Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: "Apostle" is the perfect October gift.

Apostle Review
I know I've famously been a little antagonistic regarding Netflix and their original cinematic content recently. For some reason, when it comes to their horror department, they are certainly making the most of it. Both "1922" and "Gerald's Game" were two of the best Stephen King adaptations in really long time. I just finished the first season of "The Haunting of Hill House" and I enjoyed it every step of the way, it was a spooky good time. "The Ritual" is a movie that should have been reserved for the theater, because it would have made somebody somewhere rich. I plan to write about "Hold The Dark" very soon, but that movie is so wonderfully strange that I am having a hard time getting my hands around. In the best possible way, I assure you.

Now we've recently been blessed with "Apostle." I am not sure if I would call it the best Netflix original horror film. But it certainly will come close. I haven't considered ranking these movies yet, but if I did, "Apostle" would rank fairly high. It is my favorite kind of horror film. You won't find any found footage cameras anywhere here. You won't find any teenagers you can't act. While there are some torture scenes, they are specifically designed to haunt and disturb you. To push the limits of what you can handle as a horror fan. They aren't trying to kill people in ridiculous ways, because for some, for whatever reason, huge amounts of blood is somehow scary. I recently watched "Jigsaw" for the first time a couple weeks ago, and while the "Saw" tradition is still alive and well, it wasn't that great of a tradition in the first place.

"Apostle" stars Micheal Sheen as a cult leader. If the temperature didn't immediately go down in your own home after reading that sentence, then you probably weren't a horror fan to begin with. I've written before on this blog about my phobia of cults. Any horror film involving a cult is enough to send me over the edge. Hell, movies about cults that aren't intended to be scary send me over the edge. Add an actor like Micheal Sheen and I might as well not sleep for the next three weeks. You better believe he's awesome too.

Let's back up a little bit. I am talking sporadically and all over the place. The film is set in 1905. Thomas (Dan Stevens) travels to a mysterious, remote Welsh island to rescue his sister. His beloved sister was kidnapped by the cult Micheal Sheen's character leads. Thomas has a dark past involving religion and he's not a devout follower by any stretch of the imagination. Micheal Sheen's character is named Malcolm. He was shipwrecked on the island with two of his first followers and he stayed alive by apparently appeasing to the island's goddess. Malcolm has got the villagers refusing to not pay the king taxes. He sacrifices animals to the island goddess for food. But like many cult leaders, he's a fraud and his crops are failing. He plans to ransom Thomas' sister for money and food and Thomas plans to stop him. 

What could have been a sweet revenge story ends up being a remarkable horror movie too. There is a scene in particular that literally forced a verbal reaction out of me. I rarely jump at boo scares, but a scare so deep that it ignites a little yelp is even more rare. There is some freaky, freaky material in this movie and I love how cold the movie plays. This is the type of horror movie I like. Mood and atmosphere reign supreme. The cinematography of the film suggests a very stark and grim tale on the horizon and it is absolutely correct.

Dan Stevens is heating up at this point to be a major star. I was on board when I caught him in the film "The Guest." I wasn't alone too. He was hired to play The Beast in last years' "Beauty and The Beast" for a reason. Pretty soon he's going to be a household name. He's very charismatic and here he does a splendid job as Thomas. He fits right into this scary world, entering the island to find his sister like walking through the mouth of Hell. He's really good.

Gareth Evans wrote and directed this film. He was the guy behind both "Raid" movies, which are a couple of wicked Indonesian martial arts films. He directed the segment "Safe Haven" in "V/H/S 2," which is one of the craziest and creepy segments in the history of that franchise. Evans is on the rise, a grand new voice in filmmaking and I think we are just beginning to see him flex his muscles.


Review: "Bad Times At The El Royale" is fun, post-Tarantino noir

Bad Times At The El Royale Review
Ever since the phenomenon that was Quentin Tarantino, there have been people in Hollywood constantly trying to recreate his genius. I can name probably ten movies off the top of my head between 1992 and today that have clear inspirations from the early days of Quentin's work. Anytime in Hollywood when someone or some studios see a formula that is working, there is always a push to try and recreate it. There seem to be no patients or copyrights out there and its common to see several clones of something else. Most of the time, these clones seem to fall short of what they are emulating. Like a classic movie that never needed to be remade.

"Bad Times At The El Royale" is essentially a group of well-known actors playing characters who all have a dark secret of some kind. These characters all meet at a specific spot in order to find something, and in their pursuit to find this said McGuffin, there ends up being betrayals, double-crosses and violence. All the while the characters speak, act and pose in really, really cool ways. If you can't see the parallels to both "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" in that short synopsis, you are truly not paying attention. Sure, there is some parallels to Agatha Christie. Sure, you can even reach and see some parallels to "The House on Haunted Hill." But this movie is pretty much a reaction to the work of a specific artist. Another post-Tarantino neo-noir film.

I've normally found these movies to range from mediocre to good. When I was in high school, I sure thought "Smokin' Aces" and "Lucky Number Slevin" were awesome. But re-watching them now, they are just exercises in style and they aren't nearly as clever as they seem to think they are. With that said, I actually enjoyed myself through most of this movie. It's got a stellar cast including the likes of Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, and Chris Hemsworth. What could have easily been a movie of recognizable group of actors goofing off. But I can say all the actors give it their all and try to make it count.

What's interesting is that for a fairly simple story, its overly-long. Pacing is a serious issue here, and I do mean serious. For a slick movie about a group of people looking for lots and lots of loot, there is no reason why the movie should be anywhere close to three hours. Yes, I know both "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" clock in close to that too, but Tarantino's scripts were so originally written that time would fly by. I can't say the same for "Bad Times At The El Royale." The script is pretty standard, and I know the filmmakers are trying for some juicy dialogue, but not much of it really lands. Not in the way they intend at least.

But the actors we know and love are enough to string us along unti the end. They keep things going and keep us engaged through the weak pacing. Its no "Pulp Fiction," that's for sure. But there is enough here to consider this a win.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Live Action Aladdin

The live action cash grab continues at Disney! This summer, their big non-animated remake will be Aladdin. We get a glimpse of what is to come in the teaser trailer. Of course, we don't get much. We get to see desert, lots and lots of desert. We catch Iago flying in the air. We get a skyline of Agrabah. We see Aladdin reaching for the lamp. We hear the sand tiger talking in the teaser, then the famous sand tiger himself, as a silhouette enters his mouth, the mouth closes! We also hear some familiar music in the background.

Disney remaking all of their animated favorites has been big business for them the last few years. I'd say I was annoyed, but I am shocked how many of them have landed over those that have missed. It's great that they want to reach out to a new audience, since the kids who saw these animated favorites now probably have kids of their own. It makes sense and as long as they continue to create fun-filled adventures, I am sure this cash machine isn't going anywhere.

I am very curious to see if Will Smith has anything on Robin Williams. Big shoes to fill, those are!

Review: "Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween" is an overly-silly kid movie

Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween Review

I saw and reviewed the first "Goosebumps" movie a few years ago and I could enjoy it even though it was a fairly, overly-silly Halloween movie. I can appreciate it. There really aren't many Halloween style movies that families can go to together. I remember reading some of the Goosebumps books from R.L. Stine, a kind of Stephen King lite writer. I remember for the time, some of the stuff was scary. But only scary to young adults. Stine wrote young adult fiction, so there was certain style of spooky you were getting with a Goosebumps book. Even though some of the artwork for those books still might give me nightmares if I ever bothered to look at it again.

On the level of what it offered, the first "Goosebumps" movie was lots of fun. Sure, it was a silly, silly movie, but there was stuff for people of all ages. It was also a movie stocked with nostalgia if you were a fan of this series as a kid. I thought it might be story suicide to actually make R.L. Stine a character in the movie, but it fit the context of the story. The first film was a celebration of all things Goosebumps. I was hoping this sequel would continue that celebration for another October month.

Much like its predecessor, "Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween" is a very silly movie. If you are wondering if its sillier than the first, I am actually not sure. Its been so long since I've seen the first film that I can't remember most details, but if I had to guess and based on my memories, its about as silly as the first film. In fact, had "Goosebumps" never came out, you wouldn't really know this is a sequel. This feels like an entirely different adventure, with "Goosebumps" as a brand name. None of the main characters from the first film are back here, and Jack Black's R.L. Stine is sadly sidelined for at least half the movie. I actually rather liked Jack Black the first time around, Black is good again, I just wish he came out to play more in this one. 

Anyway, it would almost feel like this "Goosebumps" franchise might be an anthology series, but they do mention the events from the first film. There is some business of getting Stine's creations back into the books. I am not sure why so many professional critics are coming down hard on this one. Yes, I am disappointed that we didn't get more Jack Black. Yes, its essentially the same movie as last time. But these are family movies. They provide a little something for everyone. I may even agree that the first one provided more and this is more kid-oriented than the last movie. But there is still an ability to entertain, even if those being entertained are your little ones. There are still moments where adults will laugh out loud with their children.

Slappy the ventriloquist dummy returns, being a break out villain in the first film. I love how Mick Wingert voices him sounding like Mark Hamil's Joker from "Batman: The Animated Series." Jeremy Ray Taylor from "IT" does a good job in the lead role and there is a huge host of recognizable actors, such as Chris Parnell and Ken Jeong and Wendi McLendon-Covey, but all are totally under-utilized. This movie mainly focuses on its younger cast, and its honestly hit or miss as far as performances go. I try not to beat up to hard on child actors, but when they are front and center, they got to sell the movie and that can be difficult with no-namers. 

Overall, I'd say if you got buddying horror fans at home and you want to take them to something Halloween related without traumatizing them, "Goosebumps: Haunted Halloween" is your best bet. It's fun, its got some funny material, and its friendly enough for the children. I may not be as over-the-moon as I was years ago, but its a just follow-up.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

James Gunn reportedly writing and directing "Suicide Squad 2"

James Gunn has been a subject of interest in Hollywood since summer. He was abruptly fired from Disney and Marvel over ten year old Tweets which centered around rape and pedophilia. Before you get outraged all over again, let me tell you that these Tweets were brought up before "Guardians of the Galaxy" starting shooting in 2014. He apologized for them. He recognized that the Tweets were in bad taste and that he's matured in ten years, as do most people. Still, pressure from Conservatives led to his release from Marvel.

Bad move, Marvel. Bad move. Now we know why, DC has scooped up Gunn. At first, it was said he would direct and write. It has since been confirmed that he will definitely write "Suicide Squad 2." Which honestly seems like a perfect fit for Gunn. It also looks like we will be getting a pretty decent "Suicide Squad" movie, especially if Gunn ends up directing this thing.

I ain't gonna make this a political screed, because that just isn't my style. But man, Marvel. BAD MOVE. I can't wait to see what Gunn brings to this table. I hope and pray that DC realizes who they have and they allow Gunn the freedom to tell the story he wants to tell. DC has been putting shackles on many of their filmmakers, which has lead to bad word-of-mouth and modest (at best) box office returns. Allow Gunn to hit this one in the face!

I can't wait to buy this soundtrack!

Oh and if Dave Bautista gets cast in this, please let him play King Shark!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Review: We are "Venom?" I guess. Sorta.

Venom Review
As a movie lover and a comics lover, there can be a tremendous amount of inner conflict and inner turmoil when Hollywood decides to make these books a reality. I feel like I am constantly reminding myself to disconnect as a comic book fan for these movies. I don't think its particularly fair, even though I have been guilty in the past, to base my entire movie review around "oh, in the comics this character is this, or this character did that." Not everybody who buys a ticket to see a movie has read the comics. I see comic book fans all up in arms constantly, declaring that this superhero movie or that superhero movie is "the worst movie ever made," simply because the X-Men line-up isn't the original, or one character didn't get their powers like that, or they don't look right, or they leave too much out. Comic fans can't wrap their heads around that every move a filmmaker makes is to make a movie that appeals to the mass audience, not just the niche comic audience. Superheroes wouldn't be the big business they are right now if filmmakers only appealed to a small fraction of the movie going public.

With that said, I have learned to live in world where I am getting a "Venom" movie that is totally disconnected to Spider-Man. They reimaged Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) as a character, they've partially reimaged how he comes about getting attached to a symbiote, an organic, alien parasite that attaches to a host and controls them. This is not the hundredth percent Venom from the comics, but I don't care. I find it weird how I hold on to certain comic continuity but not to others. I guess because Hollywood can go so far to the extreme that its not the character at all, just read up on what J.J. Abrams planned to do with Superman back in 2002. I wouldn't say that the "Venom" movie playing in theaters right now is so stray that it doesn't feel like the same character. This is certainly Venom all right, so that is at least a good thing.

I went in with the lowest of low expectations. On the other side, I feel "Venom" is a mixed bag. I like Tom Hardy, but I feel if he were given a better script, he could have been great. I like Jenny Slate, but she was barely given enough to do here. I like the special effects and the crazy headgame going on with Eddie Brock internally once his body is infected with a symbiote alien, I just wish it served a better movie. For long stretches of the film, the movie is kind of a mess. It's tonally stunted. It tries hard to be funny, but usually comes up short. It tries to be light-hearted, even though Venom is the absolute worst light-hearted character. There are stretches of the film that are just, well, boring. No matter what I think of the character, Venom is a terrible, terrible PG-13 character. How can a character that leaves dead bodies everywhere and spouts on about tearing people's heads off be stuck in a PG-13 movie?

Like I said, I like Tom Hardy. I think he could have been a classic Venom. But as I said, he needed a better script. I have discovered that Tom Hardy can't do everything. Eddie Brock is a reporter with lots of fans, and he takes on a story about the Life Foundation, that may be doing some shady shit in the name of science. Brock is trying really hard to expose them, but it gets him fired. Still, a scientist of Life Foundation Dora Skirth (Slate) gets Brock secretly into the facility to report on the Foundation. A piece of an alien symbiote latches onto Brock, and he becomes Venom. Eddie Brock is a somewhat timid and not-so-tough character, two qualities that Tom Hardy lacks. When he tries to talk in a scared, high-pitched voice, it just comes off unnatural.

The Life Foundation is run by Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed. I discovered Ahmed on HBO's "The Night Of," where he plays a young guy who gets in the wrong place at the wrong time. He also plays a rebel in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," and he plays a bright, energetic man who believes in the rebellion. There are things that Ahmed can't do either. He can't play a villain. He's got too sweet of a face for a villain. He can't carry the range to come off dangerous or even snobby. He's supposed to be this sometimes intimidated, vile figure. Ahmed never comes close to making the audience feel that way.

Michelle Williams plays the typical love interest, and that's too bad that this was the only avenue they chose to take with her character. Sure, she's instrumental near the end of the movie, but she's pretty much just a love interest. There is some really good special effects in the movie. But the ending will possibly frustrate some viewers who are getting sick of two people with similar powers having a big fight at the climax of the movie. The film accumulates to a CGI symbiote monster fighting another CGI symbiote monster. If they make more of these movies, its just going to be CGI symbiote monsters fighting other CGI symbiote monsters. I am not sure what traction this can get as a franchise and I think it has a good chance of getting stale really quick.

Early reports stated that the film was 2005 "Catwoman" bad, I am not sure its on that level. But it is for sure a very ho-hum, dragging experience. It's got some pretty good to mediocre performances and some stellar special effects work. The action scenes never live up to the promise the movie makes. I think the movie could have benefited from a better script, somebody who really loves the character. When two slippery liquid monsters are beating each other up with abnormally long tongues, and its the most boring fight in comic book movies, that's a problem. "Venom" is a PG-13 rated movie that wanted very badly to be an R-rated movie, and it shows. We are living in a comic book adaptation golden age, so making movies this mediocre shouldn't be happening at this point. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Spiderman: Enter The Spider-Verse trailer

Our friendly neighborhood Spiderman may have had an undesirable fate in "Avengers: Infinity War," but anybody who knows comics knows that we will see Spidey again. Plus, the next year or so is going to be a big for the webhead. He will appear in "Avengers 4" then following that film next year, we will get his sequel "Spider-Man: Far From Home." If any of you have a PS4, I hope you've been enjoying the video game. This holiday season though, Spider-Man is going to the animated world.

I am really excited for this movie. It will be exciting to see how they handle all these Spider characters. In the comics, Spiderman went on adventures with other Spider-men (and Spider-Women) from all over the multiverse. I hope they can do a good job with it, because its looks awesome.

Plus, Spider-Ham!

Review: "White Boy Rick" prevails with great performances, using a mediocre script

White Boy Rick Review
The story of Richard Wershe Jr. is surely an interesting one. He's a Detroit boy who evidently did crime with his father. To say he grew up hard would be a large understatement. At the age of 14, he became the youngest FBI informant ever. He sold drugs for the FBI in order to get closer to the users and other criminals of the city at the time. He was eventually abandoned by his handlers and sentenced to prison.

I've seen dozens and dozens of crime movies. I've seen the rise and fall of men who thought they were kings. I've seen several crime movies based on a true story. I love the genre, its always been one of my favorites. With that said, it seems like all of these movies are constructed the exact same. We see an early crime spree. We see a criminal go down. We see their way out through police or a law enforcement organization. We see them go in deep undercover, of sorts. We see suspicion with their friends and family. We see them get in too deep and over their heads. We then see how it all crumbles, or sometimes how it simply resolves. "White Boy Rick" heads to this formula, and it never waivers. Even if you don't know the story of Richard Wershe Jr. (and I will admit that I had never heard of this guy) you've seen this movie. That is the most disappointing thing about it. Even in 2018, we haven't figured out a way to approach the crime genre in a more creative, suspenseful way.

"White Boy Rick" hits homerun after homerun in the acting department. Richie Merritt plays Wershe and he's literally a revelation. Merritt makes you believe in the story being told. He sounds like he's from Detroit. He looks like he grew up hard. He's got a demeanor that doesn't compare to anybody else. He's got the goods to carry the movie on his shoulders and he's a young kid too. I hope this movie might peak high enough for Oscar buzz, because Merritt deserves the merit (pun totally intended). Matthew McConaughey plays his father, and its McConaughey. He's great all the time, and he's great here. The rest of the central cast includes Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane, Brian Tyree Henry, RJ Cyler and Jonathon Majors, all of whom are excellent.

I just wish that they had a script that wasn't so straightforward. There are couple gem moments and couple times where I laughed out loud. But those moments are few and far between. The movie plays out just as you'd expect it to. Because its so straightforward, it ends up being fairly boring and routine. Not what I was hoping for. But some decent performances may make me think about this more than usual.


Review: "Three Identical Strangers" is an emotionally-draining, eye-opening experience

Three Identical Strangers Review
Being the movie fan that I am, I will give anything a chance. That includes documentaries. I'm talking about theatrical documentaries, a good documentary can allow the audience to travel to some of the strangest parts of our world and discover stories we would never believe are non-fiction. It's amazing just rich our world really is, and the stories each and every one of us have. It blows my mind even further that there are seven billion of us sharing this planet as we speak, and learning everyone's story and their interests would be a dizzying roller coaster. Every once and awhile though, documentaries take us to corners of the world we wished we didn't see, and just as we can have a fun surreal experience, we can have a cold and cruel experience as well.

"Three Identical Strangers" is a documentary about the true story of David Kellman, Robert Shafran and Eddy Galland. The movie begins with Shafran recounting his first day moving into a Community college in New York. He feels weird because everyone is really nice to him, and just about everybody he comes in contact with refers to him as Eddy. He eventually connects with someone who tells him that he looks like Eddy Galland, a student who transferred to a different college at the end of last year. When Shafran discovers that he shares a birthday with Galland, they had to meet. They soon find out that they were born on the same day and adopted out of the same agency. They are identical twins. Their story makes headlines, and soon enough they are contacted by a David Kellman. Kellman also shares the same birthday, born at the same time and adopted out of the same agency as the other boys. It's evident, the boys are identical triplets.

For a long stretch of the movie, the focus is on this massive discovery for these three young men, and it changes their lives forever. They go on several talk shows together. Their story hits several newspapers. They cameo in a Madonna music video. Not only does their bizarre story attract attention, but the boys themselves grow close. They party together, they chase women together, they begin to share an apartment. You can't help but to laugh and relish in the crazy coincidence that landed on these boys and in the early moments, the movie really racks up the charm and the goofiness of the situation.

Its when the boys decide to find their birth mother where the story takes a hard left turn. Suddenly, the movie becomes not very funny at all.

I don't know how many times I have mentioned this on my blog, but I was adopted. It is kind of obvious if you've ever seen my family pictures. My older brother is adopted too and its clear. He's well over six foot with thin hair and I'm roughly 5'9 with thick hair. My brother and I both got the best case scenario with our adoption. We have parents that have shown us everyday how loved and valued we are as people. Our adoptions were closed adoptions and we don't know a whole lot about our families at all. Our parents have always been open about our adoptions and they've been willing to disclose any information they could if we asked for it. In "Three Identical Strangers," imagining my family purposely not getting key information about my adoption or my brother's adoption sent a chill down my spine. And knowing the reason why such information was classified hit me hard with a terror more sinister than any horror movie in recent memory.

I'm going to be coy here, explaining what happened once the boys and their families started digging into the agency that got them adopted. Because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Tim Wardle has carefully constructed a fairly massive story and has done so with real tension and heartbreak. He does a really good job with the story's tonal shifts. Like I said above, there is a silly energy to the first half of the film, then things downshift ever so slightly once the boys get comfortable together and remember that they have separate lives from one another. How difficult it can be to share your life with other family is investigated. Then, once the film really descends into the adoption agency and their birth mother, complete horror. You won't be able to fathom just how dark our world really is and just how shitty some people are.

 I think because I am adopted myself, this movie pushed a button in me that effected my emotional center. But I don't want that to sound like this movie is only for one audience. I think anybody anywhere can get something out of this. It's a harrowing discussion on the nature vs. nurture debate and it will have many discussing just how far we should go in any direction in the name of science. I also think audiences are not going to be able to believe this incredible true story, especially as it gets crazier and darker as the movie wears on. "Three Identical Strangers" is a hard-hitting and draining experience, and also one of the year's best films.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Trailer for Dark Phoenix

As the Fox Marvel characters edge closer to under the Disney banner, it was announced earlier this month that Kevin Feige will soon be taking over the X-Men franchise. The merger between Fox and Disney finally brings every single Marvel character under the same banner, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will feel complete. I thought it would feel bittersweet. Honestly, I've liked the "X-Men" franchise, by and large. I know some people may not agree with that, and that's okay. But I've genuinely loved what Fox did with "X-Men."

I feel like that love may be wavering a bit these days though. The more I think about "X-Men: Apocalypse," the more it frustrates me. Now, this trailer for "Dark Phoenix," (seemingly, no longer X-Men: Dark Phoenix) has me underwhelmed. I am not digging at all that it looks like Jean Grey has no Phoenix Force, which is the whole point of the fucking story. I also can't wrap my head around that this feels exactly like what was already covered in "X3." Remember, "X3" was mostly unpopular in the movie world, so why you'd want to re-do it without some major changes seems silly.

I really like the young cast that has been assembled for this new chapter in the franchise. It seems with the Disney merger, this new chapter will be cut short. Heck, the entire book will be cut short. I just wish it ends on a high note. I am not sure it will end on a high not though, everything is point to somewhere else.

Review: The Netflix arm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe evolves with the second season of "Iron Fist"



If you have time to do some research, you'll find that the only Netflix Marvel show I didn't review on my website was the first season of "Iron Fist." The reason being I never finished it.

I know I had some harsh words for both "The Defenders" mini-series and the first season of "The Punisher," but I guess it should say something that I finished both of those shows. To this day, I have never watched "Iron Fist" all the way through. Why didn't I finish it? Well, for starters, it feels like a shameless rip-off of "Arrow" for anybody who doesn't know comic books. The show didn't even try to differentiate itself in a creative way. For some reason Finn Jones, who was so good on "Game of Thrones," was sleepwalking through the entire series. Tom Pelphrey was migraine-inducing to watch, and I was convinced he was the worst actor I had ever seen up to that point. "Iron Fist" also featured the worst example of what has plagued all the Marvel shows, they take a two hour story and stretch it across thirteen hours. I couldn't finish the first season because it was so bleeding boring to watch. The show couldn't even produce cool fight scenes, which is a shame for a show whose upbringing is within martial arts.

I guess its just because I am die-hard Marvel fan that I decided to dive into the second season of "Iron Fist." Despite not finishing season one and not digging "The Defenders." I guess also that 2018 seems to be a year of Netflix Marvel change. "Luke Cage" season two was really good, "Jessica Jones" season two was pretty good. So I guess that means that "Iron Fist" would be the next to improve, right? The thing is, it feels like somebody is starting to listen to some of the major flaws fans and TV critics are pointing out, because it seems like they are proactive about making better television shows. The second season of "Iron Fist" is only ten episodes, three hours shorter than the first season. They make the most of those ten hours we do get putting together a story that both further develops the characters and story we learned in the first season, but also expands the universe of Iron Fist and presents him with a new challenge. Never does the show feel like its dragging or pandering for no reason, the show keeps moving, which has always been the biggest weakness to these shows.

In the post-Defenders world of Iron Fist, Danny Rand is laying low from recent events. He's dating Colleen Wing and they are living together. Joy Meachum is trying to move away from Rand Industries and start her own company, to the dismay of her brother Ward. Davos returns from season one, and we see more of the past him and Danny shared while at K'un L'un, and Davos has a plan for New York City, that involves Danny in a sinister fashion. Plus, Alice Eve joins the main cast as Mary Walker, a mysterious girl from the midwest who has an agenda of her own. Alice Eve is fine addition as Mary, and creates a nice foil for Iron Fist. Tom Pelphrey as Ward is much better this season, and he's got a redemption arc that I found endearing. There is a moment in the middle of the season where Ward has a heart-to-heart with Danny that really brought the characters to a head. I liked Jessica Soup in "The Following," but when she turns evil in this season, I just don't buy it. I don't think she has the range to be a snooty businesswoman, but hey she sure tries. Sacha Dhawan steps up as Davos, and he does really well here. I think fans of the first season will be surprised by how this one concludes.

I wish we actually got Danny Rand in his iconic costume. Other than Daredevil, I don't get why these Netflix shows are so afraid of costumes. I bring that up only because I think what makes this season better is that Netflix is getting better embracing the comic book side of things. I thought in earlier seasons of all of their shows, they tried to keep things a little too real. Nevermind that they chose to make shows revolving around a man with enhanced senses, a bullet-proof man, a woman with super strength, and a man who can create an indestructible fist that shines when he focuses hard enough. There is no reason to try to play things too realistic and too grounded. In fact, these shows have been hurt because of that. There is a lot of crazy stuff that happens in this season and I like that they've found the perfect balance between comic book fun and real life situations. It's something I wished we got more of in "The Defenders" and now Netflix may be making up for it.

People wondering how this all connects to the bigger picture of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be disappointed. I've already read online quite a bit that many fans have deduced that the movie side of the franchise is no longer connected to the TV side of the franchise, if they ever were connected in the first place. As the years wear on, it seems the shows are less and less connected to the continuity of the movies. Kevin Feige keeps teasing that paths will cross eventually, but he's been saying that for years. How long is eventually? Jeph Loeb, producer of the Netflix shows, has confirmed that the Netflix stories take place a few years before the current timeline of the movies. So people expecting to see New Yorkers disappearing into dust at the end of this season will be disappointed. It also gives clarity to the timeline of the shows. This is a bigger question to ponder, and I am planning to write a bigger piece about this very subject soon. I will say that Sokovia is dropped a few times in this season. Since Sokovia wasn't a place in the Marvel world until it was introduced in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," then these shows have to be in the greater MCU, right?

The bottom line is that the Marvel Netflix shows are slowly learning from their mistakes. And now any season that doesn't have a single episode that feels like its lagging the season is a good one in my book. I can only hope that this means "Daredevil" later in October is going to blow our minds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Full "Creed 2" trailer

"Creed" in 2015 was the surprise of the year for me. "Creed 2" just feels like icing on the cake.

Looking at the new trailer, this feels like more than just a publicity stunt. It feels more than just making some more bucks off a franchise that has a new face. It looks like they are really fighting hard to continue a story that is appealing to the masses. Yes, this movie is very much about the sins of the father picking up with the sons. I know its a story we've heard a thousand times before. But it looks like this crew is creating something that will be rousing and entertaining in equal measure.

Plus, DMX in any trailer already makes it awesome.

Review: "The Predator" is Shane Black, B-Movie Mayhem!

The Predator Review

Shane Black has been a cinephile favorite for many years now. Even though "Lethal Weapon" made tons of money, and "The Last Boy Scout" didn't, BOTH scripts were just watered down versions of what Black initially wrote. He eventually broke out with movie fans with "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang." If you haven't seen that yet, definitely check it out. It's got a great Robert Downey Jr. performance and its the last great thing Val Kilmer did. While I personally still have problems with "Iron Man 3," Black's handling of The Mandarin is such a "Shane Blackish" detail that it kind of makes me cackle when I watch that movie.

"Iron Man 3," for better or for worse, was a Marvel movie unlike any other. It should go without saying that Shane Black has created a "Predator" movie unlike any other. Just when you think you've seen it all in the world of Predators, Black finds a way to revision things. There is a scene in "The Predator" where one of the aliens wakes up on an operating table and kills his way out of the room. It's so joyously violent and so strangely surreal that I want to see the movie one more time just for that moment. There is also a moment where a child ends up with Predator armor and wears it as a Halloween costume to make sure some bullies keep away from him.

Shane Black has always written an original script, and the words written are not the same type of words people speak in conventional movies. Black sometimes writes like Aaron Sorkin or Quentin Tarantino, and it certainly helps make this movie feel different from the other Predator movies. The film has an all-star cast, which includes Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen, Yvonne Strahovski, and Jake Busey. A wonderful line-up of stars and recognizable, talented people.  Black certainly picked some magnificent actors to come and play and they certainly are playing with a fun script.

Most Predator movies, no matter who made them, have been simple cat-and-mouse games. They've mostly been excuses for slasher movies, one Predator against a group of humans. I liked how Shane Black approached this film in a new manner. There are Predators coming to Earth, but necessarily to hunt us. There is something much different at play here, and our government is secretly trying to keep up. Its all very hush-hush, and there are some sinister reasons on our end. (Of course there is, when is our government NOT selfish in movies like this?) Sterling K. Brown plays the leader of this otherwise government op. I love that the usual sentimental and lovable Sterling K. Brown is an absolute asshole here, and he does it well. In fact, the entire cast does outstanding work as whole.

There are some wickedly funny moments. Moments of absolute carnage. Its easy to see that Shane Black has grown up loving this franchise. He falls into a couple of franchise traps. But overall, this is a fun little movie full to the brim with mayhem. There are some good ideas that make this one a little more than just a genre exercise and there is crazy set-up for movies, and if they fall under Black's banner, they will absolutely be worth seeing.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Bumblebee trailer

Well, just when you thought we were done with "Transformers" movies.

We are getting a prequel! Just what the franchise needs, a prequel!

The prequel will revolve around Bumblebee, the fan favorite of the franchise and when he presumably met his first human. So essentially we can expect an "Iron Giant" with Haliee Steinfeld! How exciting. Look, I've never liked prequels. They mostly suck any tension out of any premise. Because we know how things are going to end up. They are using lots of the same jokes, and replaying some of the same conflicts from the other films. This will just feel like more of the same. Plus, if John Cena is supposed to be the evil human of this movie, well that's just too funny.

Review: "The Nun" is a forgettable spin-off within the Conjuring Universe

The Nun Review

So far, I've enjoyed "The Conjuring" movies. They feel like old-school haunted house movies, and I personally will take a horror movie full of genuine terror and atmosphere before I take a horror movie with unlikable teenagers dying in strange ways. "The Conjuring" movies are full of mood, and they get us with some good "boo scares" too, which is also increasingly difficult to pull off. There is some striking imagery in both movies and their stories let the audience care about the characters, which only increases the tension. I wish I could say the same about the spin-offs they are putting together for their shared universe. But I can't. The "Annabelle" movies are hit or miss, and I can't say that I've loved that mini-franchise. I can say with ease that "The Nun" is off to a not-so-good start.

I can forgive some things about "The Nun." I like that they are trying for the same spooky atmosphere that has defined "The Conjuring." You can tell that they are really trying to make these movies count, and I can appreciate that. The film opens with two nuns investigating an old Catholic relic (of course its Catholic, Catholics are always fighting the forces of evil in these movies.) They are attacked by an unseen force. I will admit that this introduction is well staged, and great hook and set-up for the film. There is some shocking unease that builds throughout the entire scene and I will admit that I got uncomfortable watching it.

Sadly, the movie loses all of its momentum after that wicked opening. We meet Sister Irene (played by Taissa Farmiga, whose older sister Vera plays Lorraine Warren in the Conjuring movies) and she is asked to assist Father Burke (Demian Bichir) in his investigation in the incident with the two nuns that begins the film. As you may be able to figure out, things get dark and strange in their investigation and they eventually encounter Valak from "The Conjuring 2." Bichir and Taissa Farmiga are both incredible actors, and I've enjoyed much of their work. They are working overtime to make this movie count.

The movie gets its mood down, and its got good actors leading the way. With all due respect, Bonnie Aarons is one of the most terrifying looking people working in Hollywood right now. All of this effort is restricted to a film that features cheesy special effects scene. There is not another good scare the whole movie, nothing that touches the frightening beginning. What surprised me the most is just dull the rest of the movie is. The pacing is off, and even though James Wan didn't direct this one, I know he is a writer and producer on this. He's been so good with pacing with the Conjuring movies that I thought it would be more of the same with this spin-off. But the movement of the story is off, I felt myself getting sleepy watching it. Not the feeling I want watching a horror movie.

The Conjuring Universe has lots going for it, and I wish if they just kept all of their energy on the Conjuring specific movies, they would see their profits soar. But they are branching out. While that is a great possible business decision, its usually not great creatively. "The Nun" feels like easy money, and if that wasn't the case then its hard to see how its not.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I can't believe a day went by and I didn't discuss the "Captain Marvel" trailer

So there's a new Marvel Cinematic Universe movie coming out next year. It looks pretty rad. The trailer for the film hit the internet yesterday. I didn't even discuss it! How could I?

"Captain Marvel" is going to be a big building block for the future of this franchise. For one, this is Marvel's first female led film. Its also going to be a huge puzzle piece to where this story will be going after all the Thanos funny business is taken care of. Oh yes, the MCU is stopping after Infinity War. There are plans for the foreseeable future. From the sound of it, there is going to be big emphasis on space and the cosmos, which should be exciting.

"Captain Marvel" will take place in the 1990's. If you couldn't tell from the trailer, Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, but with hair, two eyes and a younger looking self. As does Clark Gregg returning as Phil Coulson. We also know that Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou will return as Ronan and Korath from "Guardians of the Galaxy." But as our hero crashes into a 1990's styled Blockbuster Video, its pretty clear how serious they are taking this. Brie Larson will star as Carol Danvers who becomes Captain Marvel, and I think she looks great!

Its a short trailer, and I have no idea of what the story will really be. But that's a good thing. I am getting tired of all trailers giving the whole movie away anyway!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Behind The Scenes Pic of the day whistles and clicks its teeth at you!

I find that there have been a handful of underrated children's movies from the last decade. Of course there have, there are underrated films in each genre at any given time. But sometimes, I am so flabbergasted how much a movie doesn't hit the mark that I feel a director made a movie just for me. When you think of Wes Anderson and stop motion animation, it almost feels like the two should have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of Anderson's career. He's already got two stop motion animation films under his belt. One was "Isle of Dogs," which if you didn't catch in theaters, you should really catch sometime soon now that the film is on DVD. The other is "The Fantastic Mr. Fox"

"The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is probably one of my all-time favorite Wes Anderson movies. For a guy who has an entire resume full of rich experiences, I hope that means something. I think each of his motion creations are perfectly matched with inspiring voices. I love the look and feel of the film. It's funny, its energetic and it is accessible to all ages. One of those amazing voices in the movie is Bill Murray, an Anderson regular for all intents and purposes. Murray gives voice to a badger who gets into some arguments with Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney).

I guess they also got some time on set too!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Joaquin Phoenix first Joker Pic

Over the weekend, Warner Brothers dropped a picture of Joaquin Phoenix in the upcoming "Joker" movie they are planning. The movie that is going to be independent of the other DCEU works (even though Jared Leto is still signed on with the DCEU and has upcoming appearances coming too). The thing that is weird is that its just a picture of Phoenix. He's not in any make-up. Obviously, its a picture of Pre-Joker Joker. But that's just a picture of Joaquin Phoenix.

So...what's the point?

If there is any movie that has a big question mark over it for me, its this Joker origin movie. I honestly don't see the point of doing it if it doesn't connect to the grander story DC and WB is telling. I also just don't see how people are supposed to get excited for the most popular supervillain of all time by simply releasing a picture of Joaquin Phoenix with no make up. I know they've got the legendary Martin Scorsese producing this. I know Todd "The Hangover" Phillips is directing. I know Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz (Domino from Deadpool 2) and Brett Cullen are co-starring (Alec Baldwin dropped out as Thomas Wayne and was replaced by Cullen, who played a senator in The Dark Knight Rises.) So yes, there are some popular and great people in the mix for this. I just don't get why its being made, other than the fact to just cash grab off of Joker's name.

There has been some controversy over at Sony, because they are making independent movies based on Spider-Man villains. "Venom" could end up being popular because he eventually became an anti-hero with his own line of comics. But I don't see the appeal of making stand-alone movies based on C-list Spider-Man villains if Spider-Man himself won't make an appearance. These movies won't be connected to Holland's Spider-Man nor the greater MCU. So what's the appeal? I wonder if there will be greater appeal with this stand-alone Joker movie, since the character is much more popular. But do we need a Joker movie without Batman? Do we need a Joker origin, period? The best part about the character has always been his mysterious background. A villain who simply came out of nowhere and began acting out for no apparent reason. Even Joker's greatest comic book "origin" story, the story Heath Ledger read to prepare for "The Dark Knight," ended up not being a concrete origin by the end. Joker's mystique has always been apart of his character, so why explain him?

I guess at this point I really need a trailer. I'm a huge Batman fan. The Joker can be an engaging, magnetic, haunting character when done right onscreen. But they are advertising this as a movie where Joker rises to crime. So it'll be "Goodfellas" with clown make-up? I'm not sure how appealing that is to me, no matter how much I like the source material.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Review: "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is a touching, sentimental look at the life of Fred Rogers

Won't You Be My Neighbor Review

As a kid growing up in the Midwest, one of my favorite things to watch was "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood." Why wouldn't I? There wasn't anything else like it on TV, except I guess maybe "Sesame Street," which I also watched religiously. But even though I could best compare the two shows, they couldn't have been more different from each other. Now, as a young kid, I didn't really pick up on what Fred Rogers was trying to do. In fact, I hadn't even thought about it until I really went deep into the new documentary about the life and times of Fred Rogers. The reason why Fred Rogers was so beloved was because of he was a damn revolutionary. Television sets in his day were referred to as idiot boxes, but at a young age, Rogers saw something else. He didn't just see faces and hear voices coming out of a box. He saw a tool that could connect us all. He saw a gateway into the minds of people everywhere, and he found a way to teach people and have not just children, but families and communities learning from each other. The best movies, and now in this golden age, the best TV, connects us with the rest of the world. It's safe to say that Fred Rogers was a early pioneer of this ideal.

"Won't You Be My Neighbor" is built like your typical documentary about a person. We get a glimpse of the early life of Fred Rogers. We get a glimpse of how he became interested in puppets. We get a glimpse of his rise in television, and the various struggles that brought to him. While the structure is like most documentaries about people, director Morgan Neville doesn't take the easy road. This is not the typical film about a person. I find rather exhilarating that Neville was able to find a way to make a documentary that does everything we've come to expect from them, but also not at the same time. Its interesting to see what Neville truly focuses on when unraveling who Fred Rogers really was, and sets a context to who Rogers became to be.

Who was Fred Rogers? A man who had originally set out seminary to become a Presbyterian minister. Yet, he was constantly gravitating towards the television set, and what it could offer. Funny, since by and large he seemed to hate TV. He hated because of what it offered children to watch. A constant theme throughout the entire movie. Everything delivered to children was so simple and so slapstick, and it never was willing to challenge children in any form. Rogers grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, when the world of child development really began to change. The way in which Rogers tied child development with his unconditional faith made him the most unexpected social warrior of our time, but then again, that's why we love him. 

I mean, the things Rogers brings up are true. It seems when making entertainment for children, even today, those in charge are working for the lowest common denominator. Everything has to be so silly, and so simple and we are afraid to treat children like human beings. I never really picked up on this watching the original show, but as I watched footage of previous episodes, its crazy how much Rogers treated children like people. You'd never see puppets on a children's show today discussing such things as war or assassination or discrimination, and Rogers dared to break those barriers, determined to further educate the children. He used it as a tool to spread love and tolerance in his messages. He always took his time too, another critical error he saw in young entertainment was over-stimulation. Rogers took his time with everything, from counting a minute to discussing the life cycle of a fish. He understood the importance of just taking a breath.

Also the greatest lesson he taught was liking yourself just the way you are. Never apologizing for it. A big theme that occurs in the film is the constant desire to reveal Fred Rogers' sexual orientation. Was he gay or was he not gay? He was this older man who was a puppeteer and worked with children. So, he's got to be gay, right? One of the several ridiculous, superficial needs to put people in boxes. I cant attest to it too. I spent five years working at a daycare center, and when I'd meet fathers of children, or when I told certain people what I did for a living, the attitude was always the same. Every guy thought they had me figured out. I had to have either been gay or been a child predator or I was just trying to score with my female co-workers. None of this was true of course, I became so comfortable with my teaching craft that I didn't care what anybody thought of what I was doing. That was the greatest thing Rogers could teach. It doesn't matter what bullies think of you, I like you just the way you are. Don't change for people, be the change in your own life.

There is a blissfully touching moment at the end of the film. When the documentarian does an exercise that Rogers used to do with his peers and pupils. He'd ask you take a moment and think of someone who helped you in a special and important moment in your life. The documentarian asks this of all the individuals he interviewed for his movie. Watching everyone take the moment, to really think about what was being ask. It became more of a self-healing meditation than just a cerebral exercise and the release etched on everyone's face was palpable. It broke me down to tears. I thought of important people in my life, and just for a moment, one simple moment, it was enough to of an emotional response that I truly wrestled with it. A quick moment of true concentration and thankfulness can deliver an overwhelming emotional response. As times got darker in the life of Fred Rogers, he forgot to just continue to be genuine. Which is the point of it all.


Review: "BlackKklansman" is the film to beat this year.

BlackKklansman Review

I've never been a very political person, and I've tried to keep political talk minimal at worst, and totally non-existent at best. But man, in this day and age, that seems like an impossible task. Everything is political these days. Things that have no business being political are precisely political these days. Sometimes it seems like our country is ready to implode, and good lord does that scare me. It doesn't help my fear center knowing that my wife and I just brought a lovely child into this world, and I am already having some fits of anxiety wondering just how much this world is going to change as she gets older. I mean, damn, she already was born during a time when a reality star became president.

Now look. Yes, I was disappointed by the election results back in 2016. I didn't vote for Trump, but lets admit that Decision 2016 was just a shitshow all around. Even though I don't agree with much of what he does, I do find it a little fascinating that somebody with no government or military experience just kind of waltzed into the presidency. I don't think Trump is the Anti-Christ, I think he's a baffoon that got into his dream job somehow and now doesn't know what to do. At the same time, I am not sure I want him impeached, because Pence actually scares me more than Trump does.

One thing is for certain though, some of our very best talents have woken up during this period, and they are delivering some of their very best work. Some say that "BlackKklansman" is a wake up call for Spike Lee. To me, that's a really unfair. Lee has been on par with his best early work in 2015 with the remarkable "Chi-raq." A movie I missed in 2015, but which blew me away completely once I finally caught up with it. "The 25th Hour" was 2002. Bamboozled was 2000. Sure, he's made some crap in between there, the hits he makes are so precise that I can forgive him for a bad movie every once in awhile. Same with every director in the business. I hope this is all saying something too, because sometimes I am not so sure Spike Lee likes the whole white race.

"BlackKklansman" is a film that is based on a true story. It's so freaking strange that you aren't going to believe its real, but apparently is real. Ron Stallworth was the first African American police officer in Colorado Springs. He was hired in the early 1970's. He jumps around from department to department, hearing racial slurs while he does, goes undercover to a Black Panther Party only to end up in the intelligence division. To kill time one day, he calls the local Ku Klux Klan chapter, pretending to be a white person. What starts as a seeming prank, ends with Stallworth recruiting Jewish Officer Zimmerman to pretend to be him in the flesh. Stallworth and Zimmerman begin to infiltrate the KKK, and eventually learn of a possible attack.

Again, it doesn't sound real, but somehow it is. The movie that ensues is something that a wicked sense of humor, but also takes a real stand. Spike Lee has always been righteously angry, in cases both deserved and undeserved. Here, this is righteousness I can get behind. It helps when Lee adds some of the best humor in any of his films since "Do The Right Thing." It helps that he has put together one of the best acting ensembles he has ever had. John David Washington may not be a name that jumps out at you yet. In fact, if you've never seen HBO's "Ballers," you've probably never seen the guy. That will change as of 2018. He is getting on next years' Oscar ballot. I can't fathom how he won't. Washington plays Stallworth with an absolute perfection of the craft. I don't know if I have anything else to say about Adam Driver, the guy is just amazing, and he plays Zimmerman here. You may remember Laura Herrier from "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and she's great here as Stallworth's girlfriend. Topher Grace plays David Duke, the David Duke. Grace is really good at playing these low-key assholes, and he does a miraculous job here. Also look for Alec Baldwin in the early moments of the movie, giving us one of the film's biggest laughs.

There is a big difference between making something look like a particular time and making your film look like a community theater presentation. The small details DO matter in a movie, at least to me anyway. Spike Lee went all out with a crew of amazing individuals, and the costumes, the places and the general attitude of the film feels like the 1970's. There is a genuine realism to each and every scene that only added to the film's craft. I love it when history movies feel like time machines and not actual movies. While there is a comedic style to the film, its also amazing just how lived in this world feels.

The film ends with various footage of the Charlottesville protests, and while that may seem like a random thing to put into the final reel, it actually makes striking sense. I don't think it was an accident that this film's release date was the one-year anniversary of the protests. I think Lee is saying, loud and clear, that no matter how many steps forward we make, we then take just as many steps backward. No matter how well renowned we are as a nation, its still taken us hundreds of years to solve the race issue in this country. Worst yet? We still haven't answered it. While "BlackKklansman" is a funny movie, and certainly brings the entertainment factor. It also cut deep in a very meaningful way.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Summer 2018: The Retrospect

There has been something special about summer movies ever since the 1970s. The summer movie season has become an event. How hard can the studios entertain the audiences? It seems that has been the ultimate dare from studio to studio. Why not? The schools are out, people are planning vacations, the mindset is ultimately relaxation, or at least, as relaxed as you can get being a working American these days. I've always loved the summer movie season and I am always curious to see what the studios cook up while I enjoy much needed free air conditioning.

This summer though, everything changed for me. My wife and I brought home our first baby girl. This summer has been the best summer of my life because of it, and I hardly got a chance to step into a movie theater. There were some things I missed this summer. I missed "Mile 22" and "Slender Man" and "Mamma Mia 2" and "Adrift" and "Alpha." There were some big independent market movies like "Sorry To Bother You" and "Blackkklansman" that I've missed too. But that's okay, there will be plenty of time to catch up on all of those. Based upon what I did end up seeing though, I can say that summer 2018 was overall good.

There were a couple surprises like "Ocean's 8," simply because I didn't expect to like that movie. There was once again, a great superhero output. I hope you are all caught up on your Marvel movies, because 2019 is going to be a big year. No matter which comic company you prefer. The independent films I did see, "Book Club" and "Tully," were both good movies, but nothing I'd call great. But that didn't matter. We had "Mission: Impossible" and "Incredibles II" and sequels we didn't ask for, but ended up being fun in the first place.

The biggest error for me was "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." It was just a mere retread disguised as a new sequel. Nothing new or invigorating. Just the same old stuff we've come to know from the franchise. But in a summer movie season, one reason to be disappointed is a good thing. There were plenty of other surprises, but those surprises were good. That is the most I can ask for in a summer movie season.

While I didn't review it on my site, the last real summer movie I saw was "Crazy Rich Asians." Which was wildly entertaining. Is it predictable? Absolutely. But I think its predictable by design. There was no other way. The movie bends over backwards to entertain though. There are many funny moments and the cast is spot on every turn. I think Constance Wu is poised to become a big star and she certainly deserves it.

For all that I missed, I hope you all enjoyed it, I will do my best to catch up with everything. After its all said and done, I think summer 2018 ended up being a good one. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good summer movie season in my book. As the weather begins to chill and the leaves begin to change, I will forever cherish the moments made here, as I always have.

Review: Netflix's "NextGen" is visually arresting, but doesn't really feel like a family movie

NextGen Review
It seems like more and more companies are trying to get into the children's family business. I can hardly blame them. Lots of these movies, except unless they come from the Disney vault, aren't based upon other sources. If they catch on, that's usually not just one or two, but sometimes three or four tickets that get bought in one sitting. If they really catch on, families will back again and again. Then, boom, you've got yourself a film franchise. It seems Paramount and Sony and Dreamworks are all working hard to compete with the Disney-Pixar machine, and why not? Competition is a good thing, no matter if Disney is eyeing to buy the whole damn world, competition is a good thing. It seems Netflix getting into the children's film business was only a matter of time. Why does a family have to spend tons of money on growing movie ticket prices and overpriced snacks when you can cuddle up on your own couch and make your own snacks for free?

"NextGen" is a bold statement for the animated family film by Netflix. I am not sure it works as a satisfying whole. But there are a couple of things that the movie does so right that I have to give it a recommendation. It's not flat out awful like so many Netflix original films are. There are some familiar voices in this movie, including John Krasinski, Jason Sudeikis, Constance Wu, David Cross and Michael Pena, just to name a few. For some reason, it never feels forced, the voices don't stick out like a sore thumb like the big celebrity voices can sometimes do. The computer animation is absolutely breathtaking. It's so richly detailed that while you are sitting at home, depending on how awesome your home television is, its a dreamlike vision. There is some action in the movie, and I was impressed that the action felt more cinematic in a grounded way instead of action feeling very childish. I'm not trying to sound negative, I just think that there is a certain style of acti81,on you find in animated kids movies, but "NextGen" makes something that feels more for the movies.

The story is going to sound wildly familiar. Millennials and young parents may find themselves dosing off depending on what they think of the storyline, because like I said, you've seen this movie before. It is essentially a "kid falls in love with their giant robot" movie. If you've seen "The Iron Giant." If you've seen "Transformers." If you've seen "Big Hero Six." There have been versions of this story that haven't involved robots, but aliens or monsters or whatever. It's an old, almost cliche story device at this point. Charlyne Yi voices Mai, a girl whose father walked out on her when she was very young. She's grown up with her mother (Wu) but still feels distant from her when lots of technology starts taking over. Every home has a personal robot thanks to IQ Robotics. Sudeikis gives voice to the charismatic Justin Pin, who is introducing a new line of personal robots. Pin has a little sidekick, who is working on some side projects and one of them gets away and finds its way to Mai.

The first half of the movie is the best part. The film does a really good job of setting up Mai and the renegade robot 72281, voiced by Krasinski. The film eventually boils down to a broken robot and a broken girl having an inseparable bond, and that is a very sweet message. Like I said familiar, the characters both save each other, but there is some semi-mature content in this film, and it will take some serious discussions between parent and child afterward, which can be rewarding.

But there lies the problem as well. This movie can't decide if it wants to be a children's movie or a movie about childhood. Yes, there is a huge difference. "Where The Wild Things Are" is a movie about childhood, it has nothing in common with your typical Pixar movie. There are some big themes this movie is playing with, and I love the ambition. But the tonal shifts almost become too hard to bare. Is the film intended to be something kid-friendly, or something to be taken a little more seriously, the movie can't decide, so how can we? It can't even decide on its humor. There is a pet dog in the movie, and in the middle of the movie, it randomly begins talking. The movie bleeps out two words that were meant to be F-bombs, and it becomes awkward to listen to. Plus, the dog only talking through mere parts of the movie makes no sense with the rest of the movie.

No matter how you look at it, even though inconsistent, "NextGen" still manages to pull off an ultimately enjoyable experience. Thanks in large part to its beautiful animation and its cinematic action sequences. There are couple moments that I want to just watch again, and that's the beauty of having these movies on hand due to the streaming services. Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu and everything coming in the future are only going to get more competitive, and if they keep reaching like they did here, the audience will be the winners every time.


Friday, September 7, 2018

RIP Burt Reynolds

RIP Burt Reynolds

Yesterday, legendary actor Burt Reynolds passed away at age 82. He was always an actor I admired, and I do remember hearing his name much over the course of my life. I am about to show my age here, so please bare with me. As I looked throughout Burt Reynolds' filmography, there was very little of of his work that I actually saw. Most of the things he's well known for, I can't even attest to. I almost feel like a bad movie fan to admit that. But I think I've seen enough to discuss just what an impact he left on the world of filmmaking. He's also one of those guys who appeared all throughout pop culture. Not just movies, but television and even lending his voice in video games. He kind of did it all, which is why he resonated so much with me even though I didn't see a ton of his movies.

One movie of his in particular is a grand favorite of mine. I am talking one of my ten favorite films of all time. I bought "Smokey and the Bandit" on a whim back in 2012. A Blu-Ray disc to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Universal Pictures. I never buy movies on whim, my collection is jam-packed with favorites, I like to get movies that I know I love, and will watch again and again. No time to put stuff in my collection I am not going to watch ever in the foreseeable future. There was something about that cover that appealed to me. I brought it home, I put the disc in my player. I began to watch. The premise is set up fairly quickly and when the iconic theme song plays, and Bandit drives away, following a semi-truck full of Coors Light, I knew the movie had me. I don't know how many of you have watched a movie and before it really got going, you knew in the back of your head that you were going to love it. That's the feeling I got from "Smokey and The Bandit." My love for the movie has grown and grown the more times I watch it. I actually watched it tonight to celebrate the career of Reynolds.

I've seen "Deliverance" and I did enjoy that one, its one of the better horror movies ever made. I could discuss "Deliverance." I could discuss "The Cannonball Run." I could discuss how the newer "Longest Yard," inspired me track down the old "Longest Yard." I could talk about the Smokey sequels. But there is another big Reynolds movie, big to me at least, that I bet most people aren't talking about. In the 1997 film "Boogie Nights," Burt Reynolds plays a porn director. He was so smug and silly and business-like all at the same time. Its truly was a mesmerizing experience just watching him in that movie. In a movie already full of great actors, he really stood out. 

When I say he lent his voice in video games, one in particular was "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City." I am not a HUGE gamer, and it usually takes something very special to get me to constantly play. I haven't been obsessed with too many video games. But one series I have been obsessed with is the GTA  series. Simply put, I love how cinematic their storytelling is, and its just fun to let loose in any way fashionable. I liked Reynolds' Avery Carrington. He didn't give your character lots of missions, but he made his presents known, even though he was only doing voice work.

I feel the need to discover every corner of Reynolds' career now. It seems so rich that I need to get going right now. I've loved him in everything I have seen him in though, and Hollywood doesn't quite seem the same without him now. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

First Look at Marvel's "Captain Marvel"

Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly gave us our first look at "Captain Marvel." The upcoming superhero movie to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this March. The day before yesterday, star Brie Larson had some fun on Twitter with Entertainment Weekly. They were getting everybody ready and hyped up for the big announcement yesterday. We got some stills from the movie as well as some information from the movie.

It looks like "Captain Marvel" WILL NOT be an origin story. Which is an interesting take. I guess we've reached the point that we can make these movies where every superhero doesn't need an origin story. I am sure everything important that needs to be explained will be explained. But its certainly a bold choice to make her debut without the usual origin story. We got our first look at the Skrulls, the shapeshifting aliens who will be the villains in the movie. We also got a look Samuel L. Jackson as younger Nick Fury. He has digitally de-aged 25 years, as will Clark Gregg, the first time this has happened in a movie.

We also get our first look at Jude Law as Mar-Vell. As well as some familiar faces if you know your Marvel movies. I think Larson looks awesome! I am very curious to see a trailer now! Which If I could guess, will probably be heading our way soon!