Thursday, July 12, 2018

Godzilla: King of Monsters pics

Entertainment Weekly has released some pictures of the upcoming "Godzilla: King of Monsters." It is due in 2019. I am pretty sure this is intended to be a continuation of the 2014 film "Godzilla," which relaunched the franchise. As well as a continuation of the lukewarm "Kong: Skull Island" which had an after-credit scene connecting to Godzilla. The film is being made by Michael Dougherty, who made the utterly awesome "Trick Er Treat" and "Krampus."

The film will star Millie Bobby Brown from Netflix's "Stranger Things," Vera Farmiga, Bradley Whitford and Sally Hawkins, so very much like the first two films, lots of good actors. It will also, as the title would suggest, lots of monsters! Popularized by the old Godzilla movies.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review: "Super Troopers 2" just never fully takes off

Super Troopers 2 Review

The Broken Lizard is a comedy troupe that I love very much. Over the winter, I re-watched "Club Dread," a film by the troupe that I actually remember sneaking into seeing when I was in grade school. It was just as funny as I remember it being. "The Slammin Salmon" is always a delight. I also have a deep fondness for the "Super Troopers." However, my favorite of the bunch has always been "Beerfest," and I've been holding it to the troupe to eventually make the sequel it promised before the credits. I love, love, love that movie.

The Broken Lizard is great, and I am sure they'll be great again, but "Super Troopers 2" doesn't quite get there.

Its got everything you'd want from a sequel. The entire Broken Lizard troupe is back, as well as Brian Cox. There is funny cameo work by Rob Lowe, Sean William Scott and Damon Wayans Jr, just to name a few. There are some funny moments in the movie. But sadly, the things that work about the movie never really add up. First of all, its an odd story. The disgraced troopers were fired after the first film and then they are recruited by the governor of Vermont, played by the former Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, to police a spot of Canadian land that was originally belonged to the United States. The movie is a comedy about the newfound troopers policing the area despite many Canadians mad about losing their land. After everything that has happened politically in this country since 2016, as well as the reputation we have internationally, it rubbed me wrong to make a comedy about this. 

Not only that, but it would be good if the jokes didn't feel like rehashes. It seems for every movie that has been good by this troupe, their jokes are all alike. Yes, there's some over-the-top pranking. Yes, there are lots of dick jokes. There are lots and lots and LOTS of dick jokes. After awhile they land with a thud. After a while it gets tedious and repetitive. For a movie that wasn't believed in by the studio because of fear of it feeling dated. Then to gain four million dollars through crowedfunding to make the movie. Well, why is it that the movie did end up feeling dated?

Okay, its not all bad. Its pretty apparent that Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, and Kevin Hefferman came to play. If there is any reason to see this movie, its to see all these guys together. No matter how funny the jokes land, its never boring watching these guys get together. They are really tying to make this count, and it definitely shows in their work. Plus, while there is a lot of laughs that don't land, there is still so much crazy over-the-top material that works. There was definitely some effort, and that shouldn't go unnoticed.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: "Tag" has a tender heart underneath its dumb fun

Tag Review

I've had the same group of high school friends for forever now. But I usually see them all about once a year. It's not easy when one is in Delaware, and another is in Colorado and another is in Wisconsin and so on and so forth. So we don't get together like we used to, but that's okay. We've worked around that as best we could. A couple years ago, we started a Dungeons and Dragons game with everyone, and that was always a fun way to kill four or so hours while catching up. Then that evolved in X-Box One Live games. That evolved into, well a hiatus for now. But the point is that we will always come up with a way to connect with each other.

"Tag" is the strangest true story I've ever heard. Ten friends keep up a game of tag which has been happening since they were nine years old. In order to keep up with each other's lives, they play this tag game once every May, during their "Tag Season." Whoever is it by the end of May is it and next year it begins again. I still can't believe this is a true story and there is a real group of friends out there doing this, but hey. That's dedication. "Tag" the movie stars Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson and Jeremy Renner. They are these friends who have been playing since they were nine and now well into adulthood, their game of tag is alive and well.

The game has certainly evolved into their adulthood, and nothing seems to be off-limits. Someone gets tagged when their wife is giving birth. Another person is tagged at their mother's funeral. They get their other friends involved, they get their wives involved. As the film opens Ed Helms' Hoagie gets a job at Jon Hamm's Callahan's own company, just so he can tag him. I think this highlights right away just what type of movie this is going to be, and just how far its willing to go with its humor. Over the course of this friendship, the only person who has never been tagged is Jerry, played by Jeremy Renner. We find out why pretty quickly, he's able to outsmart his friends with ease, and his unbelievable athleticism takes the game to a whole new degree, and nobody can keep up.

Jerry is engaged to Susan (Leslie Bibb) and their wedding happens to fall in May, the group of friends see it as the best time to finally set up plans to trap Jerry and tag him once and for all. But also because of the wedding, Susan begins putting limits on the game. Because of his engagement and his soon-to-be fatherhood, Jerry is planning to retire from the tag game after this year. So the group is hellbent to tag Jerry just once. The movie is smart to showcase just well a "tag player" Jerry is without necessarily turning him into a cliche "bad guy." This is a movie that is absolutely in love with itself. It's in love with its characters. It's a good thing too, because the premise is so gleefully absurd that the audience needs something to hold onto while they move along with the movie. You can't go wrong with a cast that includes Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson, Jeremy Renner, Leslie Bibb and which also features Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis and Rashida Jones.

Yeah, let me talk about Isla Fisher just a bit. Because out of all the women in the movie, she's the absolute best. There is a reason why she's one of the top comedic talents of her generation. Fisher plays Anna, Hoagie's wife. And trust me, she's the embodiment of what we all deserve in a significant other. She seems to have not only accepted that her husband is in a lifelong game of tag with his oldest friends, but relishes in all of it. Even though the group made a strict "NO GIRLS ALLOWED" rule when they were nine, and which they adhered by in adulthood. Doesn't matter, she does what she can to help her husband when he needs it. That alone leads to some of the funniest material in the movie. Wallis is good, but she really isn't given too much to do.

Rashida Jones shows up as Cheryl, who was an old flame of almost all the boys in the group, mostly Callahan and Jake Johnson's "Chili." They both try to go for her when they see her again and it seems like just a weird direction to go that it took me out of the movie. Suddenly, there is a competition for the affection of this girl between two of the guys and it throws off the rest of the movie. It suddenly feels like a different movie altogether and it rubbed me wrong. Thankfully, it doesn't last very long. It seems though that Johnson is almost typecast at this point thought. Chili is pretty much Nick from "The New Girl" except he smokes lots and lots of weed.

What could have boiled down to a simple cat-and-mouse with the group of friends finally prevailing over their rival ends up not happening. Instead, the movie ends reminding the audience of just how precious something like a close friendship is. No matter how young we think we are at any given time, life will eventually catch up with all of us. At the most unexpected time, so we have to have as much fun as possible, no matter how old we get. The movie has some really sincere things to say about close friendships that I was honestly a little shocked once the credits began to roll.

So the next big question, is the movie funny? Well, there are plenty of times where I laughed out loud. With the cast involved, I would have been frustrated if the movie didn't generate a single laugh. So yes, I did laugh. Although I'll admit, I didn't laugh nearly as much as I thought I would. I was expecting it to be much funnier than it actually was. I don't think I've really bust my gut laughing in a long time at the theater, and I can't say that I walked away in pain, which is too bad. But did I laugh a little bit, yes. At least it didn't sell itself as a comedy then forget to put some laughs in.

Its the film's heart that finally won me over. I am sure that made some of you grown. But its not has self-evident as it sounds. "Tag" is a fun time at the movies, albeit a dumb fun kind of time.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Keri Russell negotiating for Star Wars Nine!

Keri Russell has worked with J.J. Abrams a couple of times. She was cast in the lead on J.J. Abrams' show "Felicity" and had a small role in his "Mission: Impossible III." She's most well known for her work on "The Americans." I've slowly begun to get into "The Americans" and I like what I've seen so far. Now, Keri Russell is apparently getting close to reteaming with Abrams for another time in the upcoming "Star Wars: Episode Nine." Abrams directed "The Force Awakens" and was a producer on "The Last Jedi." Now, he's back in the directors chair for the grand finale.

Of course its in the dark of who she is going to play. Rumors are already running rampant about who she could be playing, some guessing it could be Rey's mother. But honestly who knows? I guess that's as good a guess as any, since Kylo explicitly said she's a nobody. For me, I don't know how much I really care. "The Last Jedi" was such fumble in my eyes that I can't believe I am not that excited for Episode Nine. I will still see it, because I do want to see how this particular story ends. I know Abrams has tons of damage control to work through so that this last episode ends on a high note. So we'll see. Although this will be a good profile for Russell.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Review: "Luke Cage" season two is one of the better Netflix Marvel seasons

Luke Cage season two Review

As much as I've been a Marvel fan, their television endeavors have just not jumped off the screen the way their movies have. I like their TV branch, but I definitely don't love it, and that has been somewhat frustrating because I feel like I should love it. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is a fun show that is hit or miss with its storylines most of the time. And for Marvel's darker, grittier TV branch, the Netflix Marvel experiment has only produced one all-around great show, and that's "Daredevil." Plus, the big Netflix Marvel mash-up, "The Defenders," seemingly came and landed with a wet fart. Vanishing without a trace on the way out the door. It's really no wonder that there are no plans for a second Defenders team up on the streaming service. It's been a mystery to me how Marvel continues to not do much with its TV side, especially with the rich characters they've been given access to.

Actually, let me stop. I know why Marvel has been fumbling the football with Netflix recently. They've never been able to tackle pacing, and its been a real issue since the beginning. They have these stories built for a movie and they are spreading that story across eight to thirteen hours. That simply doesn't work. No matter how many times Netflix has tried with their Marvel shows, it ends up coming short in a big way. I always just figured that was how it was always going to be. Its been a problem so noticeable that it easily derails any good will these Marvel shows have mustered over at their streaming platform.

The first season of "Luke Cage" in particular, was fun to watch all the way throughout, but the moment they decide to kill Cornell Cottonmouth, the show just comes to screeching halt. The villain that replaces Cottonmouth is visually dorky and totally uninteresting that you are mentally begging for Cottonmouth to rise from the dead somehow. If the Netflix shows have any other sort of problem, its making sure the villains are interesting like the heroes. The first season gave us Cottonmouth, Mariah Dillard and Shades, but Diamondback was dud, through and through. I was scared with Cottonmouth gone, how they'd move forward in a second seasons.

Blame my low expectations, blame whatever you want. I am going to come out and say that the second season of "Luke Cage" was lots of fun. The big thing I notice, and I can't believe there are legit TV critics arguing this point, but the pacing is actually a non-issue this season. The story being told moves at a generous pace and the few filler episodes the season has are actually interesting, they never feel thrown away or just there. They've been made to matter and that makes a big difference. I never really felt bored across the thirteen hours of this season.

Out of all the Netflix Marvel shows, this one seems to embrace the comic world moreso than ever before. What's interesting is the gritty realism of the Netflix world has stayed intact despite all the fanatical elements happening around the characters. Misty Knight returns this season, and after losing her arm in "The Defenders," she's now got the bionic arm from the comics. Luke Cage teams up with Danny Rand for a couple episodes. Mustafa Shakir plays a character who goes by the alias Bushwacker and he's truly a foil to Luke Cage. He's got the bullet defense system in his body, even though its not nearly as strong as Cage's, its effective and it gets the job done. Plus, he's got a superhuman agility which makes him Cage's equal in many fights. All of this plays into why I liked this season, it keeps the comic side intact. No, nobody is really wearing costumes. But you know what, the characters in this show had costumes in the comics and they all looked stupid. So maybe there's a reason for that.

Shakir's work as Bushwacker is strong and he makes a great breakthrough with the character. He's not just an empty character needed so that Luke has a fight. Bushwacker comes from Jamaica, and rises within the Jamaican Yardies of New York (yes, the Yardies are a real ethnic gang, something I've had to explain to many people already.) He's got a history with Mariah Dillard, and he's ready to get some revenge on her. This proposes a problem because Dillard is in the mist of actually trying to become a legitimate businesswoman. Luke Cage reluctantly teams up with Mariah, and other times teams up with Bushwacker. It may sound like it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but fear not. There is a story being told here. I liked that it was story that was continuously keeping me on my toes throughout. 

We also meet Mariah's daughter, Gabrielle Dennis plays Tilda Johnson, who is good with elixirs and potions, again the embracing of comic origins has been lots of fun. It's a totally revision of the character from the comics, but that's okay. The main theme of the character is left intact, and that's what is most important. It's actually amazing how much family and those relationships affect this season. Tilda feels a newfound epiphany when she sees her daughter, an old moment with Cottonmouth revitalizes how much he actually meant to Mariah. Luke Cage focuses with his birth father what it actually means to be a true hero. Family and their dynamics plays big into this new season.

But the new season is much more than just storyline. There is some good action set pieces. The show is clever and smart in the way it reacts to Luke Cage and his power base. This is a guy is bulltproof with super strength, so you got to do something to make up some drama within the show. It can't just be a repeat of what they did last weekend. That gets old real quick. The new characters and the new dynamic definitely helps though, giving the characters more to do makes up for anything that doesn't fit here. Everyone makes strong choices in their performances. The action scenes are well staged, which I felt were boring in the first season. Because let's face it, when a guy has super-strength, its tough to keep that interesting across thirteen hours. The ending lands with some major questions, and this isn't a case of just killing everyone. But there is one major death in particular which will make the future interesting moving forward.

But the big thing for me is that this season kept my interest throughout. This time, that means more than most. They had a story that didn't feel like butter stretched across too much bread. They had a story that was character-driven and fun in equal measure. One story that wasn't afraid to embrace the books in which this series is based upon. I hope this is a new leaf for Netflix Marvel, because it could make this experiment last much longer.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Review: "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" is a unexpected grimy crime thriller

Sicario: Day of the Soldado Review

One of the best films of 2015 was a gritty look at the war on drugs, and how that drove a particular FBI agent out of her mind. That movie was called "Sicario" and I've enjoyed the film ever since I saw it for the first time. I figured that story was a one-time thing. The idea of a sequel never crossed my mind. In the climate of filmmaking we are living in today, was it truly possible to expect a sequel for a movie that wasn't based on anything? That wasn't heavily influenced by nostalgia? I didn't think so, and I left it at that. I never expected in 2018 to see a sequel to the film. Nor did I expect that it would as entertaining as it was.

The original film starred Josh Brolin, Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro. For this second film, Emily Blunt is out. The film focuses on Brolin's Matt Garver, a CIA agent who specializes on the war on drugs. The film also mainly focuses on Benicio del Toro's Alejandro Gillick, who has worked with Garver on many cases. As the film opens, we learn that a terrorist attack occurs in Kansas City and American intelligence deduces that Mexican Drug cartels have been smuggling Muslim terrorists into our country for a while. The American government gives Garver the go ahead to head down to Mexico to learn what he can, he recuits Gillick to assist him, as well Steve Forsing, played by Jeffery Donovan who was also in the first film. Through the use of several aggressive false flag operations, they plan to start a war between two feuding drug cartels.

Part of their plan is to kidnap Isabela Reyes (Isabela Moner) who is the daughter of one of the cartel leaders, then stage it as if the rival cartel did it. Of course, as these movies usually go, the kidnapping eventually goes less than well. Garver gets pressured by the government to remove all traces of their involvement, which means murdering Reyes. Garver tries to get Gillick to do it, but he can't. This leads Gillick to eventually become Garver's enemy.

If you think the rest of the movie is a cat-and-mouse game between Garver and Gillick, forget it. "Sicario" was originally noted because it felt gritty and grounded. That same style passes onto this sequel. The movie also does a magnificent job of keeping the audience on their toes. You may think you have something figured out, just based on the crime movies you've seen. I will recommend that you forget everything you know, though. This movie isn't interested in treading water, and it is vastly richer as an experience because of it.

At this point, both Brolin and Del Toro have made careers playing hardened men. So much so that it may seem like a retread for both men. But I truly disagree. The writing feels so updated in this movie, so smart, so unique that the characters feel original. This could have been a very gimmicky movie as far as character development is concerned. It could have been lots of cornball tough guy dialogue. It have been plenty of stylized poses and several snarky looks. But the film is always more than that, it chooses character every time. The big discovery here is Isabela Moner, who is given more to do than just be a damsel in distress. She is given real heart and soul here, and Moner is smart and capable enough to run with it. So when her character is in danger, despite her background, its amazing how much all of it matters.

"Sicario" originally stuck out not only because of its story but how it tells it. It seems that the War on Drugs lingers on, without much of an ending in sight. As well as not much of a list of accomplishments in the war. I do truly wonder what is happening in the War on Drugs and just how successful we've been. Yet, how do you measure success? The first film dealt with the harsh reality that the only way to win the war is to become just as vicious as the cartels themselves. This second film seems to suggest that it all the collateral damage in this war doesn't really matter. It's a bleak, stark world and each new film plunges you into the filth of the War on Drugs.

I'll be interested to see how often we get to visit these characters. I will give this to the team behind these movies, they've done the unthinkable. Here is a series of movies being driven by character and performance. This is not a series based on a previous series, it isn't driven by nostalgia. That counts in this day and age, and it certainly means something. I hope we get many more visits with these sicarios, especially if they are going to be this good.


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Weekend Update

It's been awhile, folks!

As you all know I've been busy at work helping my wife raise a baby. Our new daughter is cute as a button, strong for her age, and is merrily healthy. But I'd be lying if she isn't a handful sometimes. She's still a baby, and baby's cry, thankfully our daughter only gets upset when she needs something. Though playing the guessing game of what she needs can be slightly tough sometimes. Still, she's been worth every minute, and we couldn't be happier.

In the meantime, its been tough getting out to the theater to see new movies. So I've been catching up on some stuff that I missed in theaters this week. I rented and watched Steven Soderbergh's "Unsane" and Clint Eastwood's "15:17 To Paris." I've loved and admired both directors ever since I was a movie fan and I was curious about their efforts this time. Soderbergh's "Unsane" follows Sawyer (Claire Foy of "The Crown" which I haven't watched yet.) who moved from her home state to evade a stalker. When she feels she sees the stalker again, she goes to see a councilor about it, and without much effort, the councilor admits Sawyer into a psyche ward. The psyche ward isn't what it seems and even scarier, the stalker is now employed at the same ward. Then, Eastwood's "15:17 To Paris" tells the true story about the 2015 Thalys Train Attack, and how three brave heroes apprehended a terrorist before they could do any damage.

I wish I could say both films are built to last. Soderbergh and Eastwood have made some marvelous films and they are some of the most reliable filmmakers in the business right now, but I guess 2018 they both were on the struggle bus. Both films aren't terrible films, these aren't crimes against celluloid. For Soderbergh to just make an ordinary thriller out a "sane-person-in-psyche-ward" movie is a little frustrating. The film is a bagful of cliches and then its over. You can pretty much telegraph the whole thing from beginning to end. I think there's a great movie stuck somewhere in a psyche ward purposefully admitting healthy people for their insurance claims, and a stalker taking up employment to get to an old flame. But the way the films plays out only makes it all boring and familiar. Foy does what she can, and sadly its a thankless role. It's also pretty cool that Soderbergh shot the entire film using an IPhone. It gives the film a ruggedly realistic look. But ultimately, the film is mediocre, something I never thought Soderbergh to be.

Clint Eastwood hasn't made a tense movie since "Gran Torino." If you remember when I reviewed "Sully" a few years ago, I wrote about how the movie featured the least compelling, least thrilling plane crash ever, and the court case that followed was the least emotional-driven court case I'v ever seen in a film. Sadly, Eastwood repeats himself again here. Once Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos apprehend the terrorist on the train to Paris, its so painfully anti-climatic that I wanted to cry. It doesn't help that Stone, Sadler and Skarlatos are all playing themselves here. These guys are heroes, no doubt about it. But they stink as actors, even though they are essentially playing themselves. They are awkward delivering a script and blocking for their scenes. Movies and real life are not the same thing. "15:19 To Paris" suffers from the same problem "Act of Valor" did when the film used real Navy Seals. Just because your making a movie about someone who was actually at an event, doesn't mean the movie is going to be good. Mix that with the style of tension-less filmmaking by Eastwood, and you've got a fairly vapid experience.

Like I originally said, I will write as often as I can, and maybe some weeks will be me catching up on things I missed in the theater this year. I will still try to deliver content when I can. But sometimes I may write these smaller recaps.