was till I looked it up.), "Uncle Drew" is the ultimate case of getting exactly what you pay for. It's a goofy, predictable, fairly cheap cheesefest that does deliver on some silly laughs and a sense of endearment, that doesn't have a mean spirited, cynical bone in it's body. Directed by Charles Stone III (A name so awesome, you gotta have it three times), the film is nothing spectacular by any means, and the direction is basic, by the book, along with the plot itself, which goes through every point you would expect it to go. However, that's basically the point of it all. The film is meant to be a weird little throwback to 90s era crowdpleasers that shouldn't have any trouble finding an audience. 

 Lil Rel Howery (Previously seen stealing the show in last year's "Get Out") once again shows how funny and likable an actor he can be, easily holding the film together with his personality and charm alone. The true life Basketball players, consisting of Kyrie Irving, former NBA stars Chris Webber, Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller, Nate Robinson, and former WNBA legend Lisa Leslie aren't necessarily the best actors, but have plenty of star power and screen presence to make what's given work for what it is. (Not to mention the makeup is actually not bad at all. It's not award worthy or anything, but we've all seen worse.) Erica Ash does nothing other but play the typical love interest, Tiffany Haddish plays her usual wacky self and gets plenty of laughs doing it, and Nick Kroll is at his most bonkers, clearly having the absolute time of his life here. 

 "Uncle Drew" is pure formula, and it will probably leave your mind not too long after seeing it. It just so happens to have a few funny moments sprinkled throughout and a good heart, with the best of intentions. It's certainly better than any movie apparently produced by freakin' Pepsi has any right to be. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Shaq Ass. 

Sicario: Day of the Soldado                                                                                                                                               ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: I think he is displeased with you.

 Sometimes we just didn't realize how much we wanted a sequel. The first "Sicario", directed by acclaimed Director Denis Villeneuve (Who also did "Arrival", "Prisoners", and "Blade Runner 2049") gave us a tense, morally complex, thought provoking, and thoroughly uncompromising thriller that didn't quite get the recognition it deserved. (No Oscar nomination for Benicio del Toro? Come on!) It's ending was enough to satisfy and could see it as a standalone film. However, aside from, you know, money, people saw that you could have something here. Something dark, dramatic, and just plain brutal. 

 "Sicario: Day of Soldado" opens with a few suicide bombers, who appear to have been snuggled across the United States Border, causing the deaths of some innocent civilians. The Secretary of Defense, "James Riley" (Matthew Modine) and CIA Deputy Director, "Cynthia Foards" (Catherine Keener) send in "Matt Graver" (Josh Brolin) to go down to Mexico and take control of the situation, which might lead to getting the Mexican cartels added to the Terrorist Watch List. Matt brings in his mysterious, undercover operative, "Alejandro Gillick" (Benicio del Toro) once again to handle the mission. After killing a high profile lawyer for the cartel, they set out to kidnap "Isabela Reyes" (Isabela Moner), the daughter of the one of the drug lords who arranged previously for the death of Alejandro's family, and blame it on a rival cartel in hopes of starting a war between the various cartels.

 Next, the plan is to arrange for Isabela to be sent back, only for the whole thing to go south. Alejandro and Isabela are stranded, with Matt being ordered to "Fix the problem", which means Isabela needs to be gone. Alejandro, despite his ruthlessness, has no intention of following that order, intending to get Isabela and himself to safety, with everyone now after them. Meanwhile, we also follow a young kid, "Miguel" (Elijah Rodriguez), who has his own subplot, becoming involved with the drug running and people smuggling from Mexico, which will eventually play a part in the overall story.  

 Much like the first film, "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is full of haunting imagery, nightmarish sequences of violence and death, that the film basically forces the images into the minds of audience, making sure that they remember them once the film ends. Directed this time by Stefano Sollima (Mostly known for Italian films that I've never heard of.), the film is a slow burn, with stunning cinematography, always keeping the suspense amped up. It all usually escalating into a fiery action set piece that's savagely, but realistically violent. It's also helped by the calm, but effectively frightening score by Hildur Guðnadóttir, replacing the Oscar nominated/sadly deceased composer from the previously film, Jóhann Jóhannsson. (It's not quite same person as the last film, but we still do get that one epic music cue from the first every now and then.)

 Benicio del Toro (This time serving as our main character), is once again brilliant. He's a scary, compelling, complicated character that shows himself to be very human, even though he is basically a monster who kills without remorse. Previously robbed of an Oscar nomination before, lets see if he gets one this time around. Josh Brolin (Who continues to have one Hell of a year with this, along with "Deadpool 2" and "Avengers: Infinity War") continues to shine, with a charismatic performance. Isabela Moner (Last seen in the unspeakable horror that was "Transformers: The Last Knight") is terrific, with even her character coming across as morally intricate. (This little girl knows damn well what her dad does and uses that to her advantage!) We get excellent small parts from Catherine Keener, a really slimy Matthew Modine, Jeffrey Donovan (as "Steve", one of Matt's men) getting a few quips occasionally, among others. (It seems even quick parts have a role in where the film all goes.)

 Written once again by the great Taylor Sheridan ("Wind River", "Hell or High Water"), "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" mixes in complicated characterizations, with hard, unrelenting drama, and moments of humor (Or moments of the characters injecting it to lighten the mood), to tell a bleak story. One could make the argument that a sequel wasn't asked for and the film somewhat falters towards the end when it seemingly sets itself up for another one. (And there is also something that happens towards the end that may or may not be realistic. Not sure if bullets and headshots work that way.) There also seems to be a bit of a narrative that the film will give people the wrong idea that all Mexicans are all violent drug dealers. (Look, if you think that after watching this movie, you're either already racist or incredibly stupid.) However, one can't possibly deny the powerful impact of the film's dark messages, that will either leave you depressed and wanting to get away from it as fast as possible, or will have you captivated and compelled to see where it all goes next. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Realistic Violence, Strong Language, And Horrifying Acts By Both Terrorists And The Supposed "Good Guys". 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom                                                                                                                                       ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for jurassic world fallen kingdomImage: "Cute little pooch....Maybe I've got a milk bone!"

 Franchises change over the years. Sometimes for the better (Such as "The Fast and the Furious", "Mission Impossible", and arguable to some, the "Star Wars" series). Sometimes for the worse (Such as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, or even the "Transformers" series. Granted, those were never good anyway). Then sometimes they just sort of....change, and your enjoyment is mostly based on if you're okay with that or not. That's where "Jurassic Park" falls into. (See how I didn't use the word "Evolve" once? Trust me, it was hard not using that pun.)

 "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" follows the events with the last film, where it's revealed that "Isla Nublar" (The island where this whole cloned Dino ordeal began/current site of the now closed "Jurassic World" theme park) is in danger of being destroyed by a volcano, which will also wipe out all the poor Dinosaurs still living there.This sparks a debate on whether humanity should rescue the trapped animals, or do what "Dr. Ian Malcolm" (Jeff Goldblum) says and "Let them, uh, die.". A former manager at Jurassic World, "Claire Dearing" (Bryce Dallas Howard), feeling guilty about her role in the previous incident, has become a rights activist for Dinosaurs, is contacted by "Benjamin Lockwood" (James Cromwell), former partner to the deceased "John Hammond" (Previously played by Richard Attenborough). Lockwood and his "Obviously not evil" aide, "Eli Mills" (Rafe Spall) arrange for Claire to be a part of an expedition back to the island to rescue as many of the trapped Dinosaurs as possible, most importantly the super intelligent Velociraptor, "Blue". This means Claire has to get the help of her ex, "Owen Grady" (Chris Pratt) who after some convincing, joins the expedition.

 The team arrives on the island, led mean mercenary, "Ken Wheatley" (Ted Levine), eventually tracking down Blue.....only for Wheatley's team to betray Owen and Claire because Mills is evil! (Well he is played by Rafe Spall. Who what did you expect?) The island explodes, with it being revealed that Mills, who is going behind Lockwood's back, wants the captured Dinosaurs to be sold off in an auction, run by "Gunnar Eversol" (Toby Jones). Meanwhile Blue, along with a tooth from that monster Dinosaur from the last movie, is used to lead to the creation of more Franken-Dinos by the traitorous, "Dr. Henry Wu" (B. D. Wong), which results in the creation of the monstrous (And surprisingly sadistic) "Indoraptor". Following the villains back to Lockwood's estate, Owen, Claire, along with their comic relief buddies, "Franklin" (Justice Smith) and "Zia" (Daniella Pineda), go to shut down the auction, and hopefully prevent the creation of more monster Dinosaurs, which also includes a little mystery involving Lockwood's granddaughter, "Maisie" (Isabella Sermon).  

 It's funny to mention the "Fast and Furious" franchise, because that's essentially what "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" is like. It's become so ridiculous, and unapologetically dumb that you're either going to be on board for the wild ride or you're just going to wish you had gotten off long ago. (Really though, the franchise stopped being the same one four movies ago.) The Science Fiction elements have become more absurd, with silly plot points and a few sloppy moments. However, the film is never dull, is always filled with visual wonder and spectacle, and is certainly unpredictable, which is mostly thanks to Director J. A. Bayona ("A Monster Calls", "The Impossible").. He constructs an exciting, action packed blockbuster, with excellent special effects (Despite a few weak points. Still can't beat the original there either.), and even when the film gets dumb, it's competently made popcorn munching entertainment. 

 Chris Pratt has become reliable in these kinds of roles, and is generally good enough to carry a film like this, along with the impossible cuteness of Bryce Dallas Howard. Rafe Spall shows up to do what he does best, which is be an evil weasel, while Justice Smith (Who has probably the most realistic reactions to everything that happens here) and Daniella Pineda are just here for comedic effect, but serve their purpose well. We get some small parts from James Cromwell, the always delightful Toby Jones, and the always great (And always underutilized) B. D. Wong, along with Ted Levine getting probably the most memorable sequence in the film. Not to mention our Jeff Goldblum cameo, which is a nice addition regardless of how important it actually was. There are some plot elements and reveals involving Isabella Sermon that are, lets just say, questionable and a little weird, but is mostly saved by the fact that she's a solid young actress and sells the various emotions of terror well. (Honestly, they should of just committed to it all.)

 The real scene stealers here are the Dinosaurs themselves. I give credit to the film actually addressing the fact tht these are animals, that have personalities, which makes the debate of saving them at least plausible. (They're not too different from anything we have now. They're just bigger, stronger, and smarter. And we all need to eat you know). While the CGI varies at times, it still makes for some awesome set pieces, giving audiences that sick thrill of Dinosaurs munching down on people in crazy fashion. Blue is oddly adorable for a creature that can rip you in half with her clawed foot, while I will never get tired of seeing old Rexy (The returning T-Rex from the original film) roar triumphantly. The new Indoraptor makes for a nonsensical story due to typical Science Fiction mumbo jumbo. However, the creature is undeniably terrifying, menacing as Hell, and because of the odd evil grins it makes throughout, is just pretty cool looking. (It's essentially a serial killer in Dinosaur form.)

 It's all silly stuff, leading to an ending that will either have you tilting your head in confusion or having you cheering at the sheer sight of the film's last shots. (Or both actually. You can do both.) "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" will test your endurance for ludicrousness, and I doubt we will ever see anything that matches the original majesty of the original 1993 Spielberg film. There is still some heart and humor, with some fun horror elements mixed in and enough excitement that will make for a fun (And of course, profitable) big, summer blockbuster. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Dino Violence, And Moral Repercussions That Could Destroy The Normality Of All Life On This Planet....Seriously....  

Incredibles 2                                              ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for incredibles 2

Image: We all know who wears the latex in this family.

 14 years.....14 years!!!!......14 YEARS! We were, we were little! We were so full of wonder and innocence back then. Now we're cynical, old-ish, we all realized Elastigirl is pretty hot, etc. Bottom line, we changed. Thankfully, Disney, Pixar, and returning Director Brad Bird (Who also gave us "Ratatouille", "The Iron Giant", "Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol") heard our cries, pleas, and knowing the internet, rants, and gave us what we wanted. 

 "Incredibles 2" picks up literally seconds after the first one, with the beloved super powered Parr family, taking on the over the top supervillain, "The Underminer" (John "Pixar's Good Luck Charm" Ratzenberger). The family, consisting of the super strong father, "Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible" (Craig T. Nelson), the super stretchy, "Helen Parr/Elastigirl" (Holly Hunter), along with their kids, the speedy "Dash" (Huck Milner), the daughter, "Violet" (Sarah Vowell), who has the power of invisibility, and their baby "Jack Jack" (Who nobody realizes has powers), still having to deal with the fact that superheroes (Or "Supers", as they're referred to) are still outlawed. The damage caused by the battle with the Underminer, results in the family being forced to relocate to a hotel, with their government agent ally, "Rick Dicker" (Jonathan Banks) no longer being able to provide for them.

Their luck changes when Bob's ice powered best buddy, "Lucius Best/Frozone" (Samuel L. Jackson) introduces him and Helen to rich superhero fanboy, "Wiston Deaver" (Bob Odenkirk) and his tech savvy sister, "Evelyn" (Catherine Keener), who wish to make Supers legal again, with Elastigirl being seen as the best one suited to convincing the masses due to how less destructive she is than the others. So with the mother gone, Bob is forced to become a stay at home dad, having to deal with Dash's confusing schoolwork, Violet's boyfriend issues, and the fact that Jack Jack not only has powers, but he has a dangerous amount of them. Meanwhile, Elastigirl sets out to save civilians and prove to the world that they need Supers back, all while coming across a new, mind controlling villain known as "The Screenslaver" (Bill Wise).

 Lets refrain from using the word "Incredible" at all when talking about this movie. "Incredibles 2" doesn't set out to repeat, but instead continue what was shown previously and expand. It's pretty brilliant how the film flows from the last one, not just in terms of story and character, but also in how stunning the animation has gotten, despite the original being a Pixar best at the time in terms of that. The animated on the characters is lively, mixing well with the incre...awesome action sequences, that are on the same standard with most live-action superhero movies. Not to mention the great score by Michael Giacchino ("Star Trek", "Up", "War for the Planet of the Apes", the first "The Incredibles", and many more), which fits with the old fashioned 60s era setting (That does still somehow have futuristic technology), adding to the epic scope of it all. 

 Holly Hunter, who is more in the forefront this time around, is perfectly cast, with an instantly lovable voice, working well as the technical main character. However, none of the family gets less time than any of the others, with the film keeping the family dynamic (Which is one of the best parts of the last movie) perfectly intact, with the characters developing further. Craig T. Nelson's voice is just instantly funny, with his storyline adding in plenty of laughs and heart. Sarah Vowell and Huck Milner (Replacing the actor from the last movie, due to kids aging over 14 years.) both have their roles, with Jack Jack stealing the show as the most adorably, chaotic baby you'll ever see (Well, next to my little sister). Samuel L. Jackson is great as usual, Bob Odenkirk sounds like he's having the time of his life, Sophia Bush (as "Voyd", a young super/fangirl of Elastigirl) pops up to sound cute, but ends up having a bit more to do later, and of course, the entire audience applauded at the appearance of eccentric, tiny fashion designer, "Edna Mode" (Once again voiced by Brad Bird), getting one of the funniest sequences in the movie. The only real downside is that the villain this time feels a bit weak (Mostly if you compare her to Jason Lee's hilarious/menacing "Syndrome" from the last movie), with the plotline being fairly easy to predict. Still, the character is certainly a threat, and overall has a reason behind the villainy.

 Where the film shines most is just how funny it is, making "Incredibles 2" just as good as the first one. (Actually this movie might even be a little funnier than the original.) The script and dialogue is laugh out loud, also having been written by Brad Bird (Which will get kids, adults, and the many man babies going to see this to burst out with laughter). There is still a heartwarming, and slightly mature factor that makes this another Pixar movie for everyone. You get your comedy, your superhero action, some family drama, all put together in beautiful animation. Perfect for the whole family, and an incredible good time....Darn it. Couldn't make it through the whole....incredible review. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Violence, Some Adult Content, A Little Language, And Baby On Raccoon Violence. 

Tag                                                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for tag movie

Image: I'll tag Isla Fisher. 

 Well, I've heard stranger things before. To be honest, Tag is one of those games that really is pretty timeless. Anyone can play, at any point, you get some much needed exercise while doing it, and it usually results in someone getting hurt in hilarious fashion. Classic! 

 Based-ish on a true-ish story, "Tag" follows a group of friends, "Hoagie" (Ed Helms), "Jerry" (Jeremy Renner), "Bob" (John Hamm), "Chilli" (Jake Johnson), and "Kevin" (Hannibal Buress), who since they were nine, having been playing the same game of "Tag", throughout the month of May ever since. Hoagie gets word that Jerry is getting married to "Susan" (Leslie Bibb), and will be retiring from the game, since ever since they began playing, Jerry has never actually been tagged. Hoagie, along with his over competitive wife, "Anna" (Isla Fisher) gather the group together, along with a journalist, "Rebecca" (Annabelle Wallis), who takes a weird interest in the game (Mostly because of how freakin stupid it all is), and decides to write a story on it. The old gang gathers at Jerry's wedding, hoping to finally tag him, coming up with all kinds of crazy schemes, while getting caught up in Jerry's somewhat twisted attempts to avoid getting tagged. 

 "Tag" is silly and plays out like a cartoon, with outrageous sequences of slapstick and pure ridiculousness. (A scene in particular in the woods, involving an onslaught of traps makes for one of the memorable scenes.) It's so stupid, but the film knows it's stupid, and it's hard not to get more than a few chuckles, or even some genuine laugh out loud moments, out of it all. Competently and simply directed by Jeff Tomsic (In his directorial debut), with a script that doesn't rely too heavily on the actors to ad lib. Tomsic just lets them play their parts and be funny naturally, instead of trying to force it. 

 The solid cast gives at least our main stars enough screentime so that none of them feel shortchanged, consisting of Ed Helms, John Hamm (Who actually gets something to do and looks like he's having fun doing it), Jake Johnson, the hilariously deadpan Hannibal Buress, with Jeremy Renner, along with his CGI arms (Long story short. He got injured, so they did that.), just going full blown nuts, showing once again what an underappreciated actor he is. The adorable Isla Fisher actually gets to get just as crazy as the guys, if not maybe a little crazier and Annabelle Wallis does show some actual personality compared to the other movies she's been in. Sadly, Leslie Bibb and Rashida Jones (as "Cherl", a girl who both Chilli and Bob used to fight over) mostly just get to look pretty, but not much else.

 Not sure it all happened like portrayed here (Although, there is real footage of the actual friends doing all kinds of goofy crap. So maybe it did.), "Tag" isn't without cheap laughs. But even so, they're still laughs, and there are plenty of them. Then the film, lets just say, takes a pretty dark turn. It ends on a surprisingly bittersweet note that, while heartfelt, is kind of unexpected and leaves a couple questions that need answering. Still, we need more good natured comedies that set out just to make you laugh, and though it's not as good as some of the others we've had this year (Like "Game Night" or "Blockers"), is a fun time for those not wanting to get quite as exhausted as playing an actual game of Tag.....Although, come to think of it. I kind of want to play now. Need to find some willing participants first. You're it. 3 stars. Rated R For Language And Childish Behavior. 

Superfly                                                       ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for superfly movieImage: Cool as the other side of the pillow.

 This movie here is an interesting idea to say the least. Making a gritty, crime thriller out of a rather silly, old (Somewhat classic?) Blaxploitation with allegories to current, important issues facing those in the African American community is....Well.....It's an idea I never would of thought of. Not to mention, there's less funky music this time. 

 "Superfly" follows a young, Atlanta drug dealer, "Priest" (Tervor Jackson), who has become a bit of a legend in the city.. He's rich, honorable (Other than the drug dealer part), has two girlfriends (We're rethinking the honorable part), "Georgia" (Lex Scott Davis) and "Cyntia" (Andrea Londo), and is respected by pretty much everyone. The only exception being "Juju" (Kaalan Walker), the always angry member of a gang called "Snow Patrol", run by human snowball, "Q" (Big Bank Black). After almost getting shot by Juju, who just doesn't like him, Priest decides he wants out of the game and works out to plan one final score with his gambling brother, "Eddie" (Jason Mitchell), who also sends out the appropriately named "Fat Freddy" (Jacob Ming-Trent) to gun down some of Juj's guys because he's an idiot.

 First, Priest tries to get some help from his old mentor, "Scatter" (Michael K. Williams), who declines to give Priest a bigger cut of the offerings. Deciding to work around Scatter, arranging for a deal with the ambitious cartel boss, "Adalberto Gonzalez" (Esai Morales), Priest has a plan to smuggle lots of those drugs like the lovable, good natured hero he is, while trying to avoid people finding out he is trying to get out of the business. Too bad he has to deal with Juju and Q coming back for revenge, and some corrupt cops "Mason" (Jennifer Morrison) and "Turk" (Brian F. Durkin) trying to get in on it all. 

 Directed by.....uh, Director X (Gonna go out on a limb and assume that isn't his real name), "Superfly" is an awkward little movie, that feels more experimental than cohesively structured together. It's stylish, shot like a music video, with flashy images and some well choreographed fights. The film is also kind of cheap looking, with a few weird, out of place shots, and an over the top script to go with it's over the top story, complete with well, over the top characters. It's all goofy, and feels disjointed when the film tries to be culturally important. When the movie incorporates topics such as police brutality, corruption, and how people of color are treated and represented, it's so cartoonish that it doesn't resonate. 

 Trevor Jackson (And his amazing hair) is actually very charismatic, and does make some of the silly dialogue somewhat cool. The film establishes early on how capable he is with his words, which gives a reason why his character is respected, even by some of the villains. Jason Mitchell also shows a ton of personality with his morally questionable character. Michael K. Williams is underused, but dominates what few scenes he's in. Kaalan Walker and Big Bank Black are meh villains, whose motivations come across as silly. (Really, there wasn't much reason for this conflict to even be in the movie.) There are few too many characters, without many identifiable traits, with subplots introduced late and most of which don't amount to much. Lets also not get into the female characters because they're not important to the film makers. They're just.....there. 

 "Superfly" is a little all over the place, with a few memorable moments (Both good and bad), and it isn't without a few capable actors. However, the film is excessively excessive, with a preposterous, cheesy script and on occasion, a bit of a straight to DVD feel. With a nearly two hour runtime, that feels longer, even when the film once in a while finds it's footing and shows that the people behind it are in fact fairly talented, you're left thinking your time could be better spent elsewhere. Like with actual exploitation films. Apparently they're not that hard to find. 2 stars. Rated R For Drugs, Language, Violence, Sex, More Drugs, More Language, More Violence, More Sex. All That. 

Hotel Artemis                                           ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Uh...Uh...Hello. This...Uh...Is ...Uh...Jeff Goldblum."

 Not sure if this was meant to be a throwback to those exciting, sometimes gleefully violent, more character driven movies from the 90s (Some of which I grew up with), or it just feels like one. Taking an idea that we've only glanced at and turning it into it's own original sounding premise is, well, an interesting premise., And even though it's mostly seen as middle of the road for most critics, I see it gaining a quick cult following. That means it won't make any profit until, say, 2027. 

 "Hotel Artemis" takes place at some point in the slight future (Like "Upgrade", its the same. But with more dirty future stuff.), where there is a hotel in Las Angelas, known as the "Hotel Artemis", run by a mysterious woman known to everyone simply as "The Nurse" (Jodie Foster).The Nurse keeps the hotel together with a long list of rules. On a night of a chaotic riot, where two bank robber brothers, "Walkiki" (Sterling K. Brown) and "Honolulu" (Brian Tyree Henry), who has been seriously wounded, arrive to escape the police. They are forced to stay in the hotel along with beautiful, dangerous assassin, "Nice" (Sofia Boutella) and weaselly arms dealer, "Acapulco" (Charlie Day), while the Nurse's assistant/security, "Everest" (Dave Bautista) keeps them in line.

 The night gets more complicated when The Nurse gets a call from "Crosby" (Zachary Quinto), the whiny son of the man who runs everything and everyone, "The Wolf King" (Jeff Goldblum), demanding that the Nurse drop everything to provide his father needed medical attention. Things get even worse, with Walkiki realizing that Honolulu accidentally stole something from the Wolf King that he shouldn't of, Nice revealing to have ulterior motives of her own, Acapulco being an obnoxious jackass to everyone, and to top it all of, a cop named "Morgan" (Jenny Slate), who the Nurse has a connection with, arriving in need of medical attention too. It all ends up becoming one insane, Hell of a night. 

"Hotel Artemis" is a first time directorial debut from Drew Pearce (Known for his work in terms of writing and story for "Iron Man 3" and "Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation"), and while the film isn't one for story (At all really), it's directed with a lot of flair and charm to liven up the film. Pearce also serves as the film's writer, where he shows the most promise, filling the film with interesting and morally complicated characters, whose backstories are mostly alluded to, and plenty of dark humor to go with the gritty violence. The film sets up an interesting world that is set in the future, but isn't too far removed from the reality, with only hints at the larger, more expansive outside world, leaving things to your own interpretation. 

  The cast of characters all their roles in the film, carrying the movie's plot along that is a bit sloppy, but fits for the kind of movie it is. Jodie Foster is awesome in this, as a complex character who is likable and can be seen as one of the more honorable ones in a film filled with questionable morality. Sterling K. Brown is also great, along with Sofia Boutella, showing just how badass she can actually be. Jeff Goldblum makes the most of his somewhat brief, but memorable appearance, with Charlie Day having a lot of fun as the kind of guy who just won't keep his mouth shut and Dave Bautista, proving once again to have some real acting chops on him, aside from being a hulking amount of muscle. (It really looks like it hurts to get punched by him.) Jenny Slate has a small, but fairly important role and Zachary Quinto is at least supposed to be annoying, with that said, his plotline really doesn't amount to much. 

 There is this certain level of coolness to "Hotel Artemis", which doesn't rely heavily on action (Though there is an excellent hallway fight scene towards the end) and relies more on it's characters and the world they live in. From a storytelling point of view, it's not much and will probably leave some audiences wanting a bit more than they actually get. However, it's smart, unique, and a ton of fun, that I do think could (And really should) gather a rather sizable fanbase. Still better than a Motel 6. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Violence, Language, And Lousy Role Models.

Hereditary                                            ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for hereditary movieImage: Something bad is going to happen. Or, maybe everything will be fine.

 Horror is a genre that has continued to grow over the years, moving past the days of lazy jump scares and pointless gore in favor of old fashioned scary stories that make frightening things you either maybe never actually thought you would be scared of. Sometimes thinking can be the scariest thing to some people, and this movie right here made for quite possibly the most unsettling, horrifying experience I've ever had at the movies, leaving my mind filled with nightmarish images that I doubt I will ever be able to forget. I may have even peed myself just writing about it. Sounds like a good time for the family right? 

 Lets keep this as vague as possible to avoid spoilers and to give time for the movie to properly shock you. "Hereditary" opens with "Annie" (Toni Collette) and "Steve" (Gabriel Byrne), attending the funeral of Annie's estranged mother, "Ellen", along with their teenage son, "Peter" (Alex Wolff) and their strange daughter, "Charlie" (Milly Shapiro). Annie is having difficulty finding a way to feel about her mother's death, considering the bizarre relationship they had, which consisted of death, weird rituals, and mental disorders. There is unease within the family, which further escalates in a horrifying tragedy. Grief strikes every member of the family in different ways, resulting in Annie taking an interest in the supernatural. Things get more eerie, unsettling, and eventually horrifying as whatever has been haunting not just the family, but seemingly was passed down from Annie's mother, reveals it's true purpose, with nightmarish consequences. 

 From "A24" (Known for more artistic films, including their almost as freaky horror flick, "The Witch"), and first time Director Ari Aster, "Hereditary" embraces the dread and terror that can come from unexpected places and is shot like a demented dollhouse. The film is overall about family, grief, and guilt, which all culminate in the kind of story you tell to your friends to terrify the crap out of them. It's just as unsettling to listen to as it is to witness with your own eyes. The script (Also by Ari Aster) is calm and collected at first, further escalating into madness, much like what happens with it's characters. Backstories are established through dialogue or simply implied, but the implications of what were hear is thoroughly upsetting in a way that puts you on edge to where you don't really want to think about it too much. However you can't help it, and when you see what it all means by the end, it makes the whole experience just so wrong to the point you question if you should be allowed to be watching a movie like this in a theater filled with people. 

 Toni Collette gives a mesmerizing performance, that's emotionally powerful, complicated, and completely frightening. You empathize with her, even when you start to see more of her personal issues (Which are mostly left implied, but that somehow makes it even more unnerving). I think it's an Oscar worthy performance,(That will likely get ignored further showing why the Academy is full of stupid people.) While she dominates the film, the others have their moments, with Alex Wolff coming across as a little whiny at first, but it comes into play later and makes sense why he is acting like this, along with Gabriel Byrne being the one attempting to find logic in the situation (As someone would do realistically), and Milly Shapiro having an interesting presence that sticks with you. Not to forget Ann Dowd (as "Joan", a woman who befriends Annie a little too quickly), showing up to inject a different kind of creep factor. (There are some people who are just almost uncomfortably and suspiciously nice.) 

 "Hereditary" is being considered by most to be one of the scariest movies they've ever seen, and that has of course sparked people setting out to disprove that. (It did get a "D+" on Cinemascore, which is a place known for quality....Like giving "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" an "A-".) I just want to prepare for people that it's a different kind of horror. You're not going to be scared in the traditionally sense, but more in the idea of feeling unclean after you watch it. It can be seen as a tense family drama, with imagery and dialogue that will make you sick to your stomach. The film is not exploitave or excessive. It's more in the sense that you choose not to think about these things. You think you're safe with family, even with the possible issues that people will generally keep to themselves. This movie uses that brilliantly, forcing you to feel on edge throughout until the almost outrageous ending that will leave you with our jaw completely dropped. You may not appear to quite get it at first, though you will have those images in your head, unable to forget what you saw and heard, and just plain freaking you the Hell out. (Some viewers may be driven to insanity.) I have no intention of seeing "Hereditary"ever again and I felt wrong watching it in the first place. With that said, I think it's the best horror film I've seen in theaters. It's okay, I don't need to sleep again. That's overrated. 4 stars. Rated R For......Ughhhhh......You Don't Want To Know. 

Ocean's 8                                                         ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for ocean's 8Image: "Wow, James said we were all terrific. We should thank him in person."

 Guys, you better get used to it now. "Ghostbusters" may not of turned out so well in terms of financial success. (It was perfectly alright if you ask me. But that's just me.), but more and more all female led films (Or possible reboots) are coming. This new "Ocean's" movie is just fine and there's nothing you can possibly do about it aside from complain and bully. So sit back, relax, and appreciate we live in a society that celebrates diversity and chances given to people are only now getting what we guys tend to always get. If not that, just....just look at the pretty and talented actresses. Seriously, it's a win win guys. I see no bad side here. 

 "Ocean's 8" opens with the prison release of "Debbie Ocean" (Sandra Bullock), the sister of the recently deceased "Danny Ocean" (Formerly played by George Clooney.) Much like her estranged brother, Debbie is a con artist, who really just can't seem to help herself. First thing Debbie does is organize a scheme to pull off the ultimate heist at the upcoming New York Meta Gala, where she can arrange for shallow celebrity, "Daphne Kluger" (Anne Hathaway) to wear a priceless diamond necklace to steal.

 A crew is gathered, consisting of "Lou" (Cate Blanchett), Debbie's best friend,  "Amita" (Mindy Kaling), a jewelry maker living with her mother, "Tammy" (Sarah Paulson), a mom who also happens to profiteer, "Constance" (Awkwafina), a remarkably skilled thief, "Nine Ball" (Rihanna), a hacker, and "Rose Weil" (Helena Bonham Carter), a struggling fashion designer. This odd crew has to plan out for every possible mistake to get away with millions, without getting caught or hitting any possible bumps, such as the coincidental appearances of Debbie's art dealer ex, "Claude" (Richard Armitage), who is the one responsible for Debbie's imprisonment and "John Frazier" (James Corden), an insurance investigator who knows the Ocean family too well. 

 "Ocean's 8" pretty much plays out like any other film in the series. However, despite the only major change being that the main stars are women this time, the film mostly distinguishes itself by being a well made, funny, and thoroughly exciting heist movie that doesn't so much change the game, but more or less simply doesn't a great job at playing it. Directed by Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit" and the first "The Hunger Games" movie), there is a sense of professionalism to help carry the film through it's fairly predictable beats and obligatory tropes. The film is also helped along with a slick enough script with likable characters (Even if they are crooks), who are fantastically portrayed by the cast. 

 Our characters aren't exactly deep, but they have plenty of personality to spare and each have their role in the film (Much like they have their role in the heist itself). Sandra Bullock is excellent here bringing everyone together, with Cate Blanchett getting plenty of scenery to chew. (They are both pretty hot too. I could watch them steal a cookie from a jar and it would still be sexy. But that's besides the point.) Some of the best laughs come from Helena Bonham Carter (Having an absolute ball), Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina, while Sarah Paulson and surprisingly Rihanna (Showing that she is much more capable here than in something like "Battleship") get some of the most memorable moments in the film. The real scene stealer is Anne Hathaway (Also very lovely. Simple man here.), who gets the most hilarious moments, playing against type and eventually having a bigger role than at first expected. (Well, for some maybe. I see a lot of movies. Takes a lot to surprise me.) Some aspects don't quite work, with the whole plotline with Richard Armitage not quite feeling particularly real and James Corden, who is hilarious when he finally arrives into the plot, doesn't actually come in till the last act. 

 "Ocean's 8" doesn't stand out in the long list of heist comedies, with a few (But expected) twists and turns that are at least cleverly worked in, even when you can figure them out quickly. You get to see some good actresses have some fun, while doing their jobs as skillfully as possible, with some humor, and just enough flair and intrigue to elevate the film up. It all makes for a damn good time for the guys, just as much as the ladies. 3 stars, Rated PG-13 For Adult Content and Questionable Morality. 

Adrift                                                    ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for adrift movieImage: In the movies, always take the train.

 Hard to talk about and recommend (Or not recommend) a movie that just lands right in the middle. Not so much a typical it's not bad or good type of thing, but instead more of it's a movie that doesn't give someone like me much to talk about. Did you already see it this weekend? Then it's for you. If not? You're not gonna see it.    

 Based on true events, "Adrift" follows the first meeting and romance between "Tami Oldham" (Shailene Woodley) and sailor, "Richard Sharp" (Sam Claflin). Their relationship grows, becoming more serious, especially when Richard is offered a chance to sail across the ocean, convincing Tami to go with him, where Richard just so happens to propose to her. Unfortunately for the couple, they just so happen to be sailing directly into a extremely powerful, category 4 hurricane, which results in Tami being stranded alone at sea. While she eventually finds Richard, he's too injured to do anything, forcing Tami to take control of the situation and find a way to survive such a bleak, almost hopeless situation. 

 Directed by Baltasar Kormákur ("2 Guns" and "Everest"), "Adrift" is visually stunning to look at with some absolutely beautiful cinematography, during any sequence on the ocean, which are grand and take up the entire screen. It's too bad the film's narrative is unnecessarily told out of order, getting in the way of an actually compelling story and romance. Granted, I can see why the filmmakers went this route, considering most of the last half of the film would of been just two people stranded at sea, but I've seen films that still find ways to make scenes like those captivating. 

 Shailene Woodley,(Having escaped the "Divergent" series for good), reminds us that she is a terrific actress and can carry a movie on her own, which she has to here during a large portion of it. She does have good chemistry with Sam Claflin, who just tends to be really likable, despite the fact the way the narrative is presented constantly gets in the way. There is also a big twist, which is only apparent to those not knowing how this story actually went, that seems at first to be unneeded and might even be seen as offensive to some. I think it makes more sense in context and actually makes for an emotional scene that further elevates the overall message of our main character's survival and will to do so. 

 "Adrift" doesn't have much impact and just feels like another movie I had to review to get through the weekend. Probably won't remember and aside from a choppy story that didn't have to be so, the film isn't without emotion and heart, with Shailene Woodley giving it her all, and an interesting enough true story that likely brought a few people to tears this last weekend. It did it's job, and I did mine. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Frightening Watery Imagery.

Action Point                                               ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for action point movie

Image: "It's for you, Fozzie...Waka Waka Waka! 

 Is it weird to be disappointed by a movie brought to us by the guys behind "Jackass" and "Bad Grandpa"? I would say it really isn't. Usually well liked critically and commercially, they were generally seen as dumb, stupid, but good natured humor that just sets out to make you laugh, which is what's most important, even if we're laughing at their pain. This movie doesn't seem to have many laughs in it because, and this is the shocking part, there's.....too much plot. And not enough hits to the crotch. 

 "Action Point" starts with old man, "D.C." (Johnny Knoxville), recounting a story to his granddaughter about when he owned the most out of control, poorly constructed amusement park known as "Action Point", which doesn't care about little things such as safety. Around when his estranged teenage daughter, "Boogie" (Eleanor Worthington Cox), comes to visit, the snobby corporate villain, "Knoblach" (Dan Bakkedahl), arrives to buy the land in favor of a more successful, mainstream park (That come to think of it, we never actually see.) D.C. has no intention of losing his park, along with his strained relationship with his daughter, so he gathers all his wacky buddies to go all out in making the park even more outrageous and less safe (Which is horrible, in an totally awesome kind of way), in hopes of saving the park.......Yeah, that's really all you need to know. 

 Loosely based on an actual place called "Action Park" (Which was known for it's unsafe reputation), you'll notice that "Action Point" weirdly doesn't actually have much to it in terms of it's plot when you describe it. However, the film spends more time on it than anything else. The basic setup is solid, and one paper could make for some good laughs. The film doesn't seem to have much of any though, mostly because of it's generic and predictable story that takes up most of the short runtime. There are long sequences without laughs or even chuckles, with the jokes either falling flat or seemingly just missing altogether. While you do get an occasional funny stunt, they're mostly just the ones you saw in the trailer. 

 The needlessly large cast of goofy, one note supporting characters don't resonate in the slightest, with most of them just fading into the background. The best part is easily Johnny Knoxville himself, who gets some of the only funny lines and performs the more amusing stunts. He also does show that he is actually pretty solid actor, carrying what little there is to offer, even in an out of place serious moment that he does sell rather professionally. Eleanor Worthington Cox is trying, but gets a bland character without much to her, along with Dan Bakkedahl playing a typical dick-ish villain. I do give credit to the make up department for the scenes where Knoxville is an old man. (It honestly looks too good for a movie like this.)  

 Despite the raunchiness and senseless debauchery, "Action Point" feels uncharacteristically (And a little ironically) safe and just leaves you bored. I get where the filmmakers were going, and understand that they were trying to inject an actually well meaning story behind the silliness. Sadly, if your comedy doesn't have many actual jokes and lacks any real fun, it just makes the whole ride kind of pointless. It's harmless, but instantly forgettable. And in times when people need some cheap laughs, it makes it kind of depressing when you can't even seem to provide that. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, An Alcoholic Bear, Adult Content, And Of Course, A Total Disregard For Safety.  

Upgrade                                               ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Upgrades, now on Amazon, for only $29.99 with yearly membership.

 An apparent SXSW (South by Southwest) favorite that opened to solid critical buzz and some high praise to the audiences lucky enough to see it early (Because guys like me can try their absolute damnedest, only to fail miserably), we got ourselves a new, original, and thoroughly impressive small budget little surprise that you can just see becoming an instant hipster favorite. It's also jam packed with a good amount of crazy to separate it from any other movie you'll likely come across this year. 

 "Upgrade" opens in a futuristic world, though with the changes mostly being minor (Such as self driving cars, surveillance drones, and other gadgets.), with stay at home mechanic, "Grey" (Logan Marshall-Green) living a nice, normal life with his wife, "Asha" (Melanie Vallejo), who works for a powerful tech company. Grey fixes a car for an eccentric, tech weirdo, "Eron Keen" (Harrison Gibertson), who Grey introduces Asha to. Eron also reveals his special little project, called "STEM", which is meant to connect to anything to make better in any way. On their way home, Grey and Asha get into an accident, only to be attacked by some ruthless hunter, with their leader, "Fisk" (Benedict Hardie) killing Asha and leaving Grey paralyzed due to an injury in his spinal column. Despite "Detective Cortez" (Betty Gabriel) assuring Grey that she will find the men responsible, nothing seems to get done, with Grey contemplating suicide.

 Some time later, Grey is met by Eron, who offers him a way to walk again, which means using him the first test subject for STEM. STEM is attached to Grey, after signing a non-disclosure agreement (Because this is obviously illegal), gaining the ability to walk once more. Almost immediately, Grey notices something strange, especially when STEM (Now voiced by Simon Maiden) starts talking to him. STEM is able to deduce who the killers were (And that they've been cybernetically enhanced with shotguns in their arms) and where one of them lives. Grey goes to confront the killers, when he also learns what else STEM is capable of, such as taking control of Grey's body and turning him into an unstoppable killing machine. 

 "Upgrade" at first seemingly appears to be taking a predictable route, with a fairly basic premise you've seen many times before, but takes some surprising turns that you wouldn't quite expect to be done so intelligently. Distributed by Blumhouse Pictures (Mostly known for horror films) and directed/written by Leigh Whannell (Who was one of the creators of the "Saw" franchise.), the movie utilizes it's small by comparison budget to embrace it's dark, dirty atmosphere, packed with visually impressive, constantly moving, and amazingly choreographed action that will make you not want to blink out of fear that you might miss something. It's dark and brutal, with an insane amount of gore that doesn't feel excessive (Though the faint of heart probably should pass on this one or just close their eyes the entire time), and does serve some purpose when the film drives home our main character's realistic reactions to his newfound capabilities. (It's a sort of mix of horror, shock, and a little jokey) The film's script provides a very dark, pitch black sense of humor to go with the bleak story, which provides a shocking amount of laugh out loud moments and even when the film gets serious, it takes a deep turn you would never expect, giving you a little more extra to think about once you leave the movie.

 Logan Marshall-Green (Known as either "The Other Tom Hardy" or "The Shocker #1") shows that he can really carry a film, mostly on his own. He's likable and grounded, doing an excellent job in the action portions of the film, along with some solid timing when it comes to more humorous scenes. He also sells the more dramatic ones, feeling like a real person, which is important for a film that ends up diving a little into the idea of "Upgrading" humanity. Harrison Gilbertson is enjoyably awkward, while Betty Gabriel ends up having more of a purpose than what you at first expect. Benedict Hardie is one of the stranger movie villains you'll come across, which weirdly fits well into the story, and Simon Maiden's voice work has a lot of personality despite being nothing more than a computer, whose true motivations keep you guessing till the end. 

 "Upgrade" is another film that shows how to do proper world building, without seemingly having the intent of making an actual franchise out of itself. It's a small, quick sit, that provides some clever storytelling and a little extra depth to go with it's insane amount of action and violence, along with some great character to further integrate the viewer into the experience. Even for those of us who are perfectly great the way we are and DON'T need an upgrade. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Gorey Violence, Both Jaw Dropping, And Jaw-Breaking. (You'll See What I Mean.)

First Reformed                                        ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for first reformed movieImage: Ethan Hawke dejectedly realizes he was scammed on his discounted cruise ship ticket.  

 I see a lot of movies and I write full reviews for most of them. It's more often than not that I do. However, a guy can only type so much in a certain amount of time, or will see things so long after their release that it wouldn't really matter. Much of these smaller films, despite many ranging from good to excellent (Though there are the occasionally stinkers, just like the mainstream ones), I usually neglect to write a full review for. This one is an exception, not simply because it's a film that I do in fact highly recommend, but I really, really just want to talk about how absolutely crazy it is. 

 "First Reformed" follows "Reverend Toller" (Ethan Hawke), a former military chaplin, who is racked with guilt over encouraging his son to join the armed forces, which eventually led to his death. He meets "Mary" (Amanda Seyfried), who is an avid churchgoer, who wants Toller to speak to her depressed, radical environmentalist husband, "Michael" (Phillip Ettinger). Mary is pregnant and Michael is filled with fear over bringing a baby into what he considers to be a doomed planet that humanity appears to have given up on. Toller's talk with Michael forces him to question ideals of his own, wondering if humanity can be saved and should be forgiven for what they have done to God's creation. Toller's newfound beliefs put him at odds with his superior at the mega-church, "Jeffers" (Cedric Kyles, aka Cedric the Entertainer) and the industrialist elitists who seem to have say in pretty much everything. Then.....Things get.....Weird. Lets just say, if I were to tell you how this movie ends, you would never believe it's the same movie we previously began. 

 Directed by Paul Schrader, known mostly for writing a few of Martin Scorsese's movies (Such as "Taxi Driver" and "The Last Temptation of Christ") aside from a decent sized filmography of ones he's directed (Like "American Gigolo" and "Hardcore"), "First Reformed" mixes some elements and subject matter that you would not at first consider all too similar. Its funny because after seeing the film, I can't necessarily imagine how I never noticed it before. Combining some religious morality with the need to save the planet and it's ecosystem should in fact coincide with one another. There are also topics of grief, anxiety, the fear of what's coming or what's out of your control, and the hypocrisy of some people claiming to truly follow the word of God though seemingly ignoring what they preach. Schrader's direction is rather cold, slow, and filled with imagery that ranges from beautiful to thoroughly disturbing. And the film's use of box-like aspect ratio actually adds to the film's suspenseful sense of dread and gloom, were the sun only shines every once in a while. (That's not a metaphor. The sun rarely shines in this movie!)

 Ethan Hawke gives a probable early Oscar worthy performance (With all the praise he's already been getting, I would actually be shocked if he didn't.), who brings humanity to a character going through many mixed emotions that further escalate into something more as the film progresses. You see where this character starts and understand just how far he goes, with his questions about how humanity treats the environment and how it really does apply to a biblical belief of how God wants us to treat it. (Shouldn't all people of God technically be environmentalists? I mean, we are meant to be protecting his creation right?) Amanda Seyfried is perfectly cast as the (Literally) wide eyed voice of reason, who has some excellent chemistry with Ethan Hawke. Cedric the, I mean, Cedric Kyles shows off more acting range than what I'm used to seeing from him, coming across as realistically hypocritical, with a few funny moments. The movie shockingly has some humor here and there, sprinkled throughout, which helps convey the satire that the film is presenting. 

 "First Reformed" appears to be jumping the shark by the end, but the more you think about it, the more you realize how everything was escalating so much by this point. It's darkly beautiful, awkwardly humorous, and calmly insane, done skillfully in a slow, atmospheric manner. It's a film that won't sit right with everyone and might just leave some completely confused. But man will it certainly make for a good conversation. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, Horrifying Imagery, And That Ethan Hawke/Amanda Seyfried Flying Bit. (It Makes Sense In Context. I Think.)

Solo: A Star Wars Story                          ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for solo a star wars story chewbaccaImage: "You said it, Chewie".

 People are still currently in recovery from the last "Star Wars" film, "The Last Jedi". I'm rarely right in predicting how people would react to a film, but while I expected the film's unexpected and unconventional twists, turns, and reveals would piss some fans off, I didn't predict that bloodthirsty of a reaction. Personally, I thought it was awesome and unlike anything we'd previously seen, and everyone should just get over it. (Hey, I'm sorry your favorite fan theory didn't come true.) Either way, it is pretty fitting that "Lucasfilm" decided to play it safe this time around with "Solo", for the most part. One could argue it might be too safe, but I'm pretty sure a bunch of nerds, with slightly sexist tendencies in a comments section will appreciate the effort......Well I appreciate it anyway.  

 "Solo: A Star Wars Story" opens long before he shot first (Because he did. You're not fooling anyone George), with the younger "Han" (Alden Ehrenreich) and his childhood friend/girlfriend, "Qi'ra" (Emilia Clarke), on the run from criminals, planning to get a ship and run away together. Things take a turn, resulting Qi'ra getting left behind and Han joining the Imperial Navy in hopes of becoming a pilot and returning for her. Years later, Han (Having acquired the last name "Solo" from a silly Easter egg), is nowhere close to accomplishing his goal, but finds a friend in a certain lovable furball wookie, "Chewbacca" (Joonas Suotamo), and comes across a famous criminal, "Tobias Beckett" (Woody Harrelson). Han convinces Beckett to let Chewie  join his crew, consisting of "Val" (Thandie Newton) and multiple armed alien, "Rio Durant" (Voiced by Jon Favreau) on a mission to obtain a very rare, very powerful source of fuel for a powerful crime organization known as "Crimson Dawn".

 After a run in with the mysterious, masked, "Enfys Nest", the crew is forced to report back with nothing to their scarred employer, "Dryden Vos" (Paul Bettany), who Qi'ra now just so happens to be working for. After some smooth talking, Vos is convinced that Beckett's team can bring him the fuel source he wants, which requires them to steal it from the mines of "Kessel" (Sound Familair?). The team finds themselves a ship called "The Millennium Falcon", belonging to the charismatic and shady smuggler, "Lando Calrissian" (Donald Glover) and his activist droid, "L3-37" (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), and they are set on their way to pull off the heist, while Han gets closer to his own destiny. 

 "Solo: A Star Wars Story", much like the previous entry into his new Anthology series, 2016's "Rogue One", suffered from some production problems, with the previous directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller ("The Lego Movie", "21 Jump Street")  let go due to too much improvisation, in favor of the more acclaimed, Ron Howard. The lingering effects are somewhat noticeable, with some minor messy moments in the plot. However, once the film gets going,  it delivers on exactly what's promised, while taking a less predictable route for a story that could be considered completely unnecessary. Ron Howard is a pro and handles the film nicely, giving it a dirty look to match the criminal aspect of the film. The script by Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan offers some great new additions to the "Star Wars" mythology, with some beautiful special effects work (Which is to be expected) and a few pretty badass action scenes, showing much more time and effort was putting into the film, which was at first mostly just seen as a cash grab. 

 The biggest distraction for most people would be Aldren Ehrenreich and while it's understandable to a certain point, but really doesn't have much to do with the film as a whole.( Look, he's not Harrison Ford. But neither am I, and neither are you.) There's only one Harrison Ford, and thankfully Ehrenreich doesn't try to pull off an imitation in favor of making it his own. He's still excellent in the film, injecting the character with plenty of charm, some snappy dialogue, and plenty of human moments that remind us of the beloved hero he will eventually become. Woody Harrelson is basically just playing, uh, Woody Harrelson, which is something he's fantastic at, and the film does provide a nice twist on the typical mentor character. Emilia Clarke, while at first appearing to be playing the basic love interest role, ends up getting a bit more depth than expected. (She' also really, really, really cute.)

 Donald Glover, gets to play a character that never nearly got enough attention in the previous films, and steals whatever scene he's in, along with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who gets a few memorable sequences. (Personally, already love these two together in the expanded material released before the film. You guys know I'm a total geek!). Paul Bettany, while not getting enough screentime, looks like he's having a great time as a complete slimeball. Chewbacca himself, brought to life by Joonas Suotamo (Filling in for Peter Mayhew), remains the heart of the film, and his relationship with Han is undeniably sweet and will certainly fill any "Star Wars" fan with the feels. 

 Not much of a game changer, and it does feel like a bit of a step backwards from "The Last Jedi", which appeared as set up for a future away from the original saga, "Solo: A Star Wars Story" makes up for it's somewhat disjointed shortcomings with a solid cast of characters, plenty of humor, and some surprises that could set up for more future installments. (One moment in particular might be a bit divisive. This is why you watch the expanded material like a true fan!) The film is quick, fun, and while the question of how important it truly is in the long run is going to be up in the air for a while, the film finds it's own identity and embraces it. It's just a likable adventure, and if this is the worst that these new "Star Wars" films have to offer, it still shows that we're in capable hands. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, Droid SJWs, And For Scruffy-Looking, Nerf-Herders. 

Show Dogs                                                ½ OUT OF ★★★★  

Related imageImage: "You know what your breath smells like, right?"

 Ever seen a movie that just won't shut the Hell up? Like, it just keeps making noise and noise, with characters spouting out words. Not dialogue, just words. Screaming and yelling, with the score constantly and obnoxiously blasting just in case the three little kids who were likely only brought here because the parents either couldn't find a babysitter to see "Deadpool 2", or just didn't respect their kids enough to take them to see "Isle of Dogs", "Sgt. Stubby", or even "Avengers: Infinity War". Maybe they just wanted to scare them straight. 

 "Show Dogs" takes place in the uh, real-ish world, with temperamental Rottweiler police dog, "Max" (Voiced by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) failing to rescue a stolen CGI baby panda, ruining the rescue attempt by FBI agent, "Frank" (Will Arnett). Because of this, Max is partnered up with Frank and head over to Vegas infiltrate a dog show, which may be a front for an animal smuggling plot. Of course, Max and Frank don't get along, with Frank being stupid and Max being a dick for no reason. Max enlists the help of a former dog show winner, "Philippe" (Voiced by Stanley Tucci), while Frank tries to charm the nice pretty girl, "Mattie" (Natasha Lyonne), while eventually learning to work together to find out who is smuggling the rare animals.  While I'm just confused as to why I still do what I do despite not gaining much in the process. In fact I'm losing time watching this film. The universe's most precious resource. Ugh...

 Directed by Raja "How do I keep getting work?" Gosnell (Both "The Smurfs" movies and both "Scooby-Doo" movies), "Show Dogs" has no business being in a movie theater, obviously. It's just nothing, piled upon laziness and a script that mostly consists of catchphrases and puns, without any laughs to make up for the most predictable of plots. Not to mention the horrifyingly dated, poorly rendered effects work that will more likely terrify children, rather than delight them. To say the movie is "At least okay for kids" should be more of an insult to the kids, who really deserve so much better, and so do the poor, innocent film critics who undeservedly were forced to sit through this.

 To look for actual positives in something with so little given to it and so little time that was obviously put into making the film. Gotta' give credit to a few actors, who come in to do their jobs to their best ability regardless of the material, with Will Arnett, Ludacris, and Stanley Tucci at least trying to make something out of nothing. Natasha Lyone is plenty adorable, but is just there to be the love interest. (Which doesn't even need to be here.) The rest of the voice cast, which includes Jordan Sparks (as "Daisy", Max's love interest), Gabriel Inglesias (as "Sprinkles", a pug obsessed with Max), Shaquille O'Neal (as "Karma", a Komodor with words of wisdom), and others, just appear sporadically, with them mostly either raising their voices, exaggerating them, or just doing accents for the sake of doing accents. The dogs themselves are cute, except for when their CGI mouths are moving around like the stuff of nightmares.

 "Show Dogs" is what happens when nobody sits anyone with money and connections in Hollywood down and tells them "No!". It's honestly a bit hard to fully talk about, but mostly because there just isn't much in this movie. It's paced quickly to the point you aren't given enough time to process anything, not even how truly horrible the punny jokes are. Everything feels cobbled together simply to stretch out it's already short runtime and go through the checklist of family movie plot points. The movie is just.....Nothing. It's just there to take up time, without providing anything of value for you or your kids. It's a very, very bad boy. 1/2 star. Rated PG For Fart Jokes, Obnoxious Yelling, And Ball Fondling.  

Deadpool 2                                                 ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for deadpool 2Image: "I love you guys!"

 Still hard to believe that a film based this slightly bloodthirsty, yet insanely lovable comic book character, "Deadpool", was still considered unthinkable less than four years ago. An R rated, meta comedy, filled with violence, offensive humor, and piles upon piles of shock value, with Ryan Reynolds, despite the fact he already played a twisted, unrecognizable version of the character in the worst X-Men movie ("X-Men: Origins: Wolverine". It sucks for many reasons) This idea was seemingly unbankable as the titular kind of, sort of hero. But the 2014 first film was a massive hit, with Reynolds getting to finally let loose and do whatever the Hell he wanted (Almost always dressed as Deadpool). And lets be honest, the world is just a better place now with Deadpool in it. Look at that face. How can you not love the guy?

 "Deadpool 2" follows the fast talking, completely insane, fourth wall breaking mercenary, "Wade Wilson/Deadpool" (Ryan Reynolds) planning to start a family with his longtime girlfriend, "Vanessa" (Morena Baccarin), only for it to end horribly and in tragedy. Now depressed, Deadpool makes an attempt at suicide, though his mutant abilities keep him from dying no matter how much he blows himself up. He's picked up by honorable X-Men, "Colossus" (Voiced by Stefan Kapičić), who is determined to turn Deadpool into a proper hero and eventually make him one of the X-Men. Now a trainee, he's partnered up with Colossus and "Negasonic Teenage Warheard" (Brianna Hildebrand) on his first mission to contain a young mutant with fire abilities and a bad temper, "Russell Collins/Firefist" (Julian Dennison), who is currently going on a rampage at an orphanage.

 Learning that Russell is being tortured by the bigoted and sadistic headmaster (Eddie Marsan), Deadpool decides to join Firefist on his rampage, only to be taken out quickly and sent to a prison for mutants. While in prison with Russell, a mysterious, very serious cyborg from the future, "Cable" (Josh Brolin) arrived, with the intention to kill Russell due to what he will do in the future once he gets his revenge in the headmaster. Seeking to redeem himself (And maybe get the chance at actual death), and while Russell is hellbent on revenge, Deadpool dedicates himself to protecting him from Cable, working with his best friend, "Weasel" (T.J. Miller) to create a franchise worthy mutant super team, "X-Force", which includes the luck powered "Domino" (Zazie Beetz).

 The first film is considered an instant classic in the eyes of the many comic book savy fans, and just like the first film, "Deadpool 2" goes all out with the absurd, the somewhat twisted, and the borderline ruthless nature in how the film mocks it's own genre, yet embraces it at the same time. Directed this time by David Leitch (Who previously directed "John Wick" and "Atomic Blonde"), the action is explosive, hilariously gory, and constantly in motion, which goes well with the film's unhinged sense of humor that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter more than you were already previously expecting it to. The film's nonstop laughs, filled with references (Comic based or otherwise), vulgarity, and even some things you would rather your mother not know about, helps makes up for the film's pretty basic sequel-esque plotline that we have seen before. (Luckily the movie pokes fun at it mostly.)

 Ryan Reynolds continues to show that he was pretty much born for this role. His character could turn annoying so easily, but instead you can't help but find yourself charmed by him. He goes balls to the wall with the insanity and embraces the character's many, many quirks. His relationship with Julian Dennison, (Who proves to have some excellent comedic timing), is actually kind of cute in it's own "Deadpooly" way. We get a fun collection of supporting characters, with the scene stealing Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miler, Stefan Kapičić, Leslie Uggams (as "Blind Al", Deadpool's blind roommate) and Karan Soni (as "Dopinder", Deadpool's taxi buddy, who may or may not be a bit of an offensive stereotype).

 There's not much in terms of an actual main villain, with Eddie Marsan showing up to be creepy and a surprise appearance from a big CGI villain (credited as being played by "Himself"), our biggest antagonist is Josh Brolin, who has become the Summer Movie Season MVP. He is once again terrific, portraying a memorable.character, who could of walked out of a dark, gritty, serious superhero movie, which makes him the perfect straight man to Deadpoo'l's nonsense. As for the X-Force (Which consists of Terry Crews' "Bedlam" and Rob Delaney's pathetic, non powered "Peter"), it all leads to one of the funniest, unexpected, and freakin brilliant moments in any superhero film. 

 "Deadpool 2" is so much fun and smart enough to inject humor in the right places to overcome it's admittedly generic plot, while also having some actually heartwarming moments (Not joking. There are moments that straight up give you the feels), and a crazy amount of well made action, making for an excellent blockbuster that's even a little better than the first. It's a superhero parody that might even work better than some actual superhero movies. Deadpool is the smartass spirit animal that rests in all of us. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence, Sexual, Raunchy Content, Baby Legs, And A Whole Lot Of Super-Heroic Ass. Loads Of It. 

Book Club                                                     ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for book club movieImage: I'd have Thanksgiving dinner with them.

 Now for the movie you guys have really been looking forward to. The biggest event since "Avengers: Infinity War". The real future box office champ. Yeah, forget "Deadpool 2", you want "Book Club". Best get your tickets in advance here. Gonna be sold out showings all weekend.......Ok, in all honesty, this is getting a little mean. But you get my point. Who here actually clicked on my site to see this review over "Deadpool 2"? Please tell me if you did. I'm curious. 

 "Book Club" follows an um, uh, book club of longtime friends, including "Diane" (Diane Keaton), "Vivian" (Jane Fonda), "Sharon" (Candice Bergen), and "Sharon" (Mary Steenburgen). After reading "Fifty Shades of Grey" (And not vomiting profusely from how terrible it is), the women decide that they need to spice up their mostly "Meh" lives. Diane meets a suave pilot, "Mitchell" (Andy Garcia) and has to avoid her overly concerned daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton) to hang out with him. Sharon, who is still stuck on her ex husband, "Tom" (Ed Begley Jr.), is trying to get back out there, mostly through dating websites and finds out she likes meeting other people. Vivian, who has always feared commitment, meets up with an old flame, "Arthur" (Don Johnson), who may be the one she finally wants to settle down with. And Sharon desperately tries to get her husband, "Bruce" (Craig T. Nelson), to you know, take her like Christian Grey does. (You don't want that. You really don't want that.) The characters all learn something new about themselves and also learn that there is a difference between being an older person and actually being old. 

 "Book Club" is in a way, pretty much what you would expect from a film, based around one simple idea, with a script that mostly just relies on the charm of it's actors to hopefully carry the predictable plot. However, the film is at least trying to do more, trying to say a bit more, with a bit of an edge to give credit to the older crowd who will likely see it. And the cast is so undeniably charming that it somewhat works. For what it is at least. We're not getting anything groundbreaking or even that memorable here. Just four terrific actresses who are still at the top of their game.

 Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, and Mary Steenburgen are all pros at what they do and could carry this movie without even trying, but luckily they inject either some laughs, a little emotion, and give way more effort than was maybe even asked of them. It's nice to see a more charming Andy Garcia remind everyone that he can be charming, even with the ridiculous scenarios this movie goes through, Don Johnson is likable and has good chemistry with Jane Fonda, and Craig T. Nelson gets some funny reactions. I also give praise to the fact that the film doesn't treat it's older cast like they're incompetent old people, but instead portrays them as active, with the times, and lively. (They're not even that old. Movies need to stop doing that.) The movie does avoid caricatures.....except for Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton, who are just plain cartoonish in this. 

 "Book Club" is simple, sweet, occasionally funny, and heartfelt, even if it is corny, silly, and full of clichés. Although the praise the movie for some reason gives the "Fifty Shades" series is odd (And the fact that they refer to it as a good romance series is worth deducting half a star.) It's what your mama (Or grandmama) pays to see and does it's job much better and with more respect than it usually does. You're in and out, but you still just wanna "Deadpool 2" instead. I think these ladies would like it way more than that "Fifty Shades" crap. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sexual Content Involving Some Spry Older Women. 

Breaking In                                       ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Breaking in bad.

 Alright everyone. Lets get this one over with quickly, much like the film's incredibly fast ninety minute runtime. There's always a handful of movies that aspire to be little, accomplish little, make their tiny budget back, and leave you questioning yourself when you try to remember if you actually even saw that in theaters. Then you start thinking about you're going to do later, or if you should of gotten that one girl's number, or just think of things to pad out a review because you don't have much to say about something so meaningless. Subtle, isn't it?

 "Breaking In" opens with loving mother, "Shaun" (Gabrielle Union) taking a trip to her recently deceased father's mansion for the night to sell the place, with her son, "Glover" (Seth Carr) and her daughter, "Jasmine" (Ajiona Alexus). The family takes notice the heavy amount of security systems, cameras, heavily fortified walls and alarms, and all that suspicious stuff that makes one realize that Shaun's dead dad was likely involved in some possibly not so legal activities. Not too long into the night, the house is terrorized by a group of criminals, including the leader, "Eddie" (Billy Burke), the loco guy, "Duncan" (Richard Cabral), the whiney one, "Sam" (Levi Meaden), and other guy (Mark Furze). Soon, Shaun finds herself locked out with her kids at the mercy of the crooks, who have the intention of robbing a safe, filled with millions of dollars. Shaun's motherly instincts kicks in as she takes matters into her own hands, setting out to save her children and completely annihilate the rather inept intruders in the process. 

 "Breaking In" is something that definitely didn't need to be seen in theaters. It's a very toned down, simply plotted, predictable, dull thriller that doesn't have enough character or identity of it's own. The movie jumps from every major point you would see in your average PG-13 home invasion film, without anything new or inspired added. The only real highlight would be Gabrielle Union (Who also serves as a Producer.). She does seem to be trying to give the film a bit more than actually required of her, and her relationship with the kids does at least feel genuine. I also give credit to the filmmakers for making her a competent character, who can handle herself in this situation (Granted, mostly because our villains are hilariously stupid, with their incompetence showing frequently.)

 Billy Burke just looks a little bored, though he too seems to be trying a bit more than probably even necessary. Levi Meaden gets the typical role of the panicky one, who may or may not be able to go through with the job (That plotline doesn't go anywhere. At all.) and Richard Cabral is horrifically horrible, playing a character so cartoonishly sadistic, who constantly makes things worse for no reason other than he wants to kill people, that you wonder why the others put up with him in the first place.  

 I get when a movie just simply wants to be what it is, and "Breaking In" is just that. With that said, that doesn't make it anything I could recommend for anyone to see in theaters, or even at all really, considering there are likely much better versions of this movie you could find.It's just another one of those movies I saw on a late Saturday night and will probably forget about as soon as I finish typing this sentence. They don't care if critics care. And I don't care that they don't care. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Child Endangerment, And Bad Spiky Hair. 

Life of the PArty                                            ★ OUT OF ★★★★

 Image result for life of the party movie

Image: That 80's movie.

 I think I laughed once. I regretted it immediately afterwards. It wasn't even that funny, but I can only assume it was just a pity laugh, brought on out of desperation of not laughing for about an hour. Or because it was Melissa McCarthy, and I thought i was supposed to. Come to think of it, maybe by the end, I technically laughed one and a half times.....Maybe one and three quarters.....Bottom line, it was a fairly quiet theater, playing a movie that had more jokes falling flat, than Melissa McCarthy herself usually does. 

 "Life of the Party" starts with "Deanna Miles" (Melissa McCarthy) and her husband, "Dan" (Matt Walsh) dropping off their daughter, "Maddie" (Molly Gordon) at college. Just as they leave, Dan reveals to Deanna that he intends to divorce her in favor of real estate agent, "Marcie" (Julie Bowen). Deanna doesn't take this well in the slightest, realizing that because of Dan she never completed college, and so she decides to go back. Deanna enrolls at her daughter's school, befriends Maddie's other sorority sisters, including the cutesy weird one, "Helen" (Gillian Jacobs). Deanna proceeds to stuff, complete with all those college movie stereotypes, including mean girl, "Jennifer" (Debby Ryan), along with Deanna hooking up with a stalker younger guy, "Jack" (Luke Benward), along with attempts at typical fake comedy movie conflict to ruthlessly pad out the hour and forty minute runtime.  

 More of a clichéd premise than an actual plot, "Life of the Party" takes the same tired story and just leaves it at that, without adding any real charm, character, or much of a conflict due to the film's lack of an actual narrative. Granted,poor plotting in a comedy would be forgiven if it were actually funny. But the laughs are few (Very few), with the film annoying it's audience with it's overlong presence than actually getting them to laugh. Director/Writer Ben Falcone ("The Boss", "Tammy", and the husband of Melissa McCarthy) has the tendency to structure everything in a way that feels cobbled together, seeming more interested in getting through a checklist of basic plot points that you're used to seeing in movies such as this. Daughter and mother bonding, getting high accidentally, there's an 80's party, some mean girls, some embarrassing moment during class, the goth girl who is goth, last minute party to make some money, they're all here. The film thinks just letting Melissa McCarthy ad-lib through it all will actually make it funny, rather than relying on silly, unimportant things, like a script. 

 Melissa McCarthy is someone I generally like, who I know can not only be funny, but can also be an excellent actress. Also serving as a Co-Writer with her husband, she either goes for the easy joke (Such as falling down or punching/getting punched) or just trying to riff on everything. Maya Rudolph (as "Christine", Deanna's best friend) doesn't have a role, but does seem to be trying to throw in some more laughs where there isn't any, while Stephen Root and Jacki Weaver (as Deanna's parents) literally have nothing to do. Molly Gordon's character is inconsistent (She's fine going to school with her mother, till the plot says otherwise, then reverts back again on a dime), but she's likable and adorable, as is Gillian Jacobs, who gets to make cute, weird faces for most of her scenes. Debby Ryan just plays the standard hot bad girl in a subplot that goes nowhere, all while Julie Bowen is only there to just react to absurdity. On the bright side, that last sentence reminded me that there were a decent amount of attractive actresses in this movie, which is always welcome. (Look, I'm a guy. I'm desperately looking for positives here.)

 Some jokes go on for too long and plotlines are either resolved quickly or just plain dropped, "Life of the Party" does that annoying running gag of the older generation not getting the younger generation and their references, but in other scenes end up making those references themselves. (How can you know who Voldemort is, but have no idea what someone is saying when they make a "Harry Potter" reference?) It's just lazy writing, with a pace that takes forever to get going. So the longer it goes, the more you just feel agitated at what you're watching (You've got other things to do, other movies to see, other promises to keep, and you're over here wasting time with the laziest of the lazy when it comes to lowbrow comedy?)

"Life of the Party" is a party you want to leave as quickly as possible, but the host appears to be blocking the door, preventing your escape. It may not be the absolute worst comedy you'll ever see, though it is one of those films that just doesn't want to go away when you quickly become tired of it. You're not supposed to leave a party pissed, are you? 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Super Sweating, Pot Hallucinations, And Falling With Loud Thuds. 

Tully                                                    ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for tully movieImage: This is what being a Mom looks like?! There's someone I need to call.

 To those expecting to take their mothers to see this movie for "Mother's Day" simply because it has to deal with motherhood.....Don't. Don't you dare do it. It's a comedy/drama, with some harsh realism and a little last minute weirdness, that overall is treated respectfully, but probably as honestly it possibly can. Just take her to see "Avengers: Infinity War".....Actually don't do that either. That'll depress her too.......Just buy her flowers. A card will be nice. Clean up your room.

 "Tully" follows depressed, worn out mother, "Marlo" (Charlize Theron), who is busy raising her children, "Jonah" (Asher Miles Fallica), "Sarah" (Lia Frankland) and newborn baby, "Mia", while her well meaning, but clueless husband, "Drew" (Ron Livingston) is either working or playing video games. Marlo's rich brother, "Craig" (Mark Duplass) suggests a night nanny to help out and despite her attempts to power through, Marlo eventually gives in and calls for one. The nanny, "Tully" (Mackenzie Davis) arrives and despite looking all cutesy and young, is clearly a pro at what she does, offering to help take care of Mia, so Marlo can get some sleep for once. Marlo starts to bond with Tully while slowly starting to improve her own life in the process.

 From Director Jason Reitman and Writer Diablo Cody, "Tully" is an effective dramedy that displays the most uncomfortable look at motherhood you'll likely ever see in film. It's somewhat cynical, but a very sincere and thoughtful story that doesn't pull punches and at least mixes in some much needed humor and likable characters to balance it all out. In terms of writing, the film gives it's characters smart dialogue to flesh them out as people, with obvious, but human flaws, along with the occasional funny line. Jokes aside, I do see the film resonating with many mothers, especially with how the film understands it's subject, even when the film veers into uncomfortable, but necessary territory.

 Charlize Theron (Who to a certain degree is almost unrecognizable) is terrific here, showing us once again how good of an actress she is and reminding us that we really don't give her enough credit. (How did she not get an Oscar nomination for "Mad Max: Fury Road"? It's not logical.) The excellent Mackenzie Davis is an insanely adorable, instantly lovable ball of sunshine that you fall in love with as quickly as our main character does. Mark Duplass has a few funny moments in his small role and Ron Livingston (Who is another actor who has a tendency to be in a lot, is generally well liked, yet nobody seems to know who he is) is also great, playing a character that you like, despite the fact it's clear that he's not doing enough to help out. The filmmakers make the characters too complex to have an antagonist, or even outright mean characters, when it would of been so easy to do so.

 It isn't until the last act, when a surprise twist of sorts is revealed, that "Tully" might turn some people off. (There have been a few talks about this film's portrayal of mental health problems.) It's something that I actually did see coming and could argue does make some sense to what the film is trying to say and the point it's trying to make. But I can agree that it can appear as something that just comes out of nowhere or feels out of place. Despite some possible divisiveness of the ending and the fact that the overall moral is essentially "Deal with it" (I know it's more complicated and meaningful than that, but I'm just putting it simply), the movie has plenty of well timed laughs, accessible characters, and a thoughtful nature that I see emotionally moving an audience in a positive way. And you sure as Hell won't look at your Mom the same way again. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And Graphic Breast Pumping. 

Bad Samaritan                                         ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for bad samaritan movieImage: He's always the bad guy!

 This is one of those movies that I went into completely and utterly untouched by any knowledge about this movie, aside from the only trailer which I saw once. Completely blank on this one. After "Infinity War", which was so huge and epic, I just didn't know what to expect from something so small by comparison. Although because of that, I can be pleasantly surprised. And disturbed....Disturbingly surprised?

 "Bad Samaritan" follows "Sean Falco" (Robert Sheehan), who works as a valet, but along with his buddy, "Derek" (Carlito Olivero), casually breaks into house and steal things to make a little extra money on the side. Sean wants a more simple life, which is to provide for his family and girlfriend, "Riley" (Jacqueline Byers). Sean sees a chance for one last score, which comes in the form of a rich jerk, "Cale Erendreich" (David Tennant). Taking Erendreich's car, Sean breaks into his house, only to discover a woman, "Katie" (Kerry Condon), brutally chained up and gagged in a sealed off room.

 Sean panics and flees, alerting the police, but tries to pretend that nothing has happened. He eventually can't take the guilt of possibly leaving a woman to die and tries to do everything in his power to make sure the psycho is put away. However, it turns out Erendreich is much more of a mastermind that anticipated. Knowing that Sean has discovered his secret, Frenderich proceeds to psychologically torture Sean, with the intent of destroying his life by going after his family, friends, and loved ones, in a horrifying game that could only lead to more death and disturbing revelations. 

 From Director Dean Devlin, who previously gave us last year's disastrous disaster, "Geostorm", "Bad Samaritan" feels much more subdued and actually fairly original. It's a dark, suspenseful, and occasionally really weird, small scale thriller that's briskly paced and ends before it outstays it's welcome. Not saying that the film isn't plenty silly, with some of the villain's overthought plans and some of the actions he takes to torture our main character border on the ridiculous. (How the Hell is he even capable of all this? I get he's rich and ingenious, but the way all this goes makes little sense.) There's also the stupidity and unreliability of the police force involved, who for some reason have such a hard time believing Sean's story. (I get that it's a little far-fetched, but at some point you have to realize that's something is clearly wrong here.)

 The film is also elevated by some better than necessary performances, with David Tennant stealing the film as a perfectly unhinged, bug eyed, almost charmingly creepy villain with absurd, but very unique motivations that make for many unsettling sequences. Robert Sheehan has to carry most of the film, with a few compelling moments to show that his character is a decent person at heart and is trying to do the right thing. Kerry Condon gets some great moments towards the end of the film, with a bit more of a role other than as a hostage. Not much else in terms of the other characters, who mostly just serve as either casualties or spectators on the sidelines. 

 "Bad Samaritan" offers a clever premise and enough cheesy thrills that make for a disturbing, but immensely entertaining quick sit. You can' help but get into the bizarre twists and turns that are at least accompanied by some solid direction and a good sense of dread and terror. Plus with a memorably batsh*t insane David Tennant and a strange thing about horses, you gotta give some credit to the film for not being like anything else. Sure it's disturbing as Hell, but a surprising amount of fun too. Disturbing fun. 3 stars. Rated R For Disturbing Images, A Pile Of Corpses, And Horse Obsession. 

Overboard                                                        ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for overboard 2018Image: "Hold still so Mommy can get that booger."

 Ok, Is this legal? Is this legal at all? This is essentially kidnapping and the movie actually calls it so, but just brushes it over. I'm not a lawyer here, but I'm just curious what would realistically happen in this situation. Just need to know purposes....

 "Overboard" opens with single, working mother, "Kate" (Anna Faris), who is struggling with a couple jobs, one of which leads her to clean the yacht of a spoiled rich dick, "Leonardo" (Eugenio Derbez). Leonardo, who comes from a wealthy Mexican family, has never had to work once in his life and treats most people around him like crap, including Kate, who he fires for no reason and kicks her off his boat. However, later that night, Leonardo ends up slipping off his yacht and falls into the ocean, washing up on the beach and waking up with amnesia. With some convincing from her friend, "Theresa" (Eva Longoria) and because nobody apparently knows who Leonardo is anyways, Kate goes to the hospital, falsely claiming that Leonardo is her husband and takes him home to subject him to many chores and silly situations all while Leonardo's evil sister, "Magda" (Cecilia Suárez), who knows about Leonardo's condition, tries to take over the family company. On the bright side, Kate and Leonardo fall in love....somehow.

 "Overboard" is a remake of an 1987 Kurt Russel/Goldie Hawn movie with probably even more questionable character decisions, and seemingly tries to play up the cutesy and heartfelt factor, only for it to fall flat on it's face with a splat. The film isn't particularly likable, mixed in with a lack of real laughs and a poor pace to go with the film's uneeded hour and 52 minute runtime. (Ok, Why is everything getting so unnecessarily long these days?) An occasional chuckle every once in a while isn't really enough to justify such an overlong experience that leaves you more bored than charmed. 

 Eugenio Derbez's character is not meant to be too likable, but is change doesn't feel all that real. He does make for a few of the film's occasional chuckles, mostly due to a large amount of comic energy and commitment to the absurd. The insanely cute Anna Faris is at least given more to do than just be cute, with a few funny lines here and there. Both Derbez (Who also serves as a Producer) and Faris are easily the best part of the film, though their characters and how they're written constantly drag them down. Their romance on the other hand is something you don't buy for a second, and just feels cheap and lazy. Eva Longoria doesn't do much aside from be the rom-com best friend, John Hannah (as "Colin", one of Leonardo's servants) mostly just stands around and is criminally underused, and the whole subplot with Leonardo's family could of easily of been cut out, if anything simply to make the film less of a drag.

 Becoming more of a parody of all those over the top telenovelas, "Overboard" actually isn't anywhere near as funny as most of those end up being. I give credit to the film trying to reach a more diverse audience, with it's inclusion of some Mexican culture. But the film is toned down and overly fluffy, which doesn't go well with a premise that's thoroughly misguided and confused. "Overboard" feels like being stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean, wasting the talents of everyone involved. Though if I were stuck in the middle of the ocean, I want it to be with Anna Faris. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor, Kidnapping, And Other Possibly Illegal Acts. 

Avengers: Infinity War                        ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for avengers infinity war thanosImage: He'd like to negotiate, with no preconditions. 

 So it's finally here. 10 years and 19 films (All of which both critical and box office successes for the most part), what began in 2008 with the spectacular "Iron Man", which eventually led to the first, epic crossover event, 2012's "The Avengers", which we all thought was the most unbelievable thing at the time. Yet, we never thought we would witness this. The epic finale to everything we've come to get to know and love, and it's more than you could possibly imagine. (#YourFanTheoryMeansNothing). 

 "Avengers: Infinity War" opens with the mother of all baddies, the mad titan, "Thanos" (Josh Brolin), on a search for the mystical and powerful six "Infinity Stones" (Which are those little MacGuffins that have appeared throughout the franchise.), with the help from his sinister "Children", which includes "Ebony Maw" (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), "Cull Obsidian" (Terry Notary), "Corvus Glaive" (Michael Shaw), and "Proxima Midnight" (Carrie Coon). They are seeking to use the stones to "Balance" the universe by wiping out half the universe, Thanos has already acquired two of them, one of which after defeating the God of Thunder, "Thor" (Chris Hemsworth) and wiping out most of his people. Thanos' schemes have gotten him plenty of enemies, most of which are in the form of our heroes, "The Avengers".

 A series of events lead to various team ups between an assortment of our main characters. Billionaire playboy, "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (Robert Downey Jr.) finds himself out to save the Sorcerer Supreme, "Doctor Stephen Strange" (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has one of the six stones, with the help from the young, "Peter Parker/Spider-Man" (Tom Holland), leading them into space. Back on Earth, the now rogue, "Steve Rogers/Captain America" (Chris Evans, rocking a new beard), highly trained spy, "Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow" (Scarlett Johansson), and the flying, "Sam Wilson/Falcon" (Anthony Mackie) are out to protect star crossed lovers, the gifted, mystical being, "Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch" (Elizabeth Olsen) and the humanoid android, "Vision" (Paul Bettany), who has one of the stones in his head, keeping him alive. The group allies with Stark's buddy, "James Rhodes/War Machine" (Don Cheadle) and the recently returned "Bruce Banner" (Mark Ruffalo), who is having a little trouble transforming into the big green "Hulk" at the moment, along with the king of Wakanda (And the current king of the box office), "T'Challa/Black Panther" (Chadwick Boseman) and Cap's formerly brainwashed friend, "Bucky Barnes" (Sebastian Stan).

 Meanwhile, Thor finds himself meeting "The Guardians of the Galaxy", which includes the cocky, "Peter Quill/Star-Lord" (Chris Pratt), the adopted daughter of Thanos, "Gamora" (Zoe Saldana), the simple minded, "Drax the Destroyer" (Dave Bautista), the cute telepathic, "Mantis" (Pom Klementieff), talking raccoon, "Rocket" (Voiced by Bradley Cooper), and teenage tree person, "Groot" (Voiced by Vin Diesel). Everyone has it out for Thanos and everyone has a stake in what's going to happen, leading to the ultimate battle between good and evil, with the fate of the entire universe (Or in this case, half of it) hanging in the balance. 

 Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (Who previously gave us "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and the sequel, "Civil War"), "Avengers: Infinity War" is the ultimate superhero extravaganza, giving that same feeling you get when you read one of those massive comic crossover events, except this time it's not just restricted to the pages in your hand. The film looks incredible on the big screen, with Marvel Studios having perfected their talent for flawless looking special effects, (Which blend in seamlessly), along with some typically spectacular action. However as usual, we still get some excellent character work. With a script by Chrisopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Who have written a few films in the franchise), balances out many, many characters and of course, a good sense of humor, which is more necessary here than any of the other films due to the immensely high stakes this time around. 

 To talk about the cast, which has got to be one of the largest ensembles in cinematic history, you first need to address the standouts in the entire film, where no single character (With maybe the exception of the real star, who we will get to shortly) is given more to do than anyone else. Some might be reduced to supporting roles, but all have a reason to be here and everyone is as committed as ever. Robert Downey Jr., the original, first Avenger we were introduced to, remains as likably sarcastic as ever, having great back and forth with an equally endearingly snarky Benedict Cumberbatch. Chris Hemsworth gets to show more of both his comedic and dramatic chops, Zoe Saldana giving an emotionally layerd performance, Tom Holland showing once again why he's the best (And most lovable) Spider-Man, some great laughs from Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, and Mark Ruffalo, an enjoyably slimy Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, and a heartwarming subplot with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany.

 We still have awesome moments from our main cast, which includes Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira (as "Okoye", T'Challa's loyal guard), Tom Hiddleston (as "Loki", Thor's mischievous brother), Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan (as "Nebula", Gamora's reformed step-sister), and the hilariously altered voice of Vin Diesel. We also getting memorable brief appearances from Benedict Wong (as "Wong", Strange's partner in the mystic arts), Gwyneth Paltrow (as "Pepper Potts", Tony's longtime love interest, turned fiancée), Idris Elba (as "Heimdall", Thor's most loyal friend), Peter Dinklage (as "Eitri", a giant dwarf who looks like Peter Dinklage), Benicio del Toro (as "Taneleer Tivan/The Collector", who gets to be weird again), Letitia Wright (as "Shuri", T'Challa's little sister/new fan favorite), Winston Duke (as "M'Baku", one of T'Challa's newest allies), and a special appearance from a character we thought died over a dozen films ago. (The whole auditorium let out gaps and "What the f*cks?" all at once.)

 The real star of "Avengers: Infinity War" is the big bad himself, Thanos, with Josh Brolin giving a brilliant, menacing, compelling performance. Serving as almost a villain protagonist of sorts, Brolin is in the movie more than any character, showing the audience why he is such a big deal and why he is such an unstoppable threat. The effects work on him is perfect, and the character is given his own, thought provoking, somewhat sad story arc, which dominates most of the film. Brolin gives it his all, giving an understanding as to who this character is, what his goal is, and what it means to the character. All these dimensions make the villain all the more scary, giving you something to think about once you leave the theater. (And this is a freakin superhero movie. Not even some art house films are able to accomplish that.)

 The only complaint you can bring up about "Avengers: Infinity War" is that it's all almost too much. There are so many characters, so many storylines coming to a possible close, such a large amount of mythology that you'll be lost if you miss something important. Yet, I can't really justify that as an actual flaw. This is essentially the end of an era, and it would of been a cop out not to include everything you possibly could. And the fact that the Russo Brothers were able to keep everything grounded, well paced (At almost three hours, you can barely feel it.), and both funny and emotional is pretty astonishing. It all culminates on one of the most jaw dropping moments you will see in not just a film like this, but really any film. (Okay, I'll admit it. I cried. One moment at the end got me. Even Superheroes cry.)

 "Avengers: Infinity War" is one of the darkest, most bleak films you'll probably see this year (And you are seeing it. The entire country is seeing it.), but still packed full of some humor, heart, unforgettable characters, and a reminder why we idolize these fictional heroes in the first place. The sight of many of our favorite characters charging into battle against a terrifying force, despite the odds that they will likely lose badly, is one of the absolute coolest big screen moments ever. It's a lot to take in, but you wont stop thinking about it once it all ends. Damn, Marvel really had the stones to pull this whole thing off. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Mayhem, And.....Lots Of Heartbreak.

Super Troopers 2                                   ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for super troopers 2Image: Well I feel safer.

 Most people, like myself are clamoring for "Avengers: Infinity War" this upcoming weekend. However, there is a select few that saw....This their most anticipated film of 2018. Now I'm just left confused. What the Hell is this even? What's with the mustaches? Is that Brian Cox? What is he doing here? Where am I? Seriously, what is this and why does it have such a following? I'm confused. Maybe It's second hand pot smoke coming from the screen.

 Set a few years after the first film that I never saw (Which came out about 17 years ago), "Super Troopers 2" starts off after a supposed incident with "Fred Savage", our nicknamed heroes, the veteran of the group, "Thorny" (Jay Chandrasekhar), the prankster, "Mac" (Steve Lemme), the rookie, "Rabbit" (Erik Stolhanske), the annoying fat one, "Rod" (Kevin Heffernan), and the one without a nickname, "Jeff" (Paul Soter), have all been fired from the Vermont State Police Force. They are gathered together by their former captain, "John O'Hagen" (Brian Cox), who has found a way to get them back onto the force.

 It's learned that an area near the American/Canadian border is technically part of the United States, meaning that a new state trooper force will need to be added into the area to replace the previous Canadian one  Too bad those Canadians aren't having any of this, resulting with the team being at odds with the Canadian people. So follows a series of hi-jinks and some incidents involving a former hockey player turned mayor, "Guy Le Franc" (Rob Lowe), Rabbit's romance with the pretty "Genevieve Aubois" (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a rivalry with the previous police force, and a conspiracy that has to deal with a collection of illegal drugs. 

 Even after watching "Super Troopers 2", I still have no idea what in God's name this actually is. From comedic team, "Broken Lizard", the film was mostly crowdfunded by the fans, who demanded a sequel, resulting in the movie finally getting a release so long after the original. The movie doesn't bother with little things such as plot, character development, or even basic justification, but instead just focuses on ridiculous shenanigans and sketches that feel more like an overall sitcom episode than an actual movie. Because of this, the film does seem to drag on due to it's hour and forty minute length. Still, I can't help but admit that I was somewhat intrigued by just how much the filmmakers commit to the insanity.

 Our main cast of characters have been working together for years and obviously have good chemistry, despite the fact none of these characters are particularly memorable. Rob Lowe looks to be having some fun, with Emmanuelle Chriqui getting to be super adorable, and the awe-inspiring luxury of Brian Cox getting some good laughs and even  getting to say the words Brian Cox should never say. (One of the many things I didn't expect to witness during this movie.) The real star of the movie is how many odd, and at times, random situations everyone ends up in. There's some drug use that causes different side effects, Rob Lowe bouncing around a penis, lactating male nipples, gross out fart jokes, out of nowhere cameos, and an onslaught of Canadian jokes that go from obvious to surreal sometimes in the same scene. (There's an argument about Danny Devitto that goes on for like 3 minutes. What?)

 "Super Troopers 2" is pure, unapologetic, borderline bizarre nonsense that's so freakin odd to the point it's somewhat fascinating. It's at times amusing or even a bit funny, but it's the absolute strangeness of the entire film as a whole that kind of makes it almost worth the price. I mean, there's no point to the film whatsoever and when a joke falls flat, it falls with a loud thud. Yet for something so cheap and lacking so little in substance, purpose, or reason, the film finds a way to fill itself with enough nonsensical absurdity that will likely give the fans exactly what they want. If you don't like it, blame Canada. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Drug, Dicks, Bodily Functions, Language, And Fred Savage. 

I Feel Pretty                                        ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Wait, I feel funny.

 This is another one of those subjects I don't feel that I'm quite qualified to talk about. I mean, a film aimed at female empowerment that has a message about being comfortable with your looks and body that is generating controversy from the intended audience who claims that the film doesn't "Get it?. Not touching that one, because I'm a dude without such problems. There's also the usual controversy with a bunch of sexist male dicks who just hate Amy Schumer, but that's normal. Hey, if you aren't sexist, you can voice criticism without the use of derogatory language. It's not that hard. 

 "I Feel Pretty" follows "Renee" (Amy Schumer), who struggles with anxiety over her own looks, always comparing herself to others who she considers more beautiful. An accident with a stationary bike results with her bonking her head, which gives her the impression, (At least in her own mind, that she is "Beautiful"), despite nothing about her having changed at all. Due to her supposed new appearance, Renee also gains a newfound sense of confidence, getting the receptionist job she's been wanting at a cosmetics company, run by soft voiced airhead CEO, "Avery LeClaire" (Michelle Williams), and finds herself a nice boyfriend, "Ethan" (Rory Scovel), who just likes her for the person that she is.

 Of course everything starts to go to Renne's head as she lets her new success and popularity take over, ignoring her friends "Jane" (Busy Phillips) and "Vivian" (Aidy Bryant), spending more time flirting with Avery's brother, "Grant" (Tom Hopper), and just becoming a bit of a selfish person in the process. Renee has to learn that the people that matter really never cared about how she looked, but instead appreciated the kind of person she is and the positive impact her confidence should have on her life. 

 The point behind "I Feel Pretty" is a strong one, with the message and the good intentions of the filmmakers being noticeable. The issue is that the film's tone is a bit all over the place, not in the sense that's it overly serious, but more because for a film that occasionally appear to be set in reality, it becomes pretty cartoonish really quickly. Now you still get some laughs here and there regardless of that, though it can feel a little distracting. With that said, there is some genuine charm to the film, with the more heartfelt, sweeter scenes that actually work more often then they don't. 

 Amy Schumer, (Who I get can be a bit of a polarizing figure because of her brand of humor), does show how much better of an actress than we give her credit for. (And to a certain degree, better than even she realizes.) And she is far more toned down here than she usually is (Mostly due to the PG-13 rating), Schumer is very much likable, delivering comedic moments well, and even showing more of her acting chops in the film's more serious moments. She also has great chemistry with Rory Scovel, who also has a lot of likability himself. Their scenes together make for the most enjoyable, because it comes across as sweet and actually pretty adorable. Michelle Williams looks like she's having a lot of fun being weird and getting to act in a comedy for once. (After something as depressing as "Manchester by the Sea", I can see why), while Emily Ratajkowski (As "Mallory", the pretty girl Renee aspires to be) gets to be cute, but not much else. 

 "I Feel Pretty" has been accused of body shaming, being called hypocritical in it's own message. Like I said before, I'm not really the person to talk about this, but I guess I can kind of see the points of both sides to this argument. Amy Schumer has become known for making fun of herself often and does so here, though honestly, there's never been anything wrong with her looks (I always thought she was pretty anyway). Sadly, movie is just far too long,  and it's not quite funny enough to make it all work. (Also, if we're being realistic, her character is basically insane.) However, it's still a sweet film with some heartwarming moments and feels more charming than actually humorous. It's a film that's mostly just be left up to the intended audience to decide if they like it or not.. But it did make me feel better about my own looks. I feel, almost....Pretty? 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Humor, Bikini Contests, And Failure To Diagnose A What Clearly Was A Massive Concussion.

Truth or Dare                                               ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage:  Uh....Dare?

 Blumhouse Productions, known for mostly horror flicks and franchises, is really letting that Best Picture nomination for "Get Out" go right to their heads aren't they? I mean, I get wanting to promote that fact as much as possible, but forcing your production studio's name all over the trailer and poster, while also constantly reminding everyone that you guys released "Get Out" is a bit silly. Especially when your film certainly isn't going to be getting any Oscar consideration in the slightest. 

 "Truth or Dare" opens with a disposable group of college character types, with nice girl, "Olivia" (Lucy Hale) going on a Spring Break trip to Mexico with her best friend, "Markie" (Violett Beane), Markie's boyfriend who Olivia also likes, "Lucas" (Tyler Posey),the gay one, "Brad" (Hayden Szeto), the promiscuous one, "Penelope" (Sophia Taylor Ali), and the complete dick, "Tyson" (Nolan Gerard Funk). While there, Olivia meets a guy named "Carter" (Landon Liboiron), who invites the group an old, abandoned mission, along with the annoying comic relief, "Ronnie" (Sam Lerner), who tags along despite nobody wanting him around. Carter invites the group to play a game of Truth or Dare, revealing that the game is real, he lured them all there to force them to play in a desperate attempt to survive, and they will have no choice but to play or die. Everyone mostly shrugs this off, with the exception of Olivia, who starts to hallucinate weird distorted faces and voices. Once the bodies start to pile up, the friends realize they're stuck in an endless game controlled by a demonic entity, "Calax", that really just wants to screw with them. (Honestly, I have no idea what the Hell his goal was). 

 Aside from the tropey characters, who have little to them outside from their archetype,"Truth or Dare" does start off almost promising, with an idea that could of made for a fun little short. The problem is that the premise is stretched out far too long, you begin to poke holes in everything that happens, and eventually realize just how freakin' stupid it actually is. The rules to the demented game our characters are forced to play constantly change and contradict previous moments that it becomes obvious the writers, consisting of four people (Including Director Jeff Wadlow), wrote themselves into several corners and had trouble finding ways around it. (So wait. The demon can just kill people whenever it chooses now? Then what's the damn point with all the games if that's what it's endgame is all along?)

 Lucy Hale is a capable lead, who really just does what she can with what material is given. Tyler Posey is a completely blank slate of nothing, with the rest of the cast serving as cannon fodder for those looking to watch people die in typical PG-13 gruesomeness. (Meaning, you can't really show much of anything.) As for scares, the movie far too generic, relying on the most standard attempts to scare the audience. You mostly just get an onslaught of jump scares, loud noises, and weird faces. (The faces themselves look more silly than actually scary.)

 "Truth or Dare" takes itself way too seriously, with the goofy premise getting old quickly, and the motivations and rules of the game constantly changing to the point it's not any fun anymore. There are moments where you can possibly see what enjoyment could of been hard here, and maybe if it was more of a comedy, it would of worked better. But the movie tries to incorporate talk of suicide, parental issues, sexuality, and other out of place dramatic elements, that it's just going to be lost on the audience who normally would watch a movie like this. Be honest, you guys just want to see as much over the top death as possible. Too bad the movie can't even give you that. You had ONE JOB! 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Random Acts Of Violence, Demonic Possession, And Shiny, Happy People. 

Sgt. Stubby: An american Hero                                                                                                                                              ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for sgt stubby an american heroImage: "Come on. You know I'm adorable."

 Unless you're Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Illumnation, or any of the major animation studios, known for big names, big budgets, and blockbuster hits, it's hard to take anything coming from lesser studios too seriously. Granted, movies like "Spark: A Space Tail", "Norm of the North","Free Birds", "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return", the list really does go on. (Oh, remember "Delgo"? Ewww!) So count me as surprised when this little movie aimed at the littlest of the little found a way to thoroughly charm me. 

 Inspired by true events during 1918, "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" follows an adorable little Boston Terrier, "Stubby", who wanders into a military camp, where he instantly finds friendship with a young soldier, "Robert Conroy" (Logan Lerman). Stubby ends up becoming a mascot of sorts to the men. When Robert and his fellow soldiers, including the wisecracking "Elmer Olson" (Jordan Beck) and German-American, "Hans Schroeder" (Jim Pharr), end up deploying to France. Stubby, fearing he will lose his best friend, ends up becoming a stowaway, but is allowed to stay simply because he's too darn lovable. Along with Robert, Stubby becomes partnered up with a bushy French infantryman, "Gaston" (Gérard Depardieu), with the three of them becoming close friends during their time in the trenches of battle. Stubby eventually proves himself to be an important part of the battles to come, showing true bravery and courage, even against difficult odds. 

 Not boasting the same level of spectacular animation that we're used to from more well known studios, "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" comes to us from "Entertainment Studios" (Still a lazy name) and something called "Fun Academy". Director Richard Lanni makes up for this by simply telling it's story simply, but not insultingly, while incorporating plenty of heart and sensitivity. The true story itself is actually a wonderful one, and while some aspects were likely fabricated for the animated film, you'll be surprised to see what elements actually happened in real life. Apparently this little guy saved many lives during his 18 month deployment, brought comfort to many of the wounded, and even captured a German spy. (Okay, that's pretty awesome right there.)

 The cast is small, but made up of likable characters that get just enough depth to make you care about them. Logan Lerman is good in the film, with Helena Bonham Carter (as Robert's unseen sister, "Margaret", who serves as the narrator) feeling a bit out of place, but serving an educational purpose. Gérard Depardieu makes for one of the most memorable characters, providing a few laughs, mixed in with heartwarming scenes that show the comradery between the soldiers. The real star of the film is Sgt. Stubby himself, who has got to be one of the cutest critters to ever appear in an animated film, with the most adorable design you'll ever see and plenty of spunky personality to boot. You'll fall in love with the small, but big heated hero instantly.

 Even without stellar animation, "Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" is lively and at least has a pleasant look to it. You root for the characters, and despite going for a tame, kid friendly approach, the film doesn't shy away from the reality of war. It's a small, but gentle kids film that doesn't talk down to them and somehow has more maturity than most films aimed at adults. (How is it that this does a much better job honoring real life heroism than Clint Eastwood's "The 15:17 to Paris"?) You may laugh at the name and wonder why the heck it has a wife theater release, but that lovable dog is definitely worth your time, especially if you want to take your kids to something that won't straight up insult their intelligence. 3 stars. Rated PG For Some War Related Reality, But Perfectly Safe For Kids Of All Ages. 

 Rampage                                            ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: The Rock and his hairy friend engage in another late night bar brawl.

 The biggest question, aside from if Dwayne Johnson's muscles are real or if he would make for a valid presidential candidate (By this point, anything is possible.), would be if "Rampage" is the one to break the video game cur....No. It's not. Can't even finish that sentence (Told you guys a few weeks ago with "Tomb Raider. It's never gonna' happen.). But unlike those other failed attempts, at least this musclebound lug of a movie knows exactly what it is, advertises itself as such, and just goes ape sh*t crazy. It's the only way to go.

 "Rampage" starts with the explosion of a satellite in space, that leads to three canisters full of an experimental gas, that messes with one's genetic code, to crash onto Earth. Animal loving primatologist, "Davis Okoye" (Dwayne "Still The Rock Regardless" Johnson), who prefers the company of animals over people, learns that his best friend, a albino silverback gorilla, "George" (Portrayed through motion capture by Jason Liles) has gotten a whiff of the gas, becoming more giant and aggressive with every moment. This is all the work of dastardly villains, "Claire Wyden" (Malin Åkerman) and her dumbass brother, "Brett" (Jake Lacy), whose organization created the gas. They send their military guy, "Burke" (Joe Manganiello) to track down one of the cannisters, only to find a monstrous, giant wolf with wings, nicknamed "Ralph".

 Meanwhile, Davis is met by a former genetic engineer with connections to what's going on, "Kate Caldwell" (Naomie Harris), who comes to help, just in time for George to break loose and cause some havoc. This leads to the arrival of smarmy government agent, "Harvey Russell" (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to come and attempt to take George, which goes about as well as you would expect. Now George is on the loose and is on his way to Chicago with Ralph and a terrifying, mutated giant crocodile, nicknamed "Lizzie", with the intent of pure destruction and a fun day in the windy city. It's up to Davis to use this bulging muscles, bald head, and powerful smolder to save the day, along with his furry buddy. 

 Like most video game adaptations, "Rampage" doesn't quite resemble it's source material (Though in the original game, the giant, mutated animals were people. So they changed that for the better.). In terms of intelligence, lets just say the film is lacking in that department. Luckily, the film knows that and simply embraces what it is, going for pure, unapologetic insanity, right down to the climax where buildings are destroyed, while giant animals do their absolute  damnedest to kill each other. You get some occasional obvious green screen work, but most of the effects, while at times cartoonish (Which may of been intentional), are rather impressively detailed. The creature designs are clever and the scale of the destruction on screen is massive and explosive, which looks stunning on IMAX screens.

 The busiest man currently working today in Hollywood, Dwayne Johnson is as reliable an actor as you can get for a film like this. He has the look of an action star, with plenty of charm to deliver silly, but also funny dialogue, and his relationship with George is actually fairly sweet, making for some of the film's most endearing moments. Naomie Harris is fine in her dumb role, though it's way less embarrassing than her even more nonsensical role in "Collateral Beauty". (I see a lot of good actors in bad movies, don't I?) Malin Åkerman and Jake Lacey are both pretty terrible, portraying incompetent villains with a plan that makes no sense. On the bright side, they aren't in it much and become pretty much unnecessary as the movie goes along. Then we have Jeffrey Dean Morgan practically devouring the scenery with a fork, hilariously smirking his way throughout the entire film, and stealing every scene he's in. 

 "Rampage" lives up to it's title and gives you exactly what it promises. The plot is a little jumbled and is undeniably dumber than a pile of smashed buildings, but you already expected that going in. It's a crazy, monster sized blockbuster that doesn't try to be something it;s not and thankfully doesn't have the intention of insulting it's audience's intelligence in the process. While others are still probably waiting for that first great video game movie, I'm sure we'll all be fine settling for a giant crocodile leaping into the air to catch a fighter plane with it's mouth, a giant wolf unleashing a barrage of projectile spines from it's tail, and a giant gorilla taking on the both of them, while Dwayne Johnson blows crap up. We get what we pay for sometimes.  2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Constant Destruction Of Property, And The Senseless Annihilation Of A Perfectly Good Dave & Buster's.   

The Miracle Season                              ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the miracle season movieImage: "Boy I'm really going to...Uh...Volley that ball this time....I guess."

 Just going to throw this out there, this is gonna be a short review. Sometimes there just isn't much to say when your movie isn't so much bad at all as its kind of unnecessary to pay modern ticket prices for. Think of it more as a TV Movie Of The Week.

 Based on a True Story, "The Miracle Season" takes place in 2011, at the West High School in Iowa City (In Iowa obviously), where the town celebrates the chance of their high school girls volleyball team getting a chance at state and possibly winning for the second year in a row. The film follows best friends "Kelley Fliehler" (Erin Moriarty) and the beloved star player, "Caroline "Line" Found" (Danika Yarosh). After a party, Line ends up tragically being killed in a motorcycle accident, which affects the whole town, especially Line's father, "Ernie" (William Hurt), who also ends up losing his wife, "Ellyn" (Jillian Fargey) not too long later. The whole town seems to struggle with moving on, in particular Kelley and the rest of the volleyball team, who can't even bring themselves to play anymore. It's up to the uptight, but eventually well intentioned coach, "Kathy Bresnahan" (Helen Hunt) to get the girls back together, hoping to pull off a nearly impossible, but spectacular comeback for team, while also honoring their deceased friend and player. 

 "The Miracle Season" takes the easiest route you can possibly take with the whole inspiring family drama genre, but there's nothing particularly wrong with that as it does it's job as well as a glorified TV movie possible could. It's a very small, simple story, which I feel is basically the point. It lacks any real ambition to be anything more than what it is, thanks mostly to cheesy writing, flat characters, and slow pacing. Despite this, it's hard to fully dislike due to the film's heart being the right place and for at times working effectively. Though I think it's more of a credit to the cast, rather than the direction. (The film was Directed by Sean McNamara, who previously made "Soul Surfer" and um, "Bratz") Erin Moriarty is a cute, likable lead, whose relationship with the personality filled Danika Yarosh in the opening scenes ends up working quite well and makes the devastating outcome all the more sad. William Hurt does some fine work with the generic script, along with Helen Hunt, who gives it her all regardless of the material.

 "The Miracle Season" is one of those movies where you do get more inspiration from simply reading or hearing about it's real life events, rather than watching an overall mediocre kids film. With that said, there's nothing outright wrong with it. It is a sweet story, that will probably find an audience, such as with young girls who will certainly enjoy the female empowerment. Not much else to really add because there's not much there. Hey, they can't all be long, descriptively written rants like "Acrimony". I only have so much energy and rage. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Tearjerky Moments And The CGI Volleyball.

Blockers                                                ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for blockers movieImage: John Cena, about to give a teenage boy an attitude adjustment.

 We seem to be going through somewhat of a rejuvenation of the comedy genre right now. Granted, it's still pretty early in the year, so for all we know it could all go downhill in a fiery blaze. But with recent releases such as the dark comedy, "Game Night", the political satire, "The Death of Stalin" (The movie set in Russia, where nobody is Russian), and now "Blockers", a genre that always seems hit or miss (Or even in some cases, just constant misses.), it seems studios appear to be succeeding in what comedies should aspire to do. Make people laugh. So somebody call John Cena.

 "Blockers" starts with three best friends deciding to make a sex pact on Prom Night with "Julie" (Kathryn Newton) hoping to go all the way with her boyfriend, "Kayla" (Geraldine Viswanathan) mostly doing it because it sounds fun, and "Sam" (Gideon Aldon) going along with it despite the fact she is secretly a lesbian.The parents, Julie's single mom, "Lisa" (Leslie Mann), Kayla's protective, musclebound dad, "Mitchell" (John Cena), and Sam's neglectful dad, "Hunter" (Ike Barinholtz), who used to be friends, but have grown apart over the years, come back together once they learn of their daughters' pact. So the parents proceed to go against better judgement and common sense to stop their daughters from going through with the act, all while getting into all kinds of crazy situations, such as getting into car wrecks, breaking into places, and getting things put up your butt that shouldn't go there, 

 "Blockers", which has a picture of a rooster on it's poster because it's obvious what that means, does not have the most original of premises. It's sort of your typical sex comedy, with the kids wanting to go through with it, without knowing much about what they're doing and the parents wanting to stop it, without knowing much about why they're doing. However, the film seems to put a more modernized spin on it (Making it for the more woke generation I suppose), which makes for a bit more intelligence than you would expect from the average raunchy comedy. Because the film is smart about it's characters and the writing, that makes the film much funnier and certainly more lovable. 

 Aside from some excellent gags, which vary from gross out to just plain bizarre, "Blockers" has an excellent cast, who all work well off of each other. The adorable Leslie Mann is always reliable in these roles, while actually being allowed to be just as funny as the guys. Ike Barinholtz steals most scenes he's in with his smarmy attitude, who attempts to be the voice of reason despite being the most unstable of the trio. John Cena (Who just continues to show an immense amount of personality as an actor) commits to being as absurdly dweebish as possible, while being as hulkingly buff as John Cena. The real stars here are the three girls, Kathrun Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Aldon, who all have great chemistry with each other and have a certain level of charm and likability, while also getting plenty of vulgar laughs. 

 Directed by Kay Cannon (Known for serving as a writer on the "Pitch Perfect" movies), "Blockers" has more of a woman's touch, giving the film more to say. The jokes are crass and crude, but inoffensive and undeniably laugh out loud funny, thanks in part to the cast. The film also has a sweet story that gets sentimental where necessary and avoids becoming cheesy. It's one of the more adorable comedies you'll see, yet still packed with plenty of dick jokes and butt chugging. It takes an idea that should be tired and puts a whole new outlook on it. So parents, be sure to watch it with your teenage daughters. Or not. Your call. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Reckless Behavior, Unsettling Sex Games, And John Cena Nudity. 

A Quiet Place                                             ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage:QUIET!!!! CAN"T YOU SEE SHE's TRYING TO HIDE!!!!! 

 Imagine a big, fat guy, with a large tub of popcorn, sitting right behind you, slowly and steadily munching on popcorn throughout the entire quiet hour and a half. For the longest time I thought that was movie until I heard him cough some of the popcorn back up.  I know one thing for sure. That guy wouldn't of survived in this movie for more than a minute. I would have been rooting for the monster.

 "A Quiet Place" starts at some point in the future, where the world is in shambles due to the arrival of some strange, horrifying, and bloodthirsty creatures who attack and slaughter anything that makes any sound of any kind. A family, whose name is never provided within the movie (But is available in promotional material), is struggling to survive in this quiet, desolate world. The pregnant mother, "Evelyn" (Emily Blunt) and father, "Lee" (John Krasinski) are still grieving over the loss of their youngest son at the hands of the monsters, while still trying to protect their son, "Marcus" (Noah Jupe) and their deaf daughter, "Regan" (Millicent Simmonds), who feels responsible for the younger son's death. Eventually, the battle to survive becomes more difficult, and once sh*t hits the fan, the family is forced to rely on each other to defeat the monsters attacking their home. 

 Just as much as thriller, mixed with a family drama, as well as a horror film, "A Quiet Place" takes some concepts that you've likely seen before and brilliantly executes it, making the film feel more original. The film is mostly silent throughout, with little music, dialogue which is mostly done through sign language, or at times, little to no sound at all, adding to the atmosphere of the film and practically putting you in these deadly situation. (Be honest, we're inherently loud beings. We would all die horribly.) Director/co-writer/actor John Krasinski (Who has previously made a couple other films that never got much critical attention) shows real promise and a real eye for real suspense. (Such as the birthing scene, that literally had everyone on edge) It's a slow, silent buildup to more terrifying things to come, escalating till the last act, which is essentially nonstop terror. 

 Emily Blunt (aka Mrs. John Krasinski) is terrific here, giving a strong (And somewhat painful) performance, along with John Krasinski, reminding everyone how good he can be in front of the camera, while also proving to be good behind it as well. Even the kids are giving excellent performances with Noah Jupe and especially Millicent Simmons (Who is actually deaf in real life), acting like children probably would if put in a condition such as this. What makes the performances so wonderful is that due to the lack of actual talking, the film is carried by their expressions and movements, which is full of terror and dread, yet somehow adding in a heartfelt story about a family. The creatures themselves, who only appear in glimpses until necessary, are the stuff of nightmares, looking like a frightening hybrid of the monsters from "Stranger Things", large spiders, and um, giant ears. (Trust me. They'll make you void your bowels in fear.)

 "A Quiet Place" makes old new again, incorporating chilling horror thrills and combining it with compelling drama in a way that feels natural. It's smart, filled with constant tension, with a few set pieces that will stick with you once you leave the movie. Next time you're alone at night, you'll likely be watching how much noise you make just out of sheer instinct. I mean, you should do that anyway in a movie theater, but if you want to get yourself ripped to shreds, be my guest. Hope the popcorn was worth it. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Images, Parental Fear, And Child Birth. 

Acrimony                                No Stars out of ★★★★

Related image

Image: James said WHAT about my movie!

 Tyler Perry, I want you to know something. I don't hate you as a person. You seem like a pretty decent guy actually, with some actual talent. You were great in "Gone Girl", and I've seen you be both funny in more comedic roles and solid in dramatic ones. You're not a bad actor, and with a little more work, you could be a okay director and writer. But.....How do you keep finding new and creative ways to piss me off? 

 Lets see if I can do this without spoiling everything. (Either way, don't see this movie. Take my word for it, you don't need it in your life.) "Acrimony" starts with "Melinda" (Taraji P. Henson) being forced to have therapy after losing her sh*t at the mere sight of her ex husband, "Robert" (Lyriq Bent). She tells her story, resulting in flashbacks showing younger Melinda (Ajiona Alexus) meeting and falling in love instantly with younger Robert (Antonio Madison), despite the fact he clearly didn't have much to his name in terms of money. Going against the advice of her sisters, Melinda continues to date Robert, while providing money for his get rich quick schemes. He ends up cheating on her, resulting in Melinda driving a car into Robert's trailer, which injures her to the point she can no longer have children. However, Robert says he's sorry and she takes him back. What follows is several years of misery, with Melinda working constantly while Robert tries to perfect his new battery power source or whatever.

 Eventually, it seems that this isn't going anywhere (Much like this movie in general), which makes Melinda force Robert to actually get a job. Thanks to bumping into the girl he previously cheated on Melinda with, "Diana" (Crystle Stewart), who just so happens to work at the Prescott company, which is where Robert has been intending to sell his battery to....Ugh. So anyway, Melinda thinks Robert is cheating, when it turns out he's just being a dumbass, which ends in failure and her kicking him out after going a little crazy. But wait! That's just the first half or so of the movie. It keeps on going, with Melinda still being miserable and Robert getting some help from Diana, who sees how depressing he is now after divorcing Melinda.

 Luck finally changes in Robert's favor with him getting a good offer for his battery, making him instantly rich. Robert decides to make amends for what he did to Melinda, giving her a big check of moolah and a genuine apology. Redemption and forgiveness, with the two of them going their separate ways. The end.....But wait!!! There's more! Melinda is pissed that Robert is marrying Diana, believing that she was the one destined to live this luxurious life and goes even more crazy than before. Stalking, and sending threats, that somehow end up with Melinda trying to kill people. How did we get here? Why are we here? What is wrong with this movie?  

 As you can tell from that attempt at a plot description, "Acrimony"is as sloppily directed as they come, with a story that keeps going when it should be moving to an end. Director, Producer, Writer, and founder of "Tyler Perry Studios", Tyler Perry, who mostly focuses his time on his irritating "Madea" films and self righteous dramas, doesn't seem to know what kind of movie he's making or what exactly it's trying to say. The film is dull and slow, with soapy dialogue and characterization, moving from one predictable plot to the next. At least, for the first two acts anyway. It's your standard, in your face melodrama that veers into comedy, mostly by accident. The third act is when everything comes crashing down in a way that can only be described as "Nonsensically, disastrous". If the film had ended before this, it still wouldn't of been good. But I could of just shrugged it off as another boring, overly dramatic, poorly constructed Tyler Perry film. However, its these last thirty to forty minutes where you see the worst that shoddy filmmaking has to offer. 

 Taraji P. Henson, who is an excellent and very underatted actress, is not too bad in these first opening minutes before we enter the flashback. While she's forced to deliver horrible and awkward voice over throughout, she at first appears to be rising over the material. Then like the rest of the movie, it all goes down the crapper. During this last act, she is absolutely awful. It's so over the top, stupid, and out of character, making for an embarrassing experience. Not sure if I can blame her exactly, putting the full blame on the direction and script. However, it seems to not understand the point it's seemingly trying to get across. Lyriq Bent gives a bland, thoroughly uninteresting performance, though he fares better than his younger counterpart in terms of screen presence. The rest of the supporting characters are all awful people, not fully realizing how dangerous a situation this actually is. (She's insane. Not just emotional, she's flat out crazy. Get her help! Don't just shrug it off!)

 Pretentiously taking time to have a title card explain definitions because Tyler Perry doesn't think the audience knows what words mean, "Acrimony" is disjointed, painfully monotonous, and incredibly indecisive of itself. The film opens with Melinda stating about how unfair it is when a black woman gets mad that it automatically makes her a stereotype. But then the movie ends with that happening exactly. It becomes a living stereotype in of itself. (I feel like I'm not the person to talk about this kind of thing, so I'm really just doing my best to understand) It feels wrong and in a time that heavily involves women's rights, particularly involving being wronged by men, this movie has no place here. Tyler Perry's filmmaking style can't possibly sink any lower, but sadly this time takes down poor Taraji P. Henson with him. That alone just makes me mad. Great! Now I have acrimony! Thanks Tyler! No Stars. Rated R For Language, Violence, Sexual Content, And A Green Screen Of A Park. (Why?)

God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness                                                                                                                                     ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: A Trilogy of crap.

 Not sure if this double feature was an Easter penance or some sick April Fool's Day joke. Either way, saying the third and hopefully final entry into the "God's Not Dead" trilogy is not the worst movie I saw today by a long shot is pretty awkward. I'm not sure if anyone would believe me if I told them.

 "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness" starts with recurring comic relief character, turned protagonist, "Reverend Dave" (David A. R. White) being released from prison during a time of constant bickering and division, especially involving the church still being allowed to remain on a college campus. Dave returns to the church with his buddy, "Reverend Jude" (Benjamin Onyango), ready to get some waffles. Meanwhile, a young couple is going through their own problems, with confused Christian "Keaton" (Samantha Boscarino) deciding to take a break from her atheist boyfriend, "Adam" (Mike C. Manning). Adam, who has had some personal, tragic issues with the church (Because of course he does) loses his temper and throws a brick into one of the windows.

 Sheer bad luck results in the brick causing a gas leak, followed by an explosion that blows up poor Jude (And he didn't even get to have his waffles) and pretty much of the inside of the church. The snooty college superiors decide to use this as a chance to remove the church from school grounds, resulting in Dave turning to the only person who can possibly help him right now, which is his non-believing lawyer brother, "Pearce" (John Corbett). Dave must work with Pearce despite their differences to save the church from being torn down, while Adam, wracked with guilt with what he's done, turns to Keaton for help. 

 "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness" is not good. But you already knew that. Pure Flix, who has been showing at least some signs of improvement lately, still can't help but produce cheaply made, badly written religious exploitation that continues to lack any form of subtly whatsoever. What I can say this time around, this newest film doesn't seem as angry or as hateful as the others in the past have been. In fact, some of the morals, which are admittedly good morals, seem to contradict what the first two seemed to be trying to say. There aren't any evil liberals this time around (In fact, a returning protagonist is revealed to be one), or big bad atheists who just want to destroy Christianity. (This time, they are shown to be decent people, who just disagree with the religion.) I'll even say that the film shows that there can be some crappy or hypocritical Christians out there too. Granted, the movie is kind of hypocritical of itself too, but I chalk that up to the filmmakers just showing that despite some improvement, still aren't exactly pros at what they do. 

 Some of the acting has also improved for the third installment. David A. R. White is not a bad actor with surprisingamount of charm, and thankfully gets promoted to the main character instead of being stuck as comic relief. He has some pretty solid chemistry with John Corbett, who gets a few funny lines and gets the most human portrayal of any non-believer in any of these movies. The younger actors are kind of weak, with Shane Harper (as "Josh", the Christian hero from the first movie) remaining bland and boring. I also deduct half a star because of the brief, but pointless appearance by Newsboys (Who are responsible for the song that plays in all of these movies.) but only. mostly, because they suck. 

 "God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness" seems to have better intentions, with less offensive moments. The film's message isn't a bad one, and it even admits that some Christians should probably take time to actually practice what they preach. However, it's still full of crap, with nonsensical situations, dumb arguments, and most importantly, a slow, boring pace that doesn't have much to offer for the non-converted. Still, I give the film credit for not being irritating. That's faint praise, but it's still praise. It's a miracle! 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content And For Jude Going Boom.

Ready Player One                                      ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for ready player one movie imagesImage: Use the Force, Luke...Sorry, wrong film.

 Nostalgia. It's everywhere lately. We have "Star Wars" making a big comeback, along with the return of "Jurassic Park", "Power Rangers", "Ghostbusters", "Jumanji", "Transformers", etc. The list goes on with the many continuations or reboots of beloved childhood properties that usually result in grown men throwing hissy fits about them that for some reason always end up having underlying themes of sexism and racism. (We can't have nice things.) But it's not just in the return of franchises, there seems to be just this love for everything old, or at least in terms of the 80s and 90s. Many of us grew up at that time and remember it fondly, which is why Hollywood of course would try to capitalize on that. Now you can make the argument that maybe this whole nostalgia train should probably stop at some point......And then you see the Iron Giant fighting Mechagodzilla. That was awesome!!!

 "Ready Player One" takes place in the year 2045, where everything pretty much just sucks. (Pollution, overpopulation, all that good stuff.) The only way to escape from the harshness of reality is in the form of an incredibly detailed, virtual reality world known as "OASIS", which was created by the geek worshiped developer, "James Halliday" (Mark Rylance). Halliday eventually dies, leaving behind a special, final game for the players, which is to find a trio of keys, which will unlock an "Easter Egg", which will hand over complete control of the OASIS to whoever finds it. Our hero, "Wade Watts" (Tye Sheridan), who lives in a jenga style trailer park, is a total nerd and a complete fanboy of Halliday. Wade uses his avatar, "Parzival", takes part in the race to find the keys, along with his friend who he has never met in real life, "Aech" (Voiced by Lena Waithe).

 Wade meets a well known player, known as "Art3mis" (Olivia Cooke), who he is immediately smitten with, and ends up teaming up with her to find the keys. Meanwhile, the evil corporation known as "IOI", led by the slimy "Nolan Sorrento" (Ben Mendelsohn), is determined to find the Easter Egg and takes over the OASIS by any means necessary, even if it means killing whoever gets in their way. Avoiding Sorrento's army of henchman, known as "Sixers", in both the OASIS and in the real world, Wade and his new friends, which includes brothers "Daito" (Win Morisaki) and "Sho" (Phillip Zhao), search for the clues and participate in the puzzles that will reveal the locations of the missing keys, and hopefully save the OASIS from landing in the hands of a bunch of money grubbers, who will essentially control the world if they succeed. 

 Based on the both beloved and hated nostalgia fueled novel by Ernest Cline (Who was also a co-writer to the film), "Ready Player One" has the luxury of being directed by the great Steven Spielberg, who was known for revolutionizing what we consider grand, but heartfelt Hollywood escapism. The film embraces it's unapologetically cheesy nature with a big smile, filling the screen with an onslaught of references and imagery that nobody could of ever imagined seeing on the big screen all at once. In terms of it's visuals, the film is a treat to look at, nearly exploding off the screen in a literal manner. Despite the focus on the special effects, which are present throughout most of the film, there is still a sweet story with a solid message underneath that makes up for some fairly standard character development. 

 The cast of characters aren't exactly deep, but they are easy to root for and are memorable. Tye Sheridan is suitably awkward, but endearing. (And apparently less creepy here than in the book) Olivia Cooke is absolutely adorable and continues to prove to be a talented young actress. Ben Mendelsohn is perfectly villainous, playing up the smarmy corporate dick role wonderfully, along with Hannah John-Kamen (as "F'Nale", Sorrento's ruthless enforcer) and a hilarious T.J. Miller (Voicing "i-R0k", a powerful, menacing weapons trader within the OASIS, who sounds just like T.J. Miller), essentially playing Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons". Lena Waithe provides some humor, with a fun small part for Simon Pegg (as "Ogden Morrow", Halliday's former best friend/OASIS co-creator) and the always wonderful Mark Rylance, who gets a rather brilliant role to play here. 

 Ludicrously packed full of pop cultures references and Easter eggs, "Ready Player One" knows what it intends to be, and with Spielberg's knowledge and love for this style of filmmaking being a perfect fit. It's corny as Hell, but in such a lovable way that just makes you smile uncontrollably, even in the most predictable of moments. You gets some genuine laughs, a well told story, with crazy amounts of visual chaos, and an overall message of separating reality from fantasy, while also saying that there is nothing wrong with a little escapism every now and then. Which is also the best way to describe this film. And the best way to describe my reviews....No? I'm not the Spielberg of film reviews? 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Language, Chaotic Violence, And The Shining.  

Paul, Apostle of Christ                       ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for paul apostle of christImage:Mission Apostle-ble.

 You know the best thing that makes up for seeing a movie late on a weekday? You get to lay down in the empty theater. That was really nice and relaxing, especially after a long day of work. Got nothing else to add. Just wanted people to know I got to lay down during this movie. Just chillin', with no one else in the theater. 

 "Paul, Apostle of Christ" follows the last days in the life of "Saint Paul" (James Faulkner) formerly known as "Saul of Tarsus", who himself once maliciously persecuted Christians, before eventually seeing the light and becoming one himself. After spending years redeeming himself and helping the world, he ends up persecuted himself. Paul is thrown in prison, awaiting execution. His old friend, "Luke" (Jim Caviezel), arrives to help his persecuted followers, who are all struggling to survive. Luke visits Paul in prison, and begins to write his gospel, with Paul detailing his life before converting and his eventual redemption, while his jailer, "Mauritius" (Oliver Martinez), struggles to understand who Paul is and how he has accomplished what he has.  

 As you can tell already, "Paul, Apostle of Christ" in terms of plotting is fairly slight. It's an interesting idea to focus on on the aged Paul, seeking the truth to if he has truly found his redemption, while incorporating the persecution of the Christian people during it. (To the makers of "God's Not Dead", this is what real persecution looks like.) However, there really isn't enough story to quite make it to the hour and forty minute runtime and it shows. The film is slow and drags along in some scenes, particularly when it takes time to deal with a few subplots that mostly feel like padding while other aspects happen offscreen or are simply sped through. (Granted, the film did only cost $5 Million. So you can tell they had little to work with.)

 Unlike other films in the faith based genre, "Paul, Apostle of Christ" finds a few unexpectedly good performances. Jim Caviezel is a bit on the wooden side (From what I've been told, he always has been), but you can see he's trying and does manage to inject some personality here and there. The real star is James Faulkner (An actor mostly known for bit parts and character roles) is excellent, giving a strong, human performance, along with Oliver Martinez, who is more complex than your average faith based villain. John Lynch and Joanne Whalley (as "Aquilla" and "Priscilla", husband and wife/allies to Paul and Luke) are both good, even with their bland, exposition based dialogue. 

 "Paul, Apostle of Christ" doesn't have too much too offer for the nonconverted and is too slow paced to keep one's attention. (Hey, I was laying down the whole time. Of course I was tired.) With that said, the film accomplishes it's goal of teaching a good moral, which is something that's been lacking in most modern faith based films. The message of rejecting hatred and violence in favor of peace, love, and the hope of redemption is a powerful one that is told genuinely. Nothing but good intentions here, and I can't hate on the movie for that. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Violence And Harshness. (Most Bible Stories Are Pretty Messed Up!)

Midnight Sun                                      ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for midnight sun movieImage: Not another happy teen movie.
 What is it with filmmakers and ruining perfectly good, dramatic storylines that could affect people in emotional ways, but instead deciding to turn it into a teen-centric romance? "The Fault in Our Stars" was great, but that was because of it's excellent cast, respect towards the reality of the situation, and humor to balance out the seriousness. It seems you can't have your teen romance without a little bit of death, regardless of it's place in the movie. I know it's a remake of a Japanese movie from 2006, it still just feels out of place and just plain odd. Bums me out
 "Midnight Sun" follows "Katie" (Bella Thorne), who from an early age was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called "Xeroderma pigmentosum" (or XP), which means it is life threatening for her to go out in the sun due to severe sensitivity. (Granted, she still looks like Bella Thorne despite this, but that's besides the point.) She mostly spends her time in her home, with her widowed father, "Jack" (Rob Riggle) and her best friend, "Morgan" (Quinn Shepherd), while crushing on the popular guy, "Charlie" (Patrick Schwarzenegger), who Katie mostly just watches pass by her window. Only allowed to go out at night, Katie accidentally bumps into Charlie, panicking and returning home, leaving her notebook of songs behind. With some pushing from Morgan, Katie ends up meeting up with Charlie once again, and a relationship starts to form. Deciding to keep her condition a secret for plot contrived reasons, Katie and Charlie go out at night throughout the summer, getting closer and closer over time. Sadly, this movie can only end one of two ways, with a forced, overly watered down happy ending that doesn't belong in this movie ,or a needlessly dark, unpleasantly depressing ending that doesn't belong in this movie.  
 From the director of "Step Up: Revolution" (Well at least it's a bit of a step up....Get it?), "Midnight Sun" has some potential some aspects, and I'm sure the filmmakers had the best of intentions in terms of it's subject matter. However, this isn't the kind of film to showcase such a thing,because every time a poignant or strong emotional moment, the film reverts back to a cheesy romance that lacks the depth necessary to make it work. The film also seemingly introduces a couple extra subplots, that either mostly happen offscreen or are straight up dropped from the film entirely. 
 The most surprising aspect of the film is that it somehow gets far more superior performances out of some of the cast than this movie truly deserves. Bella Thorne is a charming lead, coming across as a very likable character, and her father-daughter relationship with Rob Riggle, (Who is shockingly wonderful here), is actually very cute. The film's most dramatic moments work best here and the whole time you're wondering why the film keeps instead focusing on the relationship with Patrick Schwarzenegger, (Who is ungodly boring and mostly does nothing other than smile and look pretty for the girls watching). Quinn Shepherd provides some much needed humor, with a small subplot with an awkward geeky guy (Nicholas Coombe) that just sort of happens without reason.. (Most unrealistic part of the movie for me right there.) 
  The romance in "Midnight Sun" fails due to a lack of chemistry and detracts from the relationships in the film that actually work. The film's ending also shows one of the major problems I have with this genre. (The whole dying teenage romance genre.) The film's attempts at being a tearjerker feels more manipulative and so in your face with how melodramatic it is, that it complicates and further misunderstands the point it's seemingly trying to make. The film clearly doesn't have the intent to offend anyone who actually suffers from Xeroderma pigmentosum, but this is definitely not the film to tell that kind of story. People and families afflicted with this disease deserve better. And, gosh darn it, so does Rob Riggle.  2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Depressing Teen Romance. 

Sherlock Gnomes                                   ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for sherlock gnomes

Image: Gnome Man's Land. 

 I've pretty much seen the trailer for this film once a week (If I'm lucky) since November. Not a new trailer. The same exact one. The one that ends with a little mankini gnome coming out and shaking it's porcelain, yet for some reason still jiggly derriere at the screen. I could pretty much quote that entire trailer considering how many times I saw it. I even saw it during movies where it didn't even belong. (Why did it play before "The Post" and "The 15:17 to Paris"?) What I'm trying to say is that the fact that the scene with the little gnome's rump isn't in the movie pretty much warrants at least half a star. Hey, I like to think I'm a fair critic who rewards credit where it's due. (Still doesn't excuse those lazy parody posters though. Shame.)

 "Sherlock Gnomes" opens with the titular, vain detective, "Sherlock Gnomes" (Johnny Depp), along with his neglected partner, "Watson" (Chiwetel Ejiofor), taking on the evil pie mascot, "Moriarty" (Jamie Demetriou), which results in Moriarty's apparent demise. Some time later, "Gnomeo" (James McAvoy), "Juliet" (Emily Blunt), and um, the rest, move into a brand new garden. With Juliet getting new responsibilities, she starts to ignore Gnomeo, making him feel unwanted. After a misunderstanding, the couple returns home to find all their friends and family gone. Meanwhile Sherlock and Watson just so happen to be investigating a case involving many garden gnomes vanishing throughout the city, leading them to running into Gnomeo and Juliet. Suspecting Moriarty has returned, Sherlock is determined the solve the case, with Gnomeo and Juliet mostly coming along for the ride. 

 The long delayed sequel to the 2011 somewhat hit, "Gnomeo and Juliet", "Sherlock Gnomes" never finds much reason to justify it's own existence, tell it's lackluster story in the simplest, most predictable way it possibly can, with a bland script that hardly has anything particularly funny in it. While never too annoying, the film comes across as more boring than anything, and seems only geared to the littlest of kids. (Even more so than the first one) The Elton John music doesn't add much and the characters aren't exactly interesting. That animation itself isn't anything too bad, with plenty of colors and lively character expressions. The film is directed by John Stevenson, who directed the first "Kung Fu Panda", which probably explains why there are a handful of decent looking set pieces. (Even if the film hardly does anything clever or original with them.)

 James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, and Chiwetel Ejiofor are all doing solid enough jobs with the voice work, at least sounding as if they're not just reading lines off a script. Michael Caine (as "Lord Redbrick", Juliet's father) and Maggie Smith (as "Lady Blueberry", Gnomeo's mother) don't get anything to do, and mostly feel like they're only just here because they're legends, and because they were in the first one. (On a side note, was the movie implying that those two characters were a couple now? But they're Gnomeo and Juliet's parents? Doesn't that make them step siblings now?.......Should I just stop thinking about it?) We get a brief appearance from Mary J. Blige (as "Irene", a plastic doll who used to be Sherlock's girlfriend), who does get one of the film's most memorable sequences. (A musical number of course) and Jamie Demetriou only gets a handful of scenes, but does bring out a couple laughs with his over the top villainy. The best part of the film is surprisingly Johnny Depp, who is actually playing a character this time around, instead of just doing a silly voice. He's a bit of a jerk, who does have some likability to him, and even some amusing moments. (There's a couple of entertaining moments involving his inner thoughts, which are shown in hand drawn animation.)

 While it does feature Johnny Depp's most enjoyable performance in some time, "Sherlock Gnomes", which really doesn't have much to it to begin with, just meanders around toward it's ending. It feels chopped up and cobbled together, with no surprises or justification to make you realize the necessity of this sequel. Maybe the youngest of the young may enjoy it, but with the much better family fare out today ("Paddington 2", "Peter Rabbit", and even "Isle of Dogs", despite it's PG-13 rating), all it does is take up time and space that could of been diverted somewhere else. Like puttering around in your garden with some actual Gnomes. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Crude Humor And Well, The Mankini Gnome. (Destroy that thing. Now!)

Pacific Rim: Uprising                           ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for pacific rim uprisingImage: "So, you feel lucky, punk".

 Anyone who knows me or has actually been following my site since 2013 (Or some even longer. I have been doing this for officially 8 years now), you should recall I gave the original "Pacific Rim", Directed by Guillermo del Toro, a 4 star rating. I stand by that as unironically as possible. I still think it's a great film. It's the definition of what a big summer blockbuster should be, complete with stunning effects, a variety of characters, big crowdpleasing moments, and freakin giant robots fighting even more giant monsters. There is a reason we geeks were excited for this one. Even with the long delay.

 "Pacific Rim: Uprising" picks up 10 years after the first one, where the humans, used their two pilot giant mechs, known as "Jaegers" to combat the giant monsters known as "Kaiju", who were unleashed by an evil alien race using a portal at the bottom of the ocean. Long story short, the good guys won, the Alien overlords were defeated, and the portal was shut. Now we are introduced to "Jake Pentecost" (John Boyega), the son of the deceased war hero, "Stacker Pentecost" (Played in the last film by Idris Elba), lives his life stealing Kaiju and Jaeger parts to the highest bidder. Jake ends up arrested with a young girl, "Amara Namani" (Cailee Spaeny), who was illegally using her own personal mini-Jaeger, nicknamed "Scrapper".

 Jake's adopted sister/fan favorite from the first film, "Mako Mori" (Rinko Kikuchi) arranges for Jake and Amara to be released, with the exception that they join Jaeger training program, with Jake serving as an instructor. While Jake is forced to work with his old partner, "Nate" (Scott Eastwood), with Mako revealing that the program is in danger of being shut down in favor of a new drone program run by "Liwen Shao" (Jing Tian), with help from manic, former Kaiju fanboy, "Dr. Newt Geiszler" (Charlie Day). When the arrival of a rogue Jaeger ends in tragedy, the new heroes must rise to the task of finding out who is manipulating events from behind the scenes, resulting in the return of the Kaiju to Earth. 

 Directed by Stephen S. DeKnight (Who is mostly just known for TV work, such as that "Spartacus" show), "Pacific Rim: Uprising" feels like a much lesser version of the first that at times can't seem to avoid a couple annoying sequel tropes. (Such as doing away with a character from the first movie for no reason or repeating a few popular moments that people liked in the original) The film does still deliver on all the mechanized chaos and fun that everyone loved about the first one, while doing what a good sequel should do, which is expanding on the world that's already been established. With a smaller budget, the film's effects don't look quite as real as the first, but still have a lively look to them, that shows in the action scenes, which are clear, exciting, and thoroughly original. From what the film borrows from other franchises (Such as "Transformers" and maybe a little from "Independence Day"), it does a much better job with what it takes, still making for plenty of excitement. 

 John Boyega is a strong, charismatic lead who dominates the film, and he gives it some heart. Boyega has great chemistry with Cailee Spaeny, who works well off of him, especially when it comes to the playful banter. Scott Eastwood looks to be enjoying himself for once, and gets to show some actual personality. (Granted, "Suicide Squad" really wasn't his fault) Jing Tian gets a bit more to her character than you at first think, and it's great to see Rinko Kikuchi back, even if she only gets a handful of scenes. There is some great comic relief from Burn Gorman (as "Hermann Gottlieb", Newt's buddy returning from the first film) and Charlie Day, who looks like he's having the time of his life. Much of the supporting cast mostly just serves their purpose to the story, and doesn't get much development outside of that. The real stars this time around are the Jaegers themselves. While we only get a couple of Kaiju, (Who are cool and menacing looking, but only appear towards the last act) the machines all seem to have their own distinctive personalities, getting more time in the limelight than in the first film, where aside from the main one, "Gypsy Danger", were all just glorified cameos. 

 Lacking most of the charm from the original, and most of the stakes, "Pacific Rim: Uprising" appears more lighthearted and dare I say, kid friendly compared to the first film. However, the film is still plenty of good, old fashioned popcorn munching fun, complete with a plot reveal so bizarrely hilarious, that goes to show that the film isn't taking itself too seriously. It still sets up for more to come, which if this is weaker by comparison, I'm totally down for some more Jaeger vs. Kaiju action. You know, if it makes enough money this time. (We were lucky to even get this movie the more I think about it.)  3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Sci-Fi Violence, Constant Destructive Of Property, And The Most Erotic Scene Involving A Kaiju Brain. 

Isle of Dogs                                    ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for isle of dogsImage: My nightmares, they're coming true!

 There's something about Wes Anderson's world that's utterly spellbinding. It's so unlike anything that it defies basic explanation. But I'm gonna try to do it anyway. It's like a candy coated doll house of quirky weirdness that mixes offbeat comedy, some pretty serious drama, a genuine heart, and in the case of his newest, stop motion animated epic, complete and utter insanity. 

 "Isle of Dogs" begins 20 years in the future in Japan, where there has been an apparent outbreak of a canine flu. Thedog hating/cat loving "Mayor Kobayashi" (Kunichi Nomura) arranges for all dogs, including "Spots" (Liev Schrieber), the dog belonging to his own nephew, "Atari" (Koyu Rankin), to be taken away and quarantined to "Trash Island". Some time later, a group of dogs on the island, which includes "Rex" (Edward Norton), "King" (Bob Balaban), "Duke" (Jeff Goldblum), "Boss" (Bill Murray), and their stray leader, "Chief" (Bryan Cranston) live their days eating garbage and getting into fights.

 One day, Atari, having hijacked a plane, ends up crash landing on Trash Island. Atari is determined to track down his missing dog, and against Chief's wishes, the others vow to help him. The group begins an adventure throughout the island to find Spots, all while the Mayor, along with his scary "Major Domo" (Akira Takayama) send out their squads of robot dogs to track down Atari. Meanwhile back in Japan, a plucky foreign exchange student, "Tracy" (Greta Gerwig) is determined to crack open the conspiracy involving the Mayor, his hatred of dogs, the Mayor's political rival, "Professor Watanabe" (Akira Ito), who is attempting to find a cure for the canine flu, and an evil scheme to wipe out all the dogs on the island. 

 From Director Wes Anderson (Known for his critically acclaimed filmography consisting of "Fantastic Mr. Fox", "Moonrise Kingdom, "The Grand Budapest Hotel", etc.), "Isle of Dogs" could possibly be one of his grandest, craziest film yet. And in his typical (Not so typical) style, you get some awkward laughs, a ton of creativity, and underneath it all, a sweet, heartwarming story about man's best friend and their importance to us. The film's visuals are simple, but stunning, with an extraordinary amount of attention to detail. The characters are lively, with their distinctive personalities visible simply from their designs and movements. The beautiful backgrounds and the sheer scope of the film that give it an epic feel that you wouldn't expect. 

 Also written by Wes Anderson, his trademark sense of humor is apparent along with the usual deadpan delivery of an incredible ensemble of actors, with this film having the biggest collection of great actors you'll likely see in any movie this year. Bryan Cranston is perfectly growly, with a heartwarming story arc, and we get plenty of laughs out of the collection of Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray, who all have their quirks. (How can that group of actors possibly not be funny?) We also get quick appearances from Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson (as "Nutmeg", Chief's love interest), F. Murray Abraham (as "Jupiter", an older dog who helps the heroes out on their journey), Tilda Swinton (as "Oracle", a pug that gets visions from watching TV), among surprise appearances from others. The Japanese cast, who all mostly speak Japanese without subtitles (With some minor translation from an interpreter voiced by Frances McDormand), and are all excellent, which is credit to the filmmakers for going in that direction. 

 Aside from a surprising amount of darkness and even a few tearjerky moments, "Isle of Dogs" is at it's heart, a tale about a boy and his dog (And his dog friends). The one complaint (If you would call it that), is that the film is so unlike anything you've seen before that you have trouble really figuring out how to rank it. (That explains another 4 star rating). There is a sense of wonder to the film, even with it's oddness, and a positive message of how we treat those who have nothing but loyalty and love to offer. (It might even be a little political. Granted, everything about shunning a specific group of people reminds me of politics these days.) The film has a bit of a bittersweet edge to it, but plenty of cute, lovable characters and whimsy, that you can only find in a Wes Anderson movie. Sometimes it pays to be a weirdo. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Violence And A Little Language. 

I Can Only Imagine                          ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for i can only imagine movieImage: He can only imagine a large audience.

 The critical dissonance between film critics and religious filmgoers (Particularly Christian filmgoers) is obviously pretty large. Look,to be fair to us critics, it's not our fault that they're mostly terrible. Some are okay to decent at best, while most are, well, "God's Not Dead" (Personally, I believe that a kind, benevolent God would have given it no more than 1 star.) We aren't looking to bash you guys (Okay, maybe some are. But screw those guys.), most of us want these films to succeed. I certainly do. There's nothing wrong with a little innocent, good natured faith film once in a while. It's just when you see lame, cheap, made for TV movies like this, all I can think of the whole time is "Can't I just go see "Black Panther" again?" In fact, let Marvel make a religious super hero film. I guarantee it would be great.

 "I Can Only Imagine" tells the story of  "Bart Millard" (J. Michael Finley) and his hit Christian song by the same name, detailing what happened in his life that led to him writing the song. The film follows Bart from his childhood, living with his abusive father "Arthur" (Dennis Quaid), his relationship with his childhood sweetheart "Shannon" (Madeline Carroll), and his eventual calling to music and singing. This leads Bart to leaving his hometown, becoming part of a band, "MercyMe", and with help from their manager, "Scott Brickell" (Trace Adkins), trying to hit it big with the other, more popular bands, despite constantly being told that they'll never make it. At some point, Bart returns home to find his father dying, and seeking to form some kind of relationship with his son. These final days with his father lead Bart to writing his song, which would go on to be one of the most celebrated faith based songs of all time.

 "I Can Only Imagine" not being made by a lesser studio like "Pure Flix" does at least work out in it's favor in the sense that the film actually looks like something you would see in theaters, while not containing the horrendous acting and occasionally hidden bigotry that those movies have. It's a sweet, admittedly heartwarming story that I can understand resonating with people, especially of the Christian faith. The problem is that it's so dang lame, with a blandly by the numbers story, cheesy dialogue, and in your face attempts at uplift. It doesn't do anything new, or even that important, which is fine for the audience it's designated for. But that doesn't make the movie actually good. It just shows more reasons why these films don't get much larger of an audience. (It also explains why these films are rarely screened for critics.) 

 I don't buy J. Michael Finley in high school in the absolute slightest (Seriously, you guys couldn't hire a younger actor?), but he does at least have a certain level of charm to carry the film, and even does well in some of the emotional scenes. I think Dennis Quaid will forever be stuck playing grizzled, grouchy characters, but he is doing it well. The relationship with Madeline Carroll is mostly secondary (And somewhat feels tacked on), while Trace Adkins gets a funny line or two every now and then. The rest of the band members just sort of blend together, and I don't even remember who was who and what their purpose was. Cloris Leachman (as "Meemaw", Bart's loving grandma) is underused to the point it feels like the movie straight up forgets about her. 

 "I Can Only Imagine" will only resonate with a certain, specific group of people, and that's okay if you're part of that group. The film means well, and the message of forgiveness and redemption through faith is much better done here than others. (Such as last years unpleasantly misguided "The Shack") Being someone who doesn't really have much of a connection to the actual song compared to others, (To be perfectly honest, this review is the most I've ever thought about it) the film doesn't have much purpose or reason to be here. It just preaches to the choir, while not exactly bringing in anyone new. Its sweet natured schlock that at the very least has only the intention of teaching a good moral, despite being instantly forgettable. Maybe if Disney took a shot at the genre. And if they added lightsabres! Maybe I've gone too far. 2 stars. Rated PG For Realistic Content And Dennis Quaid's Growl. 

Tomb Raider                                     ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for tomb raider movie 2018Image: Alicia takes aim...For my heart.

 I swear to God, if I hear someone say "Maybe this will be the one to break the video game movie curse" one more time! Just stop! It ain't happening. I know I'm sounding like a cynic (And I am), but by this point we've said that so many times that it's lost all meaning. "The Angry Birds Movie" is as good as we're likely ever going to get. It's time we accepted that, or at least accepted that it will be no more than okay at best. And then we can finally move on with our lives

 "Tomb Raider" follows "Lara Croft" (Alicia Vikander), who after her archaeologist father, "Richard" (Dominic West) vanished seven years prior, has kind of let it ruin her life and just finds herself desperate for money and in stupid situations. Her father's business partner, "Ana Miller" (Kristin Scott Thomas) approaches Lara and convinces her to claim her father's inheritance since it's likely he's dead. Lara ends up receiving not just her missing father's estate, but also a mysterious puzzle box with a message. The message sends her on a quest to discover what's happened to her father, discovering that he was involved in a battle with a mysterious organization known as "Trinity", who was searching for the remains of "Himoko", a mythical queen who seemingly had power to kill people simply by touching them.

 Richard feared what Trinity would do with this knowledge, which led to his disappearance. Lara heads off to search for him, with help from a drunk ship captain, "Lu Ren" (Daniel Wu), sailing into the obviously dangerous Devil's sea. Of course they end up crashing, resulting in the both of them being captured by "Mathias Vogel" (Walton Goggins), who leads an expedition to find Himiko's body no matter the cost. Lara eventually escapes and is now the only one who can stop Vogel from unearthing Himiko's remains and possibly endangering the world.  

 Directed by a guy with a sound effect for a name, Roar Uthaug, "Tomb Raider" seems to be trying to make something more than a stupid cash grab at something popular. Based on the beloved video game series, or more likely, based on the current rebooted stage of the franchise, (The one where she has more realistic breasts instead of giant triangle ones. We all noticed) the film takes it's time to develop it's story and main character, while attempting to ground it in reality. Occasionally it kind of works, with Lara Croft coming across as a likable, very strong character, who you can see handling herself in these dangerous situations. However, despite a grounded feel, the plot is basically pure nonsense, with the mystical elements feeling out of place and a little stupid really. 

 Oscar Winner Alicia Vikander certainly doesn't sleepwalk through the film, and even with the script's occasional failings, still gives an excellent, vulnerable performance making for a good heroine to root for. Walton Goggins also seems to be giving a bit more, remaining menacing, while injecting a slight amount of sympathy to at least make you understand where he's coming from. While Daniel Wu and Dominic West don't really get much to really do (And quite frankly, have to spout out some pretty silly dialogue), the two of them give it their very best and appear committed. Also, Nick Frost (as a pawn shop owner) appears for a minute, and vanishes far too quickly. In terms of action, the CGI is decent enough, but despite the PG-13 (And the fact that the game itself is M rated), the film still has this harsh, gritty feel that does show that there are stakes in this world. A particularly good moment is Lara getting her first kill and not knowing how to react to doing such a thing. (Granted, she later goes through bad guys like nothing, but it was still a nice moment.)

 "Tomb Raider" is what you would consider a step in the right direction, but still can't seem to avoid the same flaws that plague these video game adaptations (Being that what can work on a different medium, doesn't always work on another). The film has effort and maybe even a little more depth than you would expect. It sadly also has ridiculous plot points, dumb explanations for certain scenes (Why is there a random puzzle in the middle of an actions scene), and overall has the feel that you could find more enjoyment just playing the game, then just watching a lesser version of it. Overall, the movie just being "Okay" is probably the best anyone (Especially the fans) could of asked for. And we'll have to take what we can get. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Gritty Violence And Untrained Use Of Bows And Arrows. 

Love, Simon                                            ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for love simonImage:  Life can feel like it's upside down.

 I remember when I had to come out to my parents about who I was. Don't get me wrong, I was scared. I wasn't sure if they would accept me. But I did it. I sat the both of them down and without hesitation, I said "Mom. Dad..... I'm a film critic". Sure they told me that the job of a film critic wouldn't pay the bills (And boy were they right on that one), but I feel much, much happier now that everyone knows who I am. Alright, seriously, I hope that my lame joke illustrates how difficult it must be for anyone to come out to their family and friends (Especially in terms of their sexuality) and to hope that this wonderful film might somehow, in it's own way, make it easier

 "Love, Simon" follows "Simon Spier" (Nick Robinson), who is a closeted homosexual in high school. He is a pretty average guy, well liked, with plenty of friends, all of which have no idea that he's gay, including his best friend "Leah" (Katherine Langford), along with "Nick" (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and "Abby" (Alexandra Shipp). Simon has also kept his sexuality hidden from his parents, "Jack" (Josh Duhamel) and "Emily" (Jennifer Garner), and younger sister, "Nora" (Talitha Bateman). Simon eventually comes across the revelation that there is another closeted gay kid at school, who goes by the pseudonym "Blue", meaning that he is no longer alone in his predicament.

 Simon decides to e-mail Blue, going by the pseudonym "Jacques" and the two seem to have a connection, leading to Simon finally having someone to talk to about who he is and possibly someone he might be romantically attracted to. But Simon is forced to deal with one of his classmates, "Martin" (Logan Miller) finding out about his secret and threatens to let the entire school about it unless Simon can hook him up with Abby. Simon tries to keep his family and friends in the dark about the whole situation, all while trying to find out who Blue actually is, with his main suspects being several of his classmates, including "Bram" (Keiynan Lonsdale) and "Cal" (Miles Heizer)

 Based on the book "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" by Becky Albertalli and Directed by Gred Berlanti, "Love, Simon" is probably one of the most honest (And less depressing) films to focus to focus on a gay romance, and it does so in a way that's heartfelt, old fashioned, and often very funny. With obvious inspirations coming from old John Hughes films, the movie takes a coming of age story and tell it in the most simplest of ways possible, but does so expertly. The fact that the film remembers to pack itself with memorable characters, plenty of good laughs, and a story that will definitely serve as an inspiration to those in the gay community doesn't make the film feel unoriginal. Instead, it gives the film more of a timely feel. Its more of a throwback to those films, rather than a movie just relying on clichés, much like other previous additions to the teen coming of age genre, (Such as "The Edge of Seventeen" and the Oscar-nominated "Lady Bird".). 

 Nick Robinson (Who was previously one of the better parts in last year's "Everything, Everything"), gives a winning performance that carries the film. He feels like a natural, every day person that unlike many films that seem to try to want to tell this same type of story, doesn't change his personality due to his sexuality. (People are still normal people, even when they come out.) Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel get more roles than parents often do in these kinds of films, getting chances to inject some humor and warmth to their characters. Katherine Langford has great chemistry with Nick Robinson, along with the rest of the cast portraying his friends, including Talitha Bateman (Previously showed a lot of talent in last year's "Annabelle: Creation"), Alexandra Shipp and Jorge Lendebord Jr. Logan Miller is a suitably obnoxious antagonist, while we get some laugh out loud moments from Tony Hale (as "Mr. Worth", the Vice Principal, who tries way to hard to be cool) and Natasha Rothwell (as "Ms. Albright", the drama teacher who doesn't intend to put up with anyone's crap.) It's a wonderful cast of characters that are instantly recognizable and each serve a purpose. (I'll also admit, I didn't see the reveal of Blue's identity coming. It's a pretty solid mystery.)

 "Love, Simon", much like lat year's underrated "The Big Sick", is a romantic comedy that doesn't need to fake charm, but instead just naturally has it. It takes tropes that we should be tired of and makes them new again, while throwing in a few surprises. It's the kind of movie that has lasting appeal, with the smart script that balances out comedy, drama, and to be perfectly honest, all around adorableness that makes for a true crowd pleaser. Sure to be an instant favorite within the teen genre, and downright one of the best movies already this year. I'm even betting it changes minds, and even some lives. What an accomplishment. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Proud Gayness. 

Gringo                                                       ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Maybe all of this was a really bad idea. The movie, I mean.

 27th worst mainstream film opening of all time. Making $2.6 million in over 2,000 theaters. They keep track of these things. Ouch. Just ouch. 

 "Gringo" follows nicest, good guy with the worst luck, "Harold Soyinka" (David Oyelowo), while working on a business trip to Mexico to check on the development on a "Weed Pill" that is essentially medical marijuana in pill form. He learns that the company will possibly going into a merger (Which means he's likely screwed.), along with the realization that he's losing money, his wife "Bonnie" (Thandie Newton) is cheating on him, and his bosses "Richard" (Joel Edgerton) and "Elaine" (Charlize Theron) are both horrible people, who don't care about him in the slightest. Harold decides he's had enough and fakes a kidnapping in hopes of getting his bosses to pay the ransom to get him back. Again, they really don't care about him.

 To make matters worse, it turns out the Cartel actually does intend to kidnap Harold, with their leader known as "The Black Panther" (Carlos Corona), (Apparently taking time away from ruling Wakanda), sending all of his men to track down Harold to get their hands on the pill for themselves. What follows is a series of silly situations with Harold being at the center of it all. Everyone is looking to either capture or kill Harold, as nice girl "Sunny" (Amanda Seyfried) is on vacation with her drug trafficking boyfriend "Miles" (Harry Treadaway), while and Richard sending in his former mercenary brother turned activist "Mitch" (Sharlto Copley) to find Harold.  

 Directed by Nash Edgerton (Brother of Joel Edgerton) in his directorial debut, "Gringo" has an idea of what it wants to be (Think Cohen Brothers with a hint of Steven Soderbergh), but it's all over the place in it's execution. The plot is a jumbled mess, with too many supporting characters and subplots that really don't affect the main story, which feels out of focus in places. The film takes too long to get going in it's first act due to the distractingly slow pace, with sadly not near enough laughs to really make it particularly worth it. Once the film finally gets to the point, there are a fair share of moments that actually work, along with a few decent laughs. 

 One of the best parts of the film (While also being the strangest, due to the fact you wonder how the hell they all ended up here) would be the cast, who each give it their all regardless of the material. David Oyelowo shows more of his range as an actor, from being able to do serious, Oscar caliber roles to more goofy, comedic ones, remaining a likable character that you want to see succeed. Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron (Who is also one of the film's Producers) look like they're having a ball being slimy dirtbags, and Sharlto Copley's zaniness is always welcome whether or not the movie is good. Most of the subplots add little, or even just plain should of been left out, such as the one involving Amanda Seyfried, who is cute, but serves no purpose to anything that happens. 

 "Gringo" is too messy, and not funny enough to compensate the for it's pacing issues and lack of focus on what's best about the film, in favor unimportant plotlines that don't come together once the movie ends. With the talent involved, you expect something better, especially when it feels like they're the ones doing all of the heavy lifting. 2 stars. Rated R For Violence, Language, And Weed Pills. 

A Wrinkle in Time                                    ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for a wrinkle in time movie imagesImage: If you touch the Oprah, it brings eternal life.

 From Director Ava DuVernay (2014's Oscar nominated "Selma"), "A Wrinkle in Time" has been considered a bit of a big deal for numerous reasons aside from it being the first live action film to be directed by a woman of color with such a high budget. It has been meant to promote more of a sense of diversity, with mature themes of female empowerment. As overdue as that all is, the final product is...well.....something. Lets just say I wasn't expecting to see a giant floating Oprah today. It's one of those things you just never expect yourself to see.

 "A Wrinkle in Time" starts with the vanishing of astrophysicist, "Alex Murry" (Chris Pine), leaving behind his wife "Kate" (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), daughter "Meg" (Storm Reid), and prodigy son "Charles Wallace" (Deric McCabe). Meg is constantly in trouble at school, dealing with mean girl "Veronica" (Rowan Blanchard), and just lacking much self confidence in herself. Charles Wallace on the other hand, starts to befriend a few strange characters, from a weird hippie, "Mrs. Whatsit" (Reese Witherspoon) and another strange woman who speaks in famous sayings, "Mrs. Who" (Mindy Kaling), and eventually the giant, magical, "Mrs. Which" (Future President/World Leader, Oprah Winfrey).

 These three beings reveal that their father is alive and is being held hostage by a evil entity of pure darkness, known as Pennywi....."The IT" (Stephen King will likely be seeing you in court for that one). The beings send Meg, Charles Wallace, and random kid from school, "Calvin" (Levi Miller) on an adventure through time and space. This kids proceed to explore strange new worlds, encounter bizarre creatures, face dangerous threats, and experience lots and lots of psychedelic imagery.  It's essentially an acid trip brought to you by the Wonderful World of Disney. 

 Based on the beloved 1962 book by Madeleine L'Endle, "A Wrinkle in Time" was considered unfilmable (Though that didn't stop Disney from making a made for TV versionn in 2003, that's been labeled as a complete disaster by many). It shows in how the story itself appears to have so much to tell with such a limited amount of time. The film feels rushed early on, with some slightly awkward set up in how our characters wind up on their magical adventure, with so many terms and mythology that you feel like you need a special dictionary to understand what's going on. Maybe some scenes were cut out (A couple are missing that were in the trailers) or maybe the book's complex story was just a little too much for a family friendly studio to successfully adapt to the big screen. 

 Storm Reid is the real star of the film, and handles herself very well, especially with the film's most emotional moments. President Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and especially Reese Witherspoon seem to be having a lot of fun being weird and quirky, even if the set up to their characters is surprisingly lacking. Gugu Mbatha Raw (Who sadly doesn't get too much to do here) and Chris Pine are both excellent in their small roles, while Deric McCabe is a charming little kid, but doesn't have the chop for where his character goes and I think the filmmakers relied to heavily on him towards the film's climax. (What they end up doing looks more silly than scary.) We also get some amusing and fairly memorable small bits from Zach Galifianakis (as "The Happy Medium", an awkward Yoga/Yoda-esque seer) and Michael Peña (as "Red", a creepy, possibly untrustworthy guy that the kids meet on their adventure) Our main villain itself, "The It" (Who's briefly voiced by David Oyelowo for some reason) is more of a fascinating concept than a solid threat. But what it represents is nonetheless effective. 

 Ambitious to a fault, "A Wrinkle in Time" has so much to tell, and little time to explain. Despite it's faults, the imagination (And borderline insanity) of the film are at times fairly enchanting, and even while the visual effects don't look particularly real, it's still a stunning experience (Saw it in IMAX, and everything just sort of pops off screen). There is a good heart to the film, that does lead to a few emotionally powerful moments that I can see resonating with some families. (The film touches upon some heavy themes that feel important right now, especially to young girls) It feels that the film had too much to say, but didn't have the confidence (Or more likely, the studio support) to make it all come together properly. With that said, I'll take this at least trying to be something important (And in a way, still is), rather than a film like "The Hurricane Heist", which didn't even bother trying. Here, at least the effort is beautiful. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Scary Images And Demonic Possession. 

The Strangers: PRey at Night                  ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the strangers: prey at nightImage: "Are we too late for 'The Purge'"?

 We've got a sequel to a horror flick that's about 10 years old, that I never saw, that only got a mixed critical reception, and is mostly remembered for the big "Twist" at the end, revealing that the killers really don't have any real motivations to do what they do. Doesn't sound that original or exciting to me.They just like killing and go from house to house to do it. Hell, if you look it up, film scholars have apparently taken time to interpret their own meanings behind the film and what it's trying to say. If you ask me, it just looks like your typical slice and dice. But this time with 80s music for some reason. So that's enough reason to make a sequel.

 "The Strangers: Prey at Night" opens with a dysfunctional family, consisting of the parents, "Cindy" (Christina Hendricks) and "Mike" (Martin Henderson), along with their son "Luke" (Lewis Pullman) and their angsty daughter "Kinsey" (Bailee Madison) heading off to spend some time together at their aunt and uncle's trailer park before Kinsey is sent away to boarding school for being a little twerp. They arrive to find the entire place to be empty and just plain creepy, along with a mysterious girl, dubbed "Dollface" (Emma Bellomy) constantly appearing and knocking on their door before running off into the night.

 The family is soon forced to fight for their survival as it turns out Dollface is part of a trio of masked killers, which includes "Pin-Up Girl" (Lea Enslin) and the ax wielding "Man in the Mask" (Damian Maffei), who intend to slaughter the family just like they slaughtered everyone else. Soon the fight to survive becomes even more deadly as the victims start retaliating, resulting in typical stupid decisions and the occasional "Why don't you just keep hitting/stabbing them while they're down?" (Really, they just should of left the second the creepy girl showed up.)  

 "The Strangers: Prey at Night" does utilize it's set up well, with flawed characters that do feel easy to root for, along with a solid sense of suspense and dread meant to build up to the scares to come. Too bad once the killers start well, killing, the film reveals itself to be as generic as they come. Director Johannes Roberts ("47 Meters Down") delivers on a couple cool set pieces, such as a fight scene at a pool and a chase involving a car that's on fire. But most of the film, particular at the halfway point, is just people running around, screaming, and constantly making poor decisions that would end the movie if they were smart enough to actually do what anyone else would normally do. (You had a gun! For 3 minutes and you set it down!)

 As far as the acting goes, nobody here is particularly bad. The lovely Christina Hendricks is plenty adorable and does have some solid warmth to her, which does play into the parental fear aspect of the film. Bailee Madison is arguably the main character here and she is the one who gets the most character development, with a few good emotional moments and some solid terrified shrieks. Lewis Pullman and Martin Henderson also do solid jobs, considering the bland script they're dealing with. Our villains are suitably creepy, but not much for character and at some point, they pretty much become supervillains who somehow keep surviving things that no normal human being would be capable of doing (Also not sure what all that 80s music was about. It was just odd, and I'm not sure if it was meant to be creepy or funny.)

 Never particularly scary and almost absurdly violent, "The Strangers: Prey at Night" is just your average slasher that doesn't have much else to offer outside of gore and silliness, despite seemingly having moments of levity and cleverness which are mostly minor. The movie doesn't do anything with the slasher genre that you haven't already seen done before and leads to an ending that doesn't feel like much of a conclusion. (Its more of a "I guess that's it then. Go home.") Considering how good horror films have been as of late, (I mean, freakin' "Get Out" got a Best Picture nomination) this movie lacks any real ambition and doesn't leave much of an actual impact. That's never sequel worthy. 2 stars. Rated R For Bloody Stabbings And Dumb People Acting Dumb. 

The Hurricane Heist                                  ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the hurricane heistImage: "So we have to stop both a hurricane, AND a heist?"

 And now we get a movie opening with a kid looking up at the sky, during an intense hurricane, and hallucinates as giant, CGI skull roaring at the camera in a way that's played as seriously as possible.....Sometimes there are certain movies that seem to made, solely to make my end of the year "Worst Lists"....Thank you?

 "The Hurricane Heist" starts with a meteorologist, "Will" (Toby Kebbell), who after along with his brother "Breeze" (Ryan Kwanten) witnessed their dad get killed by a monstrous hurricane at a young age, has dedicated his life to studying hurricanes to find a way to prevent future tragedies. A Category 5 hurricane is about to strike, which is pretty much going to be the biggest, most destructive storm in the history of hurricanes. While this is going on, a team of hackers plot to steal $600 Million from a U.S. mint facility, with their man inside, "Perkins" (Ralph Ineson) acting as the team's leader. A Treasury agent, "Casey" (Maggie Grace) also happens to be in the town, with Breeze acting as a repairman in the facility. Breeze ends up getting captured, and Casey is left with no choice but to turn to Will, who is apparently the only non evil person in town. Will and Casey team up to take down the criminals, save Breeze and the other hostages, while battling the monster hurricane that's about to annihilate the entire town. 

 Directed by famed shlock director, the one and only Rob Cohen, (Known for such masterpieces such as  "The Boy Next Door", "Stealth", Alex Cross", among others), He now brings us a movie as stupid as it sounds. "The Hurricane Heist" feels like something that we would of seen being released straight to video sometime in the early 2000s. Not even going to bother with logic on this one and just stick to judging it on a filmmaking scale, and what we get is cheap, tonally all over the place, and consisting of the worst CGI effects you'll see in a mainstream film released in over 2,000 theaters. (Who's bright idea was that?) 

 The characters aren't as cool as the movie desperately tries to convey them to be, along with an excessive amount of "Extreme" action and dialogue (Which I've noticed is a bit of a staple in many of Cohen's action movies), which leaves the actors with nothing to work with. Toby Kebbell (Who is one of those really good actors that keeps getting stuck in crap) and Maggie Grace are trying their absolute best, while Ralph Ineson comes across pretty villainous in spite of the script's failings in terms of character development. Ryan Kwanten looks like he's been tossed into a role that was probably imagined to be played by Ben Foster. (He kind of starts to look a little like him too in some scenes), while the other baddies who appear are mostly caricatures, with Ben Cross (as "Dixon", a corrupt sheriff who conspires with the villains) being the most cartoonish of the bunch. 

 Saying "The Hurricane Heist" is terrible is really too obvious a statement to the point you could almost give it a pass, considering it basically meets all of your expectations. But the film lacks any of the "So bad, it's good" qualities you want from complete travesties like this, and drags out its hour and forty minute runtime for as much as it possibly can. You aren't left with much fun. Just poorly directed, lazily written, horrible edited nonsense that feels cheaply made and should probably never be seen in theaters. (Or really even on DVD for that matter) 1/2 star. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Southern Accents, And The "Attempt" To Make The Movie About Climate Change. (Seriously.) 

Death Wish                                                    ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Bruce Willis uses his Constitutional right to bear fingers.

 Originally meant to get released in November of last year, the decision to push the new "Death Wish" back all the way to now, considering the most recent tragedy involving gun violence that sparked another gun debate (If you would even call it that), seems pretty stupid and makes everything more uncomfortable than it already was. But from a critical standpoint, bad timing is the least of this movie's problems. 

 "Death Wish" starts with emergency surgeon, "Paul Kersey" (Bruce Willis) and his wife, "Lucy" (Elizabeth Shue) celebrating their daughter "Jordan" (Camila Morrone) getting accepted into college.However, when Paul is called into work late, he leaves the two of them alone, resulting in a break in that leaves many valuable items stole, Jordan beaten and in a coma, and Lucy dead. Despite goofy detective "Kevin Raines" (Dean Norris) insisting that the police will be able to find the ones responsible for Lucy's murder, weeks pass with no suspects being caught. Overall the police are apparently stupid and useless, so Paul decides to take matters into his own hands. Getting himself a gun and a hoodie, Paul starts to stalk the city, taking out bad guys, turning into a vigilante that the media calls "The Grim Reaper" (Think Batman, without any of that annoying nuisance we call morality and rules.) 

 Directed by Eli Roth ("Hostel", "Cabin Fever", and all kinds of gorey films), "Death Wish" is one of those movies that doesn't seem to have any clue what kind of movie it actually wants to be. It's a dark, brutally violent movie that wants to have serious dramatic moments of realism, yet wants to be as exploitative bloody and grotesque at the same time while having goofy attempts at humor, turning it more into a comedy than anything. With the tone veering into comedy out of nowhere, it makes the unnecessary brutality all the more uncomfortable, and the serious scenes out of place and awkward. 

 I'm having trouble determining what kind of performance Bruce Willis is actually giving here. There are moments where he looks to be trying and showing his usual charming personality, but then there are other times he looks bored and appears to be just phoning it in for a paycheck. (Maybe it's just the poorly written character motivation. I just can't tell.)  While Vincent D'Onofrio (as "Frank", Paul's brother) and Elizabeth Shue (Despite her limited screentime) are both fine for what they are given, while Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise (as "Detective Jackson", Raines' partner) play characters so incompetent and useless, it only provides uneeded (and unfunny) comedy, that it could border on offensive. (Just what is this movie saying about the police exactly?) Speaking of trying to say something topical, the scenes involving the gunplay, gun shops, and anything to do with guns does almost seem so over the top it could be seen as satirical. With that said, it's hard to tell if it's intentional, since the film plays it up so much (And lets be honest, there are plenty of people who get off on this stuff anyway.)

 Absurdly violent, tonally uneven, and painfully stupid, "Death Wish" is misguided at best and possibly offensive at worst. (Depending on where you fall on the morality spectrum) But even worse than any of that though, it's just a nonsensical waste of time, that has no idea what it's trying to say and feels like it's been chopped up into a million pieces that don't fit together in the first place. Then again, the audience I saw it with found it to be a hysterical good time. So what do I know? consequences be damned. 1 star. Rated R For Blood, Gore, Guts, And That Weird Puckering Lips Thing Bruce Willis Does When He Fires A Gun. 

Red Sparrow                                             ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for red sparrow movieImage: I would collude with this Russian.

 So I take it this is the more realistic version of the spy genre. Not all the glamorous gadgets, stylized confrontations, and the seduction of women. It's more....uncomfortable than that. Full of torture, seduction of gross old dudes, and the inability to trust anyone at any moment. Just because it's got a pretty, Russian Jennifer Lawrence in it doesn't automatically make it pleasant to watch. 

 "Red Sparrow" follows former famous Russian ballerina, "Dominika Egorova" (Jennifer Lawrence) who, after suffering a career ending injury months prior, is approached by her creepy uncle, "Ivan" (Matthias Schoenaerts), who works for Russian intelligence. Dominika is having trouble caring for her ill mother, "Nina" (Joely Richardson), Ivan offers Dominika a job of sorts, sending her out to seduce a Russian politician (Kristof Konrad). Before the politician can have his way with her, Dominika is rescued, witnessing the politician's gruesome assassination. This forces Dominika to work for Russian intelligence, just as her uncle planned from the beginning. Now Dominika is sent to a twisted school to be instructed by the headmistress, "Matron" (Charlotte Rampling) to become a "Sparrow", a trained operative who uses manipulation and their bodies to accomplish their goals.

 While Dominka continues her training, CIA operative "Nate Nash" (Joel Edgerton) is having trouble of his own, finding a way to help his Russian contact, known only as "Marble". The Russian higher ups know of the mole in their government, sending Dominika to Budapest, to find and gain the trust of Nash, in hopes of finding out who Marble is. Dominika learns more of the cruel, unforgiving world of espionage, along with what her country is willing to do to achieve their goals, while growing closer to Nash is a way that should of been expected, leading to a possible alliance with the CIA. 

 Based on a 2013 novel of the same name, "Red Sparrow" is a cold movie, not just because there is snow everywhere, but because the film doesn't hold back in the images that are shown onscreen. It's brutal in it's depiction of violence, sexual content, and violent sexual content that isn't for those sensitive to that kind of material. However, it does feel necessary to the story. Director Francis Lawrence (Who previously directed the last three "Hunger Games" movies) has a talent for presenting this grim material, while filling the audience with suspense as to whats going to happen next. With that said, he can't seem to keep the film properly paced. Sometimes the movie feels like it's taking too much time to get to where it's going, needlessly complicating or drawing out certain scenes. But at times, the film also speeds through other aspects that feel like they should of been important than they were presented. 

 It doesn't help that "Red Sparrow" is such a downer, with very few moments of hope to brighten up it's darkest, bleakest moments. (Not much of a sense of humor here) Granted, the story is very serious, and still very interesting, with the film's constant dread actually adding to the tension that rarely lets up. Not to mention, Jennifer Lawrence once again proves to be one of those actresses who can elevate almost anything. She is excellent here, even with the occasional accent slip, remaining compelling, sympathetic, and absolutely mesmerizing. Joel Edgerton does some great work, along with a super slimy Matthias Schoenaerts, who just gets creepier the longer the movie goes. Charlotte Rampling is suitably stoic and menacing, Mary-Louise Parker (as "Stephanie Boucher", a drunk, weird US Senator's Chief of Staff) pops up to be drunk and weird, and Jeremy Irons (as "General Vladimir Korchnoi", one of Dominika's superiors) doesn't even really bother keeping his accent, but it doesn't matter because he's freakin Jeremy Irons. (His natural voice is too awesome to hide anyway.)

 "Red Sparrow" is not the kind of film that's for everyone, with all the squick-ish content aside. It could be seen as too slow for those looking for more excitement or too fast for those looking for more substance over style. There is a reason for the uncomfortable content, which is handled in a way that does stick with you, whether you want it to or not, along with Jennifer Lawrence's captivating presence to carry it through it's occasional unevenness. The idea that she could seduce any man is certainly the most believable aspect . 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For Gorey Violence, Graphic Sexual Content, And A Torture Device That Turns You Into Deli Meat.  

Annihilation                                        ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for annihilation movieImage: Natalie Portman was not harmed during the making of this film.

 So to describe the last 15 to maybe 20 minutes of this film to someone would be physically impossible. Not just for spoilers sake, but because much like the characters within the film who experience the unnatural situation for themselves, you're left with a blank expression and with little else to say to someone except for the one sentence used within the movie several times, which is "I Don't Know." Even the audience I was with said that. It's that kind of movie. It makes you think, man....And it makes you feel. So you know it's gonna flop. 

 "Annihilation" opens with Scientist, "Lena" (Natalie Portman) being debriefed (Or in this case, grilled) by "Lomax" (Benedict Wong) over a botched expedition into a mysterious location known as "Area X" (Or the Shimmer), which is an unexplainable area where all kinds of twisted stuff appears to be going on. Flashback to Lena's military husband, "Kane" (Oscar Isaac), who was previously sent on a mission into the Shimmer, finally returning after being AWOL for over a year. However, Kane does not appear to be himself, and doesn't seem to have the ability to explain what has happened to him. Lena notices Kane growing more ill, and attempts to take him to the hospital before being abducted by the military and taken to a facility located near the Shimmer. The head psychologist, "Dr. Ventress" (Jennifer Jason Leigh) tells Lena that Kane was part of a military team that previously entered the Shimmer, with Kane being the only one to return dead or alive.

 So Ventress decides this time to lead a team of female scientists to find a lighthouse where the strange phenomenon began, which includes "Anya Thorensen" (Gina Rodriguez), "Josie Radek" (Tess Thompson), "Cass Sheppard" (Tuva Novotny), and eventually Lena herself. The group enters the Shimmer and quickly discover something offputting about the whole area. Time appears to move differently, all plant life is both unique and the same, a lack of working guidance technology, along with scary hybrid animals (Which include alligators with shark teeth and horrific skull bears). As the team progresses, they start to discover what led to the previous team's failed mission, more dangers, and something too amazing and terrifying for description, all while more flashbacks detail more of Lena's personal life, including her marriage, which all comes together by the end. I think.

 Directed by Alex Garland (Who previously directed 2015's "Ex Machina") and loosely (Apparently very loosely) based on a novel written by Jeff VanderMeer, "Annihilation" is an ambitious (and ambiguous) piece of storytelling that uses typical Sci-Fi tropes to it's advantage to create a certain sense of dread unlike anything you've seen before, complete with both horrifying and stunningly beautiful imagery that almost hypnotizes you. (It did it to me. I literally couldn't look away) The visuals and effects are haunting, and much like where the story itself eventually goes, it will leave you asking more questions once you leave the theater. (Which is a good thing, people! Just because it makes you answer the questions yourself means the film has more respect for you!) 

 The performances and characters are all very interesting, and all can be up for interpretation. Natalie Portman is excellent, carrying the film is an emotionally complex performance that makes you question her actions and motives throughout. We get some great performances out of Jennifer Jason Leigh (Who is enjoyably odd), Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and especially Gina Rodriguez, along with Oscar Isaac, who is always reliable. The film leaves it up to you to figure out what makes the characters tick, leaving clues in the dialogue that lead up to what they eventually do the further the story progresses. On a side note, there is a minor controversy involving some white washing in the cast, with the book, which wasn't apparently too descriptive, did suggest that the main characters were of Asian descent. (Didn't bother me mostly because I didn't know till recently, but maybe I could see the complaint.) 

 "Annihilation" only occasionally drifts into some typical territory (With the whole dwindling one by one of the team, out of nowhere gore and whatnot) and I can see where someone just might not quite get it due to the slow pace and lack of answers. However, I didn't find the film too hard to follow and was thoroughly fascinated by what I was seeing. With a suspenseful score, thought provoking ideas, and some genuinely solid horror (That freakin' bear man!), the film is somewhat brilliant with how it leaves things open to your own understanding. (Though the complex theme of "Self-Annihilation" is hard to ignore) Much like last year's "Mother!" (And honestly to a certain degree, "The Last Jedi" too), it's one of those films that leaves an impact whether or not you think you actually like it, challenging you in  ways you wouldn't expect a mainstream film to do. (Think of it as an artsy, fartsy indie movie, without the fartsy) You're left feeling uncertain, yet smarter at the same time. Sounds good to me. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Scary Images, Slimy Organs, And Ideas That Make You Queasy Inside. 

Every Day                                                     ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for every day movieImage: The Heimlich Maneuver saves another life.

 So she's dating a ghost? Or an alien? Or an invisible consciousness with an undefinable gender representing the positive and important side of life? Does that make sense? 

 Lets see how well I can describe the plot to this one. "Every Day" starts with high school girl, "Rhiannon" (Angourie Rice), who notices her usually dickish boyfriend, "Justin" (Justice Smith) is acting less dickish than usual. Turns out he was possessed by a spirit, who only goes by "A", that has spent his (or her) entire life jumping from body to body daily, and living a day in that body. However, A has fallen in love with Rhiannon, who herself is going through a few personal problems. Aside from her boyfriend being a jerk, her dad "Nick" (Michael Cram) has suffered a mental breakdown, her mom "Lindsey" (Maria Bello) is not taking it very well, and her sister "Jolene" (Debby Ryan) Rhiannon starts to bond with A, who meets with her through different bodies every day, eventually forming a strange relationship of sorts. (Sort of like "The Shape of Water", except more wholesome.....I think) As their relationship grows, reality starts to set in, complicating things in ways you would probably expect them to. If you can't make it work with a ghost, who can you make it work with?

 Based on a best selling book by David Levithan, "Every Day" is a bit of an odd one, with some slightly uncomfortable repercussions that thankfully the film seems to address. (For the most part. Is it considered sex without consent if the person is possessed?) The good intentions are obvious to see. The film does deal with some pretty insightful moments based around gender and sexuality, along with other moral dilemmas involving family, suicide, and life itself . The premise leaves things open to discuss around these topics, and it is handled respectfully. It just feels that there is a much better movie trapped inside a pretty mediocre young adult novel romance. The film can't seem to help falling into many of the basic tropes you see with the genre, particularly in the script department, which is fairly generic and cheesy. 

 Angourie Rice (Who previously stole scenes in 2016's "The Nice Guys") carries the film, showing some real acting chops, especially due to the fact she has to have chemistry with several different actors, who are all meant to be the same character. It's not an easy task, and she finds a way to make it work. Few of the actors, who the spirit inhabits leave much of an impression, with Jacob "Ned from Spider-Man: Homecoming" Batalon (as "James", the body who explains everything to Rhiannon) getting probably the best moment. Justice Smith is a bit of a cartoon, but he does get a couple funny jackass lines, while Maria Bello and Debby Ryan don't get to do much. (Although it was interesting to hear the former Disney Channel star swear. Kind of jarring really.)

 "Every Day" just feels a bit sloppy, with some characters and plot lines remaining out of focus despite seeming important. Despite this, I can see the appeal and where it could find an audience. While Michael Sucsy's direction can feel a bit too on the bland and boring side at times, there are moments where some clever techniques are used, along with the film at least acknowledging it's occasional weirdness. The themes behind the film are hard not to find at least a little fascinating, which will likely make the film resonate with some people in a positive way. Its weird, but I think I get it. And hey, at least its still a less harmful romance than "Fifty Shades Freed". 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Body Snatching. 

Game Night                                            ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for game night movieImage: They're not playing games here.

 Never been one for a "Game Night" with friends due to my knack for finding new and impressive ways to lose. Not sure if it's just really bad luck that I'm incredibly unskilled, I rarely tend to win. But if the stakes were raised as they are in "Game Night", I'd like to think I would step up to the challenge. 

 "Game Night" starts with the over competitive "Max" (Jason Bateman) meeting the just as competitive "Annie" (Rachel McAdams). Turns out they are perfect for each other, falling in love and eventually marry. Now they have become known for hosting game nights with their friends. While struggling to have a baby, Max's much more successful brother, "Brooks" (Kyle Chandler) comes for a visit, hijacking game night and inviting everyone to a house he just so happened to of rented out.

Max, Annie, along with their friends, which includes married at a young age couple "Kevin" (Lamorne Morris) and "Michelle" (Kylie Bunbury), along with their dummy friend "Ryan" (Billy Magnussen), who brought his much smarter date "Sarah" (Sharon Horgan), arrive at Brooks' place, where he tells them that they are going to be part of a kidnapping mystery of sorts, and have to find all the clues to solve it. Little do the rest of the group know, Brooks ends up actually getting kidnapped and taken. So now the group sets out to see you can win the game, not realizing that it's all the real deal, becoming involved in all kinds of convoluted shenanigans. 

 Spoiling the nonsensical twists and turns of "Game Night" would totally ruin the fun, so I had to keep the plot as vague as possible. The movie is a non stop riot of absurdity and insanity, with a great cast of characters, who are all oblivious to how serious of a situation they're actually in. Somewhat brilliantly, the film is actually treating itself like a real thriller, with the score and even the direction displaying some of the typical beats you would see in one of those films. However, none of the characters seem to realize that, which makes for some of the best laughs in the film and some excellent dark comedy. 

 Jason Bateman is at his most sarcastic here, having great chemistry with Rachel McAdams, who reminds everyone how funny she can be. Their relationship finds a way to be both cute and hilarious, with the rest of the main characters, including Larmorne Morris and Kylie Bunbury (Who have a funny running gag involving a possible affair with a celebrity), along with Sharon Horgan and Billy Magnussen (Who you might remember as Steve from "Birth of the Dragon), getting to show some actual personality. Kyle Chandler gets probably one of his best roles (Especially since everyone by this point should know who he is since he's in everything), and Jesse Plemons (as "Gary", Max and Annie's weird cop neighbor) is so bizarrely strange, that it makes for some of the funniest stuff I've seen in a movie in a while. 

 Directors Jonathan Goldstein  and John Francis Daley pack in some flash and flair (With some knowing board game related sequences), with some clever writing and a lot of big laughs, "Game Night" is a welcome surprise. It goes a little off the rails towards the end, but in a way to does feel like that was probably the only way this movie could possibly go. (It's even addressed how much the film jumps the shark by the end) Much like a good game night with friends (Or at least what I'm assuming game night with friends would be like), it's a ton of fun for everyone involved.  3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Violence, And Jesse Plemons' Frightening Stare. 

Early Man                                                    ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for early man movieImage: Sinking their teeth into things.

 By this point, I don't think "Aardman Animations" cares about the money. Having given a variety of instant family classics, such as "Chicken Run", "Wallace and Gromit", "Arthur Christmas", "Shaun the Sheep", etc., they aren't really known for their films being box office smashes. But they are usually critically acclaimed, loved by audiences that actually see them, and are able to garner enough fans who will be excited for their next movie. Here in the U.S., they pretty much flop often, but when you're doing it for the art (And having fun while doing it), who cares if not enough of us silly Americans don't get it?  Rubbish, I say.

 "Early Man" opens at the dawn of time, after the meteor crashed into Earth and killed all the dinosaurs. Cavemen go to the crash site, discovering a round piece of the meteor, and proceed to invent the game of Soccer (I mean, football as the Brits call it) in the process. Years later during the Stone Age, a caveman tribe, led by "Chief Bobnar" (Timothy Spall), spends most of their time hunting rabbits because they're small and easy to catch. However, wide eyed youngest member, "Dug" (Eddie Redmayne) thinks they are capable of more and should move on to hunting for something bigger. But the Stone Age is literally invaded by the Bronze Age, led by the pompous "Lord Nooth" (Tom Hiddleston), who kicks the tribe out of the valley, and takes the land for himself.

 Dug, along with his piggy buddy, "Hognob" (Voiced through a series of grunts by Director Nick Park), end up in the Bronze Age city, where they end up stumbling upon the "Sacred Game" known as Soccer. (Er, I mean Football. Sorry.) Determined to help his friends get their home back, Dug challenges Nooth's champion team to a game, with Nooth accepts on so long as if Dug's tribe loses, they will be forced to work in their Bronze mines forever. Dug returns, and despite Bobnar's protests, has to help the rest of his tribe learn how to play Soccer (Football! I meant Football!), with some help from a spunky girl from the city "Goona" (Maisie Williams) (You know, calling Soccer Football makes a bit more sense if you really think about it.) 

 It's obvious to say, just from describing the plot, that "Early Man" is not one of Aardman's strongest films in the sense that it goes for a simpler, more by the books story, with more jokes aimed at younger audiences than adults. With that said, it's still so damn charming. Just from the beautifully, handmade stop motion animation alone, there is this certain likability to the film that Aardman has become known for. There are still plenty of funny gags, with the best ones being what you see in the background, and some fun characters that are hard to dislike. By this point, their animation has become more than amazing to the point I'm questioning how on Earth they were able to get so much movement out of these little clay puppets. 

 Eddie Redmayne is a likable, funny lead, while Tom Hiddleston hams it up with an over the top French accent, who is just as funny as he is slimy. Maisie Williams has the pretty generic role of "Empowered Female Love Interest", but is at least plenty cute and does serve a purpose. Timothy Spall is always great, as is the hilarious Miriam Margolyes (as "Queen Oofeefa", Nooth's superior). The scene stealer this time around is the Hognob, who gets the most laughs out his physical comedy and reactions to the goofy situations. 

 "Early Man" doesn't have the memorable characters or clever story that Aardman films usually have, but it still makes for a good time for the families. It's still wholesome, yet with enough of an edge to it that should give adults enough to enjoy with their kids. It's just Aardman giving it their all, but remembering to just have a little fun, and at a brisk hour and a half, it's something nice to take your kids to on a weekday afternoon. Also you can explain to them why British people refer to Soccer as Football. (Again. It honestly makes more sense to me.) Rated PG For Some Quirky Humor And Man Boobs. Jiggly Man Boobs.  

Samson                                          ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Taylor? Taylor Lautner? is that you? 

 I have to give "Pure Flix" (Previously responsible for the "God's Not Dead" films, among other poorly made religious movies) a little bit of credit here. They tried their best to make a throwback to old fashioned, biblical epics that were released during the Golden Age of Hollywood. With that said, this so called epic clocking in at a rushed hour and forty minutes, pretty much helps you figure out what the heck is wrong with it. Aside from the outrageous casting. And cheap direction. And, well, all the stuff we're used to seeing from this company. But hey, I'll give you a gold star for trying. 

 "Samson" tells the biblical story of the world's strongest man whose name is in the title, "Samson" (Taylor James), a Hebrew hero, who is in a conflict with his people's oppressors, the Philistines, led by "King Balek" (Billy Zane). Samson's reputation becomes more infamous, bringing the attention of Balek's power hungry son, "Rallah" (Jackson Rathbone). When Samson falls in love with a young woman, "Taren" (Frances Sholto-Douglas), Rallah decides to use this as a chance to achieve higher power, escalating the conflict further. Once tragedy strikes in Samson's love life, Samson calls upon God to give him well, superpowers, and he Hulks out on Rallah's men, showing just what he is capable of. While Samson's brother, "Caleb" (Greg Kriek) wants Samson to lead their people into battle, Rallah wants Samson's God given power to himself, arranging for his seductive lover, "Delilah" (Caitlin Leahy) to do the obvious and find out where Samson's power really comes from. Then after that, you pretty much know where this story goes. Honestly, it's all kinds of messed up. 

 "Samson" does have the right idea down at times, and it's too bad that we don't get many movies like this these days. But a reason for that is mostly because they come across as incredibly cheesy and dated  (If the film was a pure cheesefest), it certainly would of been a lot more fun. The film is mostly dully, quickly running through it's plot points in an attempt to get a relatively short runtime, despite the story spanning several years. For such a dark story, full of violence, sexual content, and despicable acts, it feels odd to see how tame the filmmakers seem to be trying to make it. There are moments of action that certainly feel out of place, considering this is a "Pure Flix" movie, but most of the other content is either cut away quickly or just simply implied. Since this story is all kinds of wrong when you really think about it, it would of been better if they went all the way, instead of copping out. 

 Our lead Taylor James is just plain bland. It's not so much he is horrible here, he just has so little screen presence and leaves hardly any impact. (Not to mention, he's just so...odd looking. I thought he was just CGI for most of the movie.) Caitlin Leahy is plenty lovely actually, and you could say she isn't exactly poorly cast in that regard. There's just no chemistry or tension in their relationship, which happens late in the movie and feels skimmed through. Jackson Rathbone decides to go full blown insane for his role, and I'll admit, it's hard not to enjoy him sneering and grinning throughout. (He left no scene unchewed.) While Rutger Hauer (as "Manoah", Samson's father) and Lindsay Wagner (as "Zealphonis", Samson's mother) do nothing but look out of place. Speaking of looking out of place, Billy Zane looks utterly ridiculous, especially when he's wearing that cheap, dollar store crown. Luckily, that's where the best unintended laughs come from, with his performance showing little to no form of caring or commitment whatsoever. 

 "Samson" is pretty silly, and while the filmmakers do seem to be trying to go for a more epic scale, the film's pacing just drags on you, and you don't feel any of the emotions you're meant to feel. I commend them for how unironic it is and for at least, showing some form of competence this time around. ("Pure Flix" is never known for actually showing any of that.) The film still feels cheap and poorly put together. Most importantly, it's nowhere near as unintentionally hilarious as you want it to be. Unintentionally hilarious is always worth at least an extra half star. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Slaughter, Implied Adult Content, And Eye Stabbings. (Seriously, How Do Make This "Tame"?)

Black Panther                                        ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for black panther movieImage: Always bet on Black Panther.

 This is a big deal. You should know why it's a big deal. But on the off chance you really don't understand why this movie (Much like last year's "Wonder Woman"), is such a huge deal to a certain demographic of people for numerous reasons. I hope you'll allow me to give my own explanation in what I hope is an understandable way. While we've had African American superhero films before such as "Blade" also have "Catwoman". (We didn't want it, but we got it.) But not one quite like this. This is one that actually bases itself in Africa, where it's not portrayed as a...well, "Sh*thole" country (What? I didn't say it.), and the people are shown to be smart and dignified. The film embraces it's nearly all black cast, which has been a bit of an issue with mainstream releases. It changes the game and opens the door for more diverse filmmaking in the future. Plus, it's really, really, really, really, really freakin' awesome! 

 "Black Panther" opens after the events of "Captain America: Civil War", with "T'Challa" (Chadwick Boseman), who is also the African superhero/warrior known as "The Black Panther", having to ascend to the throne after the death of his father, "T'Chaka" (John Kani). T'Challa is now king of the secret African nation of Wakanda, which is the most technologically advanced country in the world due to the large amount of the world's strongest metal, Vibrainium (Which, for you guys who don't remember, is the same stuff that makes up Captain America's shield and was previously part of the mad robot Ultron's evil scheme previously) T'Challa is desperately trying to keep the peace in his country, which has been isolated from the rest of the world.

 But news arrives of manic, one armed gangster, "Ulysses Klaue" (Andy Serkis) having stolen an old Wakandan Vibrainium artifact, intending to sell it to the highest bidder. So T'Challa with his team made up of his ex "Nakia" (Lupita Nyong'o), head of the all female special forces "Okoye" (Danai Gurira), and his tech genius little sister "Shuri" (Letitia Wright) to track down Klaue and bring him to justice for his crimes. Little do our heroes know though, is that Klaue is just a pawn in a larger plan thought up by bloodthirsty, former U.S. black ops soldier "Erik Stevens" (Michael B. Jordan), also known as "Killmonger", who has a personal vendetta with Wakanda. Killmonger's world changing plot soon comes to fruition as T'Challa is forced to rethink his country's (And his own family's) history, while learning if he can both be a good man and a good king. 

 "Black Panther" is the newest addition to the always expanding, consistently good Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's filled with the usual great action, top notch special effects, solid sense of humor, and heart that you would expect. However there is a bit more to it than you would expect. It's cultural impact, while important, is not the only reason this makes for another excellent addition to the franchise. The film comes across as more mature and set in the real world than most films like it, due to the use of some darker, more poignant themes that are hard to ignore. (But lets just say some people really like to try.) I can't get too into the details because that would ruin the surprises, but Director/Co-Writer Ryan Coogler ("Fruitvale Station" and "Creed") balances the action and superheroics with some powerful social commentary and messages of inclusion, oppression, and morality in a way you're not quite expecting a superhero flick to handle them. 

 The characters in "Black Panther" come across as real people, each with their own time to shine. Chadwick Boseman is one of the best actors out there and he knock it out of the park once again, with charm, likability, and an emotional moral center that makes for a good hero that everyone (Especially those in the Black community) can look up to, much like how people look up to Captain America or Iron Man. Michael B. Jordan is one of the best villains Marvel has given us, being compelling, charismatic, thoroughly menacing, and even sympathetic. Once you discover his motivations and how he ended up where he is, it makes for a complex and memorable villain that (Much like the Joker from "The Dark Knight") sticks with you once the film is over. The always wonderful Lupita Nyong'o is a strong character along with the absolutely badass Danai Gurira and the scene stealing Letitia Wright.

 Everyone has a role to play, from Martin Freeman (as "Everett K. Ross", CIA agent/ally to T'Challa), Daniel Kaluuya (As "W'Kabi", T'Challa's friend who starts to question his leadership), Forrest Whitaker (as "Zuri", T'Challa's mentor, who also hides a dark secret), Angela Bassett (As "Ramonda", T'Challa's widowed mother), and Sterling K. Brown (As an important character that would be considered a spoiler to talk about). We also get some good humor from Winston Duke (as "M'Baku", a rival to T'Challa) and a delightfully bonkers Andy Serkis, who will never get enough credit. It really is a perfect ensemble of actors, who all have great chemistry together, that bring these well written characters to life. Wakanda itself could be considered a character as it's unlike anything you've ever seen before, yet feels like it could actually exist. 

 "Black Panther" is probably the most mature (And times, the most brutal) film Marvel has given us, and is one of those superhero films that even those who aren't exactly fans would even like. With a diverse cast of characters, a smart script that takes on darker and more serious, somewhat political subject matter, but still never loses that Marvel humor and sense of fun. It's one of those movies that you can't stop thinking about once you get home, and only gets better the more you dwell on it. It's also sure to be a hit with people of color, which is a wonderful thing that should alone be praised. But it still makes for a great superhero movie/overall great movie that anyone can enjoy and experience. Yet another instant Marvel classic that shows despite having been going on for 10 years, they can still find ways to keep everything fresh and exciting. The film is an achievement that other movies like it should inspire to be. Did I forget to mention that it has battle Rhinos? That's probably the coolest thing I've seen in a while. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For A Little More Super Hero Violence Than We're Used To.

The 15:17 to Paris                                ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for 15 17 to paris movieImage: I'm putting my money on the good guys.

 Great! So I need to look like THAT guy again don't I? It's Clint Eastwood. How can I possibly give such a negative review to a film about a real life event, starring the real life heroes who lived it, directed by freakin' Clint Eastwood? How does that even work exactly? I just must be a cynical, crappy person, who doesn't appreciate the story right? I'm just judging the movie as a movie, and as a movie (Along with it being a tribute to actual heroes), it just makes me sad. Very, very sad. 

 I'm going to describe the plot (Or shredded remains of one really) as well as I possibly can. So "The 15:17 to Paris" follows three Americans on a train ride to Paris, "Spencer Stone", "Anthony Sadler", "Alek Skarlatos" (All played by themselves), right at the same time an armed lunatic, "Ayoub El-Khazzani" (Ray Corasani) comes in with the intention of killing as many innocents of possible. But these three heroes (And another guy, who isn't all the important apparently) charge in, risking their lives to take down the terrorist, and save everyone on the train, using their skills to keep everyone calm and save a wounded man. That's all great, inspiring stuff that everyone should agree is heroic and exactly the kind of thing we want to see in a movie......But that's just the last 10 minutes.

 The movie actually follows the lives (The cliff notes version of it) of the real life heroes, from their time growing up in a Christian school, Stone taking center stage with his joining of the military, Skarlatos also joining but not getting to do anything, and Sadler just being along for the ride. Then the three go on a trip to Europe to, um, do things, and stuff happens with them meeting people who don't say much. Um....I can't do this. Nothing happens. There's an occasional flash forward to the train attack (But that stops part way through), but we just see these characters just doing stuff to pad out the already short runtime of 94 minutes....

 "The 15:17 to Paris" is not a movie.. It's an idea, only half thought through, that certainly doesn't feel like it should be seen in theaters, let alone be directed by critically acclaimed actor/director Clint Eastwood. (It just doesn't make sense.) The film seems to be about just that one moment, at least at first it appears to be. But the story is told through flashbacks, with what is meant to be what led up to this point. The problem is that it's mostly just pointless filler. There are large portions of this already short movie, dedicated to the characters just wandering around, and when the film tries to actually tell their story, of their childhood up until this event, it's all so poorly acted, painfully written, and shockingly, horribly edited. 

 The idea behind casting the real life people to play themselves is an interesting concept....on paper. When you see it for real, you can tell they're just not actors and all it does is take you out of the movie. Spencer Stone, who is mostly wooden, gets most (If not almost all) of the screentime to the expense of Alek Skarlatos (Whose line delivery is awkward throughout) and Anthony Sadler (Who probably fares the best out of the three, but gets the least amount of screentime). I have nothing but praise for them as people. They seem like cool guys and are undeniably courageous. It's just uncomfortable, and ruins whatever sense of realism the film was going for. We also get a bizarre cast of supporting actors, with Judy Greer (as "Joyce", Spencer's mother), whose adorableness always overcomes bad dialogue, Jenna Fischer (as "Heidi", Alek's mother), who doesn't get to do or really say anything, along with the strange combination of Tony Hale (as a Gym teacher), Thomas Lennon (as a principal), and "Urkel/Sonic the Hegdehog" himself, Jaleel White (as one of their teachers). On a secondary note, (And, God I hate saying this) the child actors in this film are just some of the worst you'll ever see.

 The biggest problem with "The 15:17 to Paris" lies with Clint Eastwood, whose direction is shockingly unfocused, sloppily put together, and doesn't do the actual story any real justice. Only in the last few minutes, when the actual attack is going down, makes for the film's only shining moment. It's tense, played realistically, and doesn't try to shove it's theatricality in your face. However, its brief and doesn't come till the very end. The buildup to that point almost has nothing to do with it, despite the overly sappy dialogue insisting that everything in their lives led up to it. It's one of those movies that just makes you feel sad once you leave the theater, especially considering the good intentions. Sadly, that doesn't make the movie good. In some ways, it makes it kind of worse. 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Light Action At The End, And Filler, Filler, Along With More Filler. 

Peter Rabbit                                 ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for peter rabbit movieImage: "Let's multiply!"

 Gulp! Might get a little flak for this one, considering how hated this movie is, even before it's release. (On a side note, it feels like there are a couple movies a year that makes the internet piss themselves with rage over a trailer) I do get it, the classic stories of "Peter Rabbit", created by Beatrix Potter are beloved by people of all ages. I will also admit, despite the fact I really don't remember much about those stories, I highly doubt this resembles it's source material hardly at all. With that said, and please don't start typing your hate letter when I say this, I....liked it......Don't kill me! I'm just as shocked as you are! 

 "Peter Rabbit" opens with lovable troublemaker bunny with a blue coat, "Peter Rabbit" (James Corden), causing trouble for the sadistic old farmer, "Mr. McGregor" (Sam  Neill), along with his triplet sisters, "Cottontail" (Daisy Ridley), "Flopsy" (Margot Robbie), and "Mopsy" (Elizabeth Debicki), and their goofy cousin, "Benjamin Bunny" (Matt Lucas).They continuously break into McGregor's garden to steal vegetables and just mock the old fart (Mostly out of vengeance for McGregor baking their father into a pie years prior), while hanging out with McGregor's animal lover neighbor, "Bea" (Rose Byrne). Their feud with McGregor comes to an end when he has a hilarious, bad eating habit induced heart attack and dies, resulting in the animals getting free reign of his now empty home. 

 Meanwhile, McGregor's estranged nephew, "Thomas" (Domhnall Gleeson), who gets fired from his toy store job for being a slightly unhinged control freak, ends up inheriting the deceased McGregor's estate. Planning to sell the house, Thomas arrives to find Peter and his friends trashing the place. Thus begins a new feud between Peter and Thomas, which escalates further when sparks surprisingly start to fly between Thomas and Bea. To quote another famous rabbit, "Of course you realize, this means war."

 "Peter Rabbit" is one of those movies that I can certainly tell won't sit right with people. It barely resembles it's source material, with a more modern sense of humor. What you really need to understand is that the movie is a live action Looney Tunes cartoon, and if you're okay with that, it's hard not to have a good amount of fun with this. The film is surprisingly quite funny, with some well timed slapstick, and even some better than you would expect special effects. From Sony Pictures Animation (Previously responsible for the "Smurfs" movies and of course, "The Emoji Movie"), the animation on the furry characters blends seamlessly into the live action setting, without coming across as creepy, or distracting. 

 James Corden is not a bad choice for the role, and does a solid job, even if his character can come across as a bit too mean at times. Luckily, the movie itself seems to know this and addresses it, using it to have his character grow by the end. There are some good laughs with Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, and Elizabeth Debicki, who all get their time to shine, along with Matt Lucas. It's pretty shocking how all these characters actually have a role to play in the movie. Our live action actors are also good, with the adorably charming Rose Byrne, and the absolutely terrific Domhnall Gleeson, who just steals the entire movie. He commits to every absurd action and is clearly loving every second of it. Yet somehow, he does feel like an actual person (A bit of a crazy one, but still.) and has great chemistry with Byrne. (The romance here even feels more realistic than "Fifty Shades Freed", and this is supposed to be the more cartoonish movie) Sia (as the voice of "Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle", a sightly senile old hedgehog) gets a few laughs, and Sam Neill appears briefly for about five minutes, but still gets to do more than he's been able to do in any other recent movie I've seen him in. 

 "Peter Rabbit" isn't without it's obvious flaws, such as a predictable story, a few kiddie movie clichés (Such as a few too many song cues and the occasional cheap joke). And while there is a good heart and message to it all (Of eventually putting aside difference for ones you love, and bettering yourself), it doesn't quite have the impact of more superior family fair. (Its not "Coco" or "Paddington 2") Regardless, the film is still a lot of wacky fun, with a few more big laughs than you would expect. It works as a solid kids movie, and really, it works as a solid comedy. It may not be the Peter Rabbit you know and love, but it doesn't overstay it's welcome. Bugs Bunny never made any sense either. 3 stars. Rated PG For Cartoonish Violence And Rabbit Nudity.  

Fifty Shades Freed                                        ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for fifty shades freedImage: "Annulment!" 

 Alright lets just get these out of the way now. Ahem, this movie can't get it up. It's limp and flaccid, with an unsatisfying climax that doesn't come soon enough, making for an experience shameful for both parties. We're those puns good for you? And, I'm spent.

 "Fifty Shades Freed" continues the captivating "Fifty Shades" saga, bringing it to it's conclusion with shy girl, "Anastasia Steele" (Dakota Johnson) finally marrying the creepy, stalker, rich buff boyfriend, "Christian Grey" (Jamie Dornan). Anastasia starts her new life, as an annoying, wealthy person with too much money and privilege, getting to give orders to servants, taking expensive trips, and engaging in constant intercourse with Christian when he isn't busy with his uh, business stuff. (Wait, I forgot again. What does he do actually? And does he actually do it?)

 But all is not perfect in paradise, mostly due to the overabundance of subplots and bad situations that are supposed to represent conflict, which come in the form of Anastasia's former sleazy boss/future supervillain, "Jack Hyde" (Eric Johnson) who has a nefarious scheme to destroy Christian, along with Anastasia having to deal with Christian's dominating and controlling nature that just won't go away no matter how hard she tries. There's also something about Christian's brother "Elliot" (Luke Grimes) possibly cheating on Anastasia's best friend, "Katherine" (Eloise Mumford) with an ample bosomed architect (Arielle Kebbel), a kidnapping and hostage situation, and the reveal that Anastasia is pregnant, which Christian doesn't take well because he doesn't want kids. (Should of talked that over before you got married. Like real people who weren't always really, really horny would do.) Stuff happens, people bump uglies to terrible music, and this film critic gives up on trying to understand why this series is a thing, simply accepting that some people just like terrible, unpleasant movies.

 I'll give it this, the "Fifty Shades" franchise is one of the more consistent film series, considering they never got any worse. They just remained poorly executed, boringly and sloppily put together trash, that never even bothered to try to get any better. It's almost not even worth talking about by this point, but being a responsible and committed film critic, who has watched this series from start to finish, I got a job to do. "Fifty Shades Freed" when you think about it, is almost pointless, where we just go through the same plot points that we've gone through before, once again showing the idea that this woman can change this clearly unhinged, possessive, damn near abusive man is not something that usually works. It just makes you think that he should of just done it on his own in the first place. You shouldn't have to do all the work yourself. Weird how some people find this empowering to women, considering that there are a suspicious amount of similarities to recent events, which just make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. (Rich man, having his way with a woman, and involving a lot of kinky stuff. Anyone else feel queasy?)

 The only thing this entry has over the previous ones, is that stuff actually happens in this movie. However, there are so many things going on at once, it doesn't feel like much was accomplished. The plot just wanders around, going through various plot points and solves them either in a matter of minutes (Or sometimes offscreen.) "Fifty Shades Freed" continues the series trend of painful dialogue, predictable screenwriting, and constant filler to make up that surprisingly short runtime. (Even at 105 minutes, the film still feels frustrating long.) There may be more sex scenes this time around, but they are constant and directly in your face, (Along with an obnoxious soundtrack), stopping the movie dead. It doesn't help that none of these scenes are memorable, particularly sexy, or worth the overpriced ticket. (I may get in for free, but I still feel like I paid too much.) The movie even makes a few attempts at action, which come across as pathetic and just plain sad. (The green screen car chase is going to be mocked for years to come.) 

 The only saving grace is Dakota Johnson herself. The film tries once again to make sure she doesn't give a good performance, but she powers through it and shows actual emotion, unlike Jamie Dornan, who is as unlikable than ever. They have zero chemistry with each other, whether it be romantically, sexually, or even just as human beings. (Honestly, they look like they hate each other's guts, which I thought was supposed to happen after YEARS of marriage, not right after.) Eric Johnson does get to ham it up and be as crazily slimy as he wants, but even that just feels secondary and really stays in the background for the most part. The rest of the cast of inconsequential actors playing inconsequential characters are forgettable, and Kim Basinger (as the woman who seduced an underaged Christian years before, and is responsible for what he became) appears in a minor plotline that happens offscreen. Meaning she actually isn't even in the movie. (Good on ya' Kim. You don't need this crap.)

 A few nice shots don't warrant the IMAX screening I went to, just making everything look more fake and shallow than it already is. "Fifty Shades Freed" confuses obsession for love, obedience for empowerment, and resolves most of it's plot in the last 10 minutes with exposition explaining everything away as quickly as possible. Nothing more to say except to make one final statement, especially when the film ends with Anastasia giving an explanation as to why Christian Grey is a good person, because he's caring and treats people well. I would like to remind everyone that he broke a woman in the last movie (Mentally and maybe a little physically). Someone capable of that just doesn't change because you love him bad enough, especially when he has revenge sex with you because you disobeyed him. If that's considered normal, I guess I just don't know what love is apparently. If you ask me this movie is a butt plug, because it contains nothing but sh*t. 1/2 star. Rated R For Repetitive Sexual Content, Sex Puns Galore, And Very Confusing Mixed Messages. 

The Cloverfield Paradox                                                                                                                                                    ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the cloverfield paradoxImage: "Whoah! That Super Bowl commercial says we're available on Netflix right now!"

 You gotta give these "Cloverfield" movies one thing, and it's that they have the most unique, clever, and at times, just plain strange marketing team ever assembled. Despite the release date being pushed around constantly, along with a couple title changes, the newest entry into the J.J. Abrams produced Science Fiction Anthology series had it's first teaser released as a Super Bowl TV spot, followed by an actual release just hours later. That's....That's just something I never would of thought of. Now if only it couldn't of disappointed all those fans who were so excited about it, despite not knowing it even existed. How can you be so disappointed by something you didn't know even existed until two days ago?

 "The Cloverfield Paradox" takes place in the near-ish future, where Earth is going through an energy crisis. So a plan is made to send a crew into space aboard the "Cloverfield Station" to test a particle accelerator, which should in theory give Earth the infinite power source it desperately needs, despite conspiracy theorists, (Which includes a Donal Logue cameo), warns that this could create "The Cloverfield Paradox" and all kinds of crazy ass stuff will happen. Two years later, the crew, which includes "Ava Hamilton" (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the captain "Kiel" (David Oyelowo), "Schmidt" (Daniel Brühl), "Monk" (John Ortiz), "Mundy" (Chris O'Dowd), "Volkov" (Aksel Hennie), and "Tam" (Zhang Ziyi), has been unsuccessful in their mission. They decide to give it one more go, activating the particle accelerator, and this time, it seemingly works.

 However to their surprise, Earth has apparently vanished. Things get stranger when the crew discovers a woman named "Mina" (Elizabeth Debicki) lodged within the station's walls, claiming to be a member of the crew, along with other off circumstances that leads to limbs getting cut off and coming to life, worms exploding out of stomachs, and the body count rising quickly as the crew tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Meanwhile back on Earth, Ava's husband, "Michael" (Roger Davies), has his own little adventure, due to the arrival of a possibly familiar looking giant monster.  

 "The Cloverfield Paradox" follows the same vagueness in terms of it's marketing, much like 2008's found footage monster movie, "Cloverfield" and 2016's critically acclaimed psychological thriller, "10 Cloverfield Lane". The movie's unexpected release is undeniably cool. You can however see why the film appeared to have so much production trouble, mostly because it's just kind of all over the place. Not bad per se (I honestly think that really low Rotten Tomatoes score is unfair), but there are decisions in the movie that only overly complicate and leave more questions than answers. While the other films have been known for creating more theories than actually revealing what they mean, this one unnecessarily adds in a few subplots and doesn't really follow through with some of the ideas it presents. 

 One of the film's saving graces isn't the characters themselves, because most of them aren't as developed as they are clearly meant to be, it's the great collection of actors, who are all giving it their very best. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is actually terrific here, giving a touching and passionate performance, along with some good work from the supporting cast of Elizabeth Debicki (Whose character arc doesn't make much sense, but she sells where it goes with her presence alone), Daniel Brühl, Chris O'Dowd (Who gets a few funny lines here and there that don't feel out of place), along with the rest do give more than what was probably expected and definitely make up for the incredibly weak, and occasionally silly script. The secondary plot with Roger Davies, trying to survive the destruction caused by the monster from the first film has little to do with anything, and just feels like it's been crammed in unnecessarily.

 It's sad because "10 Cloverfield Lane" didn't have the need to tie it in so obviously, simply doing it with a possible nod at the very end. "The Cloverfield Paradox" tries way too hard, cramming so much story and various ideas into a pretty short runtime, to the point when characters act a certain way, you're left wondering how we got to this position in the first place. The film certainly looks good, and in fact it looks too good to be something you can only watch on Netflix. There are some cool visuals and beautiful cinematography that would of worked very well on the big screen (or even an IMAX screen). The film isn't without it's suspenseful moments, and the film's end would of been more effective if not for the pointless subplot on Earth. (Really, that's where the film should of been more vague)

 "The Cloverfield Paradox" is a bit of a mess, but it's not something I would tell someone not to see. It follows basic Sci-Fi Horror tropes, while trying to add in some complicated messages and tie itself into the rest of the "Cloverfield" franchise. Even if it is a little shoehorned in. I think the smart people may have just outsmarted themselves. 2 1/2 stars. Rated TV-MA (Which Is Basically Rated R) For Gorey Violence and Science Mumbo Jumbo.

Winchester                                          ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for winchester movieImage: There's nothing like a Dame Helen Mirren.

 Guys, I got nothing here for this one. Like you, I'm just biding time until "Black Panther:" comes out. Anything else till then feels just so inconsequential. Not to mention, there's nothing else really out right now worth mentioning,so lets just jump right into the "Scary" Helen What? They can't all be classics. 

 Inspired by sort of actual events, "Winchester" tells the story of the "Winchester Mystery House", owned by "Sarah Winchester" (Helen Mirren), the widow of the famous gun manufacturer. Since the death of her husband and baby, Sarah has claimed to be seeing ghosts, and keeps the house under constant construction, adding and removing rooms often. The company fears she might be insane (And you know, it wouldn't hurt if someone could legally prove it), so they call in a washed up (And drugged up), alcoholic doctor, "Eric Price" (Jason Clarke) to make the assessment. Price is invited to stay at the Wincester house, soon discovering nothing is as it first appears, with strange noises being heard, the son of Sarah's widowed niece, "Marian" (Sarah Snook) is acting weird, and the fact that scary faces keep popping out of nowhere and going "Boo!". Price now finds himself involved in a mysterious, uh, mystery, learning about Sarah's grief, and the deadly, vengeful spirits who plot to destroy her and her family. 

 Directed by the Spierig Brothers (Who gave us "Jigsaw" last year), "Winchester" does in fact have an interesting story to tell, with the truth behind it, mixed in with fiction, making for a cool sounding and even tragic ghost story. The set design, and the house itself, are eerie and do have a sense of atmosphere to it. The film just ends up going for the simplest of stories, with the laziest of scares (All of them jumpy), and some cheesy dialogue that only makes everything feel silly. We do get a few twists and turns, but they all in the end lead to a pretty predictable conclusion.

 Everyone involved is giving it their all, and nobody really gives a bad performance. Helen Mirren, (Who can pretty much sell any material), is dignified and finds a way to give an emotionally powerful performance, even with the clunky exposition she is forced to deliver. You still can't help but be invested in her character and her backstory, which is undeniably sad. Jason Clarke is also giving it his best, with a little humor and humanity, giving you reason to root for his redemption. While the supporting characters are bland, there are times you get a clever look to one of the few ghosts that appear throughout, but most of them are just here to make a scary face, followed by a loud noise. (Or sometimes its just a fake out. This movie loves their fake outs.)

 "Winchester" isn't without it's moments and has an interesting story behind it that could make for a spooky film. Sadly, not only does it not leave much of an impression, it doesn't leave me with much to really write about. All I can say is rent it if you want, but there isn't much reason to see it in theaters. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to prepare my body and mind for "Fifty Shades Freed" next week. Odds are that it will leave more of an impact than this movie. Granted, it will be on my psyche, but at least there will be plenty to talk about. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Faces and Loud Music. 

Maze Runner: The Death Cure                                                                                                                                            ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "I thought we already finished this maze".

 I'm gonna' level with you guys. I had a little trouble following this one, simply because I couldn't for the life of me remember what happened in the previous movies. Not so much that they were so forgettable or anything like that. I remember some cool ideas, some silly bad organization, the really pretty girls, and Aidan Gillan stealing the show with his smarm. I just couldn't remember where we left off. Not so much the fault of the movies, because this one was pushed back too long due to the fact it nearly killed poor Dylan O'Brien. I just got too used to these moves coming out every year instead of every year, then waiting three years before just jumping right back into it. An opening crawl would of be nice at least.  So, maybe I did remember enough of it.

 "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" begins where I assume the last one left off. In a post apocalyptic world, where a deadly virus has infected and destroyed civilization, only a select few immune, known as "The Gladers" stand in the way of the obviously evil organization, "WCKD". The leader of the resistance, "Thomas" (Dylan O'Brien) works with his friends "Newt" (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), "Frypan" (Dexter Darden), "Brenda" (Rosa Salazr), and her daddy, "Jorge" (Giancarlo Esposito), and have set out on a mission to save their captured buddy, "Minho" (Ki Hong Lee) from WCKD's er, wicked clutches. Having finally located WCKD's base of operations, within a giant sealed off city, Thomas and his friends seek the aid of another rebellious group, led by the deformed "Lawrence" (Walton Goggins) to sneak into WCKD's lab to save their friend.

 Meanwhile, WCKD's leader, "Ava Paige" (Patricia Clarkson) and her scumbag second in command, "Janson" (Aidan Gillen) continue their morally dubious experiments on children to find a cure to the weird zombie virus by any means necessary, with Thomas' former pretty love interest turned pretty traitor, "Teresa" (Kaya Scodelario) serving as one of their scientists. Thomas and his friends sneak into the city, targeting Teresa and hope to use her as a way to sneak into WCKD's lab and shut them down for good. (And because, well, Thomas still has a thing for her. Wouldn't you?) This all culminates in an epic final battle that thankfully, unlike other YA novel adaptations, doesn't split the last part into two separate movies. 

 Aside from having trouble getting back up to date on the franchise, "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is pretty much more of the same. Not that it's bad by any means. In fact, much like the previous entries (2014's "The Maze Runner" and 2015's "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials"), the film is just a bit better made with some occasional moments that come across as clever or deep. Still, it can't help but steer itself into stupid territory, that many movies like it always seem to intentionally jump right into. There are a few too many characters, most of which are left in the background, with a few supposed emotional moments not working as well as they should. (Although admittedly, some of that might of been because I couldn't remember much about the first two.)

 We do get a very competent cast, who give it their all and elevate the material. Credit to Dylan O'Brien, who makes for a good hero to root for, and does well in the emotional scenes, along with Kaya Scodelario, who is the most complex character and is the most compelling. Patricia Clarkson once again gives a better performance than you'd expect from a movie like this, and Aidan Gillen still has this slimy charm to him, making for a entertainingly despicable villain. Giancarlo Esposito returns for some comic relief and Walton Goggins pops up to be weird, (Which is never a bad thing if you ask me). The rest of the cast is fine, but none of their characters really stand out. Also, Will Poulter (as "Gally", the guy who went crazy in the first movie) returns with little explanation whatsoever. (I recall him being kind of dead last time.)

 "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is fairly predictable, borrowing (Or stealing) from other movies, and it isn't without it's dumb moments. With how some bits that need explaining being glossed over, the goofyiness of the villains' motivations not mixing well with their name (WCKD? And you think you're the good guys? Was that the best you could do?), and possibly the worst example of henchmen marksmanship you will ever see. With all that said, there are some undeniably cool moments, a few solid twists and turns towards the end, and every once in a while, the message behind what your own humanity is worth when trying to save others is delivered in a way that's original and gripping.

 Generic as hell, but "Maze Runner 3" will certainly please it's fanbase and thankfully doesn't outstay it's welcome. It's nearly two and a half hours, yet third time returning director Wes Ball paces the film well enough to where you don't notice. I will also give credit to the rather dark, somewhat ambiguous ending that is at least something different from what you would see in a conventional film like this. Although I might just be going a little easy on it because of my lack of remembrance for the last two. But really, who cares though? It's "Maze Runner". It's a dumb, but fun popcorn movie and I'll certainly take it over "Divergent" and "Twilight" any day. I remember them even less. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Scary Moments And A Surprising Amount Of Violence. (Gets away with a bit more than you would expect from a PG-13).  

13 Strong                                         ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Admit it, we all want to see ourselves this way. 

 A patriotic true events film, based on underdog American soldiers responding to the 9/11 attacks in a fairly secret mission to band together with Islamic allies, that was so secret that most people didn't even know the incredible story behind it. Including myself. Please don't let this suck. Please!

 "!2 Strong" tells the true story of how after the September 11th attacks, a special task force, known as Task Force Dagger, is deployed to Afghanistan for an important mission. A task force of 12, made up of a mix of CIA and Green Berets, includes "Captain Mitch Nelson" (Chris Hemsworth), "Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer" (Michael Shannon), "Sergeant First Class Sam Diller" (Michael Peña), "Sergeant First Class Ben Milo" (Trevante Rhodes), and well, um, the rest....(Okay, the others don't get much screentime.) The team are under orders to join forces with "General Abdul Rashid Dostum" (Navid Negahban) of the Northern Alliance to combat the Taliban forces with bombings, despite the alliance between them beings uneasy to say the least. With horseback as the only way to travel the harsh, mountainous environment, everyone must work together to complete the mission before their deadline or before the Taliban, who is armed to the teeth, is able to wipe them all out. 

 If you're looking for a complex war film, with deep character development, "12 Strong" isn't exactly that. But the film has good intentions and enough general competence from the filmmakers are enough to recommend it. It's a beautifully shot film, with some stunning action scenes that just burst off the screen, in part thanks to the excellent sound design that makes you literally feel the gunfire and explosions. (The IMAX screening I saw it in probably helped too.)

 The lack of detail put into the characters is distracting, but the actors are all giving their best and come across as genuine. With Chris Hemsworth making for a charismatic lead and Michael Shannon calming down and actually giving a very strong and human performance. (Not that crazy Michael Shannon isn't fun and all, but this isn't the movie for that.) Navid Negahban is excellent, with his character given the most profundity, and he delivers the most powerful moments. We also get solid work out of Michael Peña, William Fichtner (as "Colonel John Mulholland", one of Nelson's superiors), and even Rob Riggle (as "Lieutenant Colonel Max Bowers", another one of Nelson's superiors). On the downside, we get some pretty generic bad guys, especially from out big bad (Played by Numan Acar), who just sneers and does bad things while giving menacing glares. 

 "12 Strong" is a pretty basic war drama, with not a lot of depth given to supporting characters, and to a certain degree the story itself is told in a simplistic manner. But to give the film and Director Nicolai Fuglsig (In his directorial debut) credit, there is still this heart to movie that regardless should be able to inspire the audience. It's still a good and well told story that deserves some recognition. A touching tribute to real life heroes whose story wasn't as well known as it should of been. 3 stars. Rated R For Brutal War Violence.

Forever My Girl                                   ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: Aww, isn't that swee.......I mean, ador.......Isn't it nauseating?

 Sometimes your audience can perfectly identify the basic mood of your theater going experience. In a slightly busier than expected showing, full of women mostly probably shown up for a girls night out, I was once again seemingly the only guy in the theater. It's awkward, weird, and just plain looks wrong. Luckily, another girl and her boyfriend arrived just before the movie started. Cue the boyfriend standing still for a brief moment and letting out the loudest, longest, and most exasperated sigh you'll ever hear before going to find his seat, with a defeated look on his face. Sums it all up nicely don't you think? 

  "Forever My Girl" opens with Southern lovebirds, "Liam Paige" (Alex Roe) and "Josie" (Jessica Rothe) about to get married. Too bad Liam decides to be a jackass and runs off to become another generic country singer. Cut to 8 years later when the one black guy in town dies, Liam returns to his home for his funeral, taking a break from his big tour. Josie understandably isn't too happy to see Liam, and in fact, nobody in town really is, including Liam's estranged pastor father, "Brian" (John Benjamin Hickey). However, Liam soon realizes that Josie was also pregnant when he abandoned her before, meeting her (And well, his) daughter, "Billy" (Abby Ryder Fortson). Liam decides to stick around in hopes of getting to know Billy, reconciling with Josie, and reconnecting with his Southern, good old fashioned, all American roots.  

 Comparing "Forever My Girl" to the yearly Nicholas Sparks adaptions (Though they have basically vanished in the recent years) like most critics have been doing doesn't seem particularly fair. I've seen the worst those films have to offer and this one is nowhere on par with how bad they can get. With that said, much like those films, there is this lack of understanding of how people work and react in terms of reality. The sappy dialogue doesn't mesh well with the attempts to be cute and funny, mostly because of how heavy the emotional drama would be realistically. The way the film explains why Liam did what he did is so basic and simplistic, and the way the film treats other dramatic moments (Most of which happen off-screen) just feel odd and sloppy. It doesn't help that Liam is not a very likable character in the slightest, and since we are forced to focus on him more than anyone in the film, it ruins the actual romance, which weirdly feels secondary. 

  Alex Roe can't seem to keep his accent in check, and doesn't have the charisma to carry the film, especially considering how much of a dick he comes across as. (Also, is it wrong to say I don't trust his face? Not sure what it is, but I just don't....Look, I don't like his face.) Jessica Rothe (Who easily carried last year's underatted "Happy Death Day") is plenty cute and shows a great deal amount of personality. But their relationship is just off, mostly due to how poorly the film handles their story, resulting in me not buying the relationship's obvious outcome in the slightest. Abby Ryder Fortson gets some overly precious dialogue, but makes up for it with the fact that she's an undeniably talented little actress. (Although, is her character a bit too overly gifted? Sounds like it would be the plot of a separate movie) Probably the best performance comes from John Benjamin Hickey, who does sell his heartfelt moments, even if most of his story happens off-screen like many arcs in the film. The unlucky ones are seemingly abandoned, such as the dead friend's grieving widow. (Eh, She was unimportant anyway I guess.)

 Directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf, "Forever My Girl" is too safe, blandly boring, and choppily cobbled together (And boy, I have heard enough country music to last me a lifetime), but on the bright side, it never reaches that offensiveness that I'm used to compared to other early in the year romances. It certainly overstays it's welcome quickly, and the film's more overly dramatic moments do get more laughs than the actual moments of humor. (Hot Dogs are the biggest conflict the movie has to offer) However, if your girlfriend decides to drag you to it.....well, actually, you'll still be pretty miserable  But you could still be more miserable elsewhere. Maybe she wants to see "Paddington 2" or "Star Wars" instead. If she does, I suggest you marry that girl immediately. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content, Killer Hot Dogs, And Alex Roe's Inability To Keep His Shirt On. 

Den of Thieves                                     ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Gerard Butler's beard has his own agent and trailer.

 You know, for a January film season, this hasn't been all that bad. (With the exception of "Paddington 2", that was great. You guys should have gone to see it.) But there is at least more of a sense of effort put into the few movies I've seen this month already. And when the worst thing you can say about your movies are that it's just sort of forgettable, that's at least better than....well, "Fifty Shades of Black", "Mortdecai", or "Norm of the North". It's the small victories in life that count.

 "Den of Thieves" starts Las Angeles with a truck robbery resulting in the deaths of a couple cops. This brings in corrupt L.A.P.D. cop, "Nick O'Brien" (Gerard Butler) aka "Big Nick" (Because he's uh, big), who knows that this is the work of a elite gang of criminals, led by "Ray Merrimen" (Pablo Schreiber), who has been pulling off the most successful bank robbery heists in the state for years. Nick's crew manages to capture the gang's newest member, "Donnie" (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), with the intention of getting him to give Nick's crew information on what Merrimen's gang's next big heist is. Donnie can only provide so much (Mostly because he knows so little as it is), and he is forced to work for Nick in exchange for leniency. As the day of the heist draws near, Merrimen finally reveals that this last big heist is going to be their greatest and most difficult yet, planning to rob the Federal Reserve Bank, which is said to be impossible. 

 I may have a bit of a difficult time explaining the plot to "Den of Thieves", mostly because the more I think about it, it's actually a pretty simple yet overly complicated at the same time (Does that make sense?) It's the kind of story you've seen before, but despite some failings particularly when it's all meant to come together towards the end, there is this sense of suspense to the film that does keep your attention for the most part. First time Director Christian Gudegast knows how to build some tension, but can't seem to find the right sense of pacing and doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the word running time. (It clocks in at 140 minutes for no apparent reason).

 One of the film's strongest aspects is Gerard Butler, giving the best performance I've seen from him for some time. He plays up the scumbag aspect with charismatic sliminess and dominates the screen, devouring the scenery every chance he gets. He easily steals the film from Pablo Schreiber, who is much more boring by comparison. O'Shea Jackson Jr. does a solid job in the movie, with a few moments to shine, even with a weird moment at the very end. While Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (as "Levi", one of Merrimen's gang members) is here as well, that's really it, in terms of developed characters. Most of them are left in the background, leaving their family lives as afterthoughts, especially with a subplot involving Nick's wife, "Debbie" ( Dawn Oliveri), who is divorcing him for obvious reasons. 

 "Den of Thieves" has some cool technical aspects, with some excellent utilization of sound (Especially during the shootouts), and Gerard Butler's enjoyably sleazy performance elevates it further. But the film drags along, with an overly drawn out length, and a final twist that feels somewhat clever, but just makes you question the necessity of certain scenes and plot points. It's got it's moments, but it feels like a more forgettable version of a cop/robber thriller you've likely seen before. Just a really, really long version of it. 2 stars. Rated R For Very Strong Language, Brutal Violence, And Pure Gerard Butler Sleaze. 

The Commuter                                     ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "I'm getting too old for this sh*t."

 I know this is pretty late. I'm playing catch up due to the weather seemingly going out of it' way to destroy us all. I witnessed the weather change and the temperature drop right before my eyes. It was kind of amazing, but I decided to weigh the risks and decided against braving the elements. I  know Liam Neeson would handle it like a man and physically fight the freezing cold personally. You know that movie is gonna get made. 

 "The Commuter" follows "Michael MacCauley" (Liam Neeson), a former Cop living through the same routine day by day, just trying to get by, and provide for his wife, "Karen" (Elizabeth McGovern) and son, "Danny" (Dean-Charles Chapman). Michael ends up getting fired from his job as an insurance salesman simply for being old, and he dreads telling his family. While on the way home during his daily train ride home, he meets a mysterious woman, "Joanna" (Vera Farmiga), who gives Michael a supposed hypothetical question about what he would do if offered money to point out a random person.

 Turns out the question isn't hypothetical as Joanna explains that he has a certain amount of time to locate a person using the alias "Prynne", and point them out to her "People". Michael decides to take the money and at first go along with it, but as he progresses in his search, he begins to realize that this is bigger than he could possibly imagine. Michael's family is targeted, people start dying, and Michael is seemingly being set up to take the fall. Michael is left to find Prynne and uncover the bizarre conspiracy before something even more terrible happens.  

 "The Commuter" is exactly what you would expect it to find in a preposterous action film. However, it does at least have competent people behind and in front of the camera to carry it, and does what it sets out to do, which is make for an entertaining, briskly paced thriller. The premise is certainly interesting, and the setup is surprisingly solid, showing our main character's family life before the plot finally happens to develop his character and further the theme of what kind of you could be if put in a deadly situation. It's clever, but nonetheless stupid, especially once we finally learn what exactly is going on. The villains' scheme feels way too overly convoluted for no apparent reason other than to make it overly convoluted, making less and less sense as it goes. 

 Liam Neeson thankfully doesn't sleepwalk even through the silliest of movies. He still gives it his all, with his charisma alone making you invested in what's happening. And to his credit, he doesn't fight his way through some baddies without taking a few good punches. (Aside from CGI Neeson jumping onto CGI train. That was....bad.) Vera Farmiga only appears briefly, but her presence throughout, (With a cute, innocent look and sound to her that makes her particularly villainous). Patrick Wilson (as "Mruphy", Michael's cop buddy) shows up to do the obvious, but doesn't do a bad job at it either, while Sam Neill (as "Captain Hawthorne", Murphy's superior) unfortunately just kind of shows up to do nothing. 

 "The Commuter" is ridiculous, with some goofy twists and turns, but at least retains some moments of humor and humanity to keep your attention. The film embraces what it is, with even the most outlandish of action scenes remaining enjoyable. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Who previously directed "The Shallows" and "Non-Stop", which is eerily similar to this movie in plotting) is good at what he does, keeping the pace moving, making for a quick sit. It's dumb, but an action flick that doesn't take too much of your time, and least the most of it's January dumping ground release. Other than some really awesome people with January birthdays, let's just get this month over with. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Flying Trains, And Liam Neeson's Epic F-Bomb. 

Proud Mary                                     ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Proud Taraji keep on burnin'.

 This right here. This is what I expect to come out in January. Not so much that the film is terrible by any means, but January movies are just When the people involved hear that their film is going to be released in January, they know that it's conformation that the work of art they just finished is probably destined for box office failure and a 20% on "Rotten Tomatoes". So "Proud Mary" is pretty much a perfect January movie.

 "Proud Mary" follows "Mary" (Taraji P. Henson), a well known hitwoman for a Boston crime family, led by the man who took her in "Benny" (Danny Glover). Mary has been a part of the family for years, eventually leading to a fateful day where she kills the deadbeat father of a young boy, "Danny" (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). Feeling guilty, she follows Danny for a year, seeing that he has begun working for a slimy rival mobster, "Uncle" (Xander Berkeley). Mary befriends Danny, and after seeing how much Uncle abuses him, she ends up putting a bullet in Uncle, resulting in the Russian mob growing paranoid. All the criminal gangs are now at each other's throats, with Mary planning to make amends for her bad deeds and maybe give Danny the family she never had. while attempting to get away from her hitwoman life, while avoiding the suspicions of her ex/Benny's son, "Tom" (Billy Brown).

 "Proud Mary" just never quite figures out what the Hell it wants to be. The tongue in cheek tone from the trailer is missing for the most part in the film. Instead, it's more of a thriller, with some pretty heavy drama surrounding it. It doesn't help that occasionally the movie suddenly drifts into goody, more tongue in cheek territory, especially by the end. With a plot that has been done to death, the whole thing doesn't mesh and feels sloppy. It seems the filmmakers were trying to figure out what they wanted to do as the movie went on, but never came to an actual conclusion. 

 It's too bad because Taraji P. Henson is truly trying her absolute best, with her natural charm and ability to look pretty cool while kicking butt. Her relationship with Jahi Di'Allo Winston feels underdeveloped, but the amount of emotion that Henson brings to her role does make it feel somewhat genuine. It's also nice to see Danny Glover actually getting to sink his teeth into a good role for the first time in a while, easily going from nice and caring to villainous and threatening. Billy Brown isn't so much bad, as he can seem a bit intimidating, but his character's arc doesn't feel developed in the slightest and where they go with his character is both predictable and doesn't match how the character started. Neal McDonough (as "Walter", one of Benny's goons) is criminally underused, doing absolutely nothing for his 5 minutes of screentime. 

 "Proud Mary" isn't the worst film I've ever seen in January by any means, as the film does at least look like something I would see in theaters and Taraji P. Henson alone makes it a little worth it (And because Kellan Lutz isn't in it.) The film doesn't leave much of an impact, which is evident by the rushed through finale and an ending that just sort of stops. (The wrap up isn't even a minute long) With this review done, I'll probably never even think about this movie ever again.  Such is the fate of dumped off January releases. Proud Taraji deserved better. 2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Violence, And Tight Black Outfits.  

Paddington 2                                ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: Prison changes a Bear. 

 Hello 2018! After taking a week off from reviewing anything ("Insidious: The Last Key"? I don't have time for that.), it's time to get into the usual January dumping ground (Aside from last second 2017 Oscar hopefuls). But instead of the usual run of the mill bad January releases, we get something rather wonderful. It must be my birthday or something.....Well, it was actually. Happy Birthday to me! 

 "Paddington 2" follows that adorable, overly polite, Marmalade loving bear from darkest Peru, "Paddington" (Voiced by Ben Whishaw). Paddington is still living in London with his adopted human family, "The Browns", consisting of the father, "Henry" (Hugh Bonneville) who is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, the mother "Mary" (Sally Hawkins) who yearns for adventure, the son "Jonathan" (Samuel Joslin) who tries way too hard to be cool, the daughter "Judy" (Madeleine Harris) who starts a feminist newspaper to spite her ex, and their housekeeper "Mrs. Bird" (Julie Walters) who keeps everyone together. Paddington desperately wants to get his only remaining relative, "Aunt Lucy" (Voiced by Imelda Staunton) a birthday present, finding the perfect gift at the antique shop of his friend, "Mr. Gruber" (Jim Broadbent) in the form of a pop-up book of London. The bad news is that the book is one of a kind, and costs a fortune, so Paddington decides to try to make the money to buy it like the good little bear he is. 

 Enter egotistical, washed up actor, "Phoenix Buchanan" (Hugh Grant), who knows that the book contains a hidden secret that leads to a legendary treasure and plots to steal it. Paddington catches Buchanan in the act, but is unable to stop him from taking the book, resulting in Paddington being framed for the crime. Because those Brits take book theft very seriously, Paddington is sent to jail, eventually befriending a few of the inmates, including the prsion cook, "Nuckles McGinty" (Brendan Gleeson). Paddington and his new friends, along with the Browns aiding from the outside, set out to clear his name before Aunt Lucy's birthday and before Buchanan gets away with his crime.

 The sequel to 2015's excellent family feature "Paddington", which was both a critical and box office success, "Paddington 2" really shouldn't be much different, since it's just as wonderful, just as endearing, and just as laugh out loud hilarious. Once again Directed by Paul King, who shoots the film like a colorful storybook made out of candy. The sight on screen is stunning to look at, with so much color changing throughout depending on the mood. The well written script remembers to be charming and funny, while also remaining undeniably sweet natured. The film's strong messages of family, positivity, and just plain treating people with basic compassion are just as inspiring for adults as they are for children, and should warm the heart of the most cynical of cynics (Even prison inmates get respect).. It's somehow grounded in a form of reality, despite all the fantastical and wackiness going on. (Everyone has pretty much just accepted that a talking bear exists in this universe.) 

 Ben Whishaw is once again delightful, with an innocent sense of wonder and optimism that makes for such a lovable character. The family dynamic remaining as strong as the first, with Hugh Bonneville and the adorable Sally Hawkins getting just as many laughs as moments of heart, along with Julie Walters getting some of the best dialogue. Like before, Jim Broadbent is likable in a supporting role, with Peter Capaldi (as "Mr. Curry", The Browns' grouchy neighbor) being suitably snobbish. Brendan Gleeson is an absolute riot, and Hugh Grant simply steals the movie in a wildly entertaining, rather brilliant performance that makes him just as dastardly as he is hysterical. The overall cast, which is also made up of a large ensemble of smaller parts, really brings the film together, and by the end, everything and everyone has a part to play. 

 "Paddington 2" is one of those sequels that somehow manages to be just as great as the first, never losing sight of it's genuine heart and emotion, while remembering to make it's audience laugh and teach good morals at the same time. It's a perfect representation of what a great family movie should be, giving both kids and their parents plenty to admire and enjoy. It's also hands down the most whimsical prison break movie you'll ever see and starts off 2018 in the best way possible. 4 stars. Rated PG For Quirky Shenanigans, The Tugging Of Heartstrings, And Constant Consumption Of Marmalade.