The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part Review

The Surprise May be Gone, but Thankfully this 5-Year-Later Sequel Maintains Most of the Wit, Charm, Humor, and Heart of the Original.

Cold Pursuit Review

Liam Nesson Returns with yet Another of his Early-in-the-Year Actioners that is More Dark Comedy than Revenge Thriller though there is Plenty of Action.

The Upside Review

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart Star in this Re-Make the 2011 French Film, The Intouchables, that is Charming Enough to Sustain its Existence.

GLASS Review

M. Night Shyamalan Completes His Unexpected Trilogy with a Muddled Mess of Themes and Ideas that Fail to Resonate and Ultimately Disappoint.

Aquaman Review

James Wan Takes Over the DCEU and Delivers a Solo Aquaman Film that is So Bonkers it's Impossible not to be Entertained, but it Never Delves Beyond the Surface.

2019 Oscar Predictions

This has been something of a whirlwind awards season given not only the tumultuous time the Academy itself has had trying to adapt to the ever-evolving cinematic and social landscape, but also in regards to the fact most of the second-tier awards shows leading up to the big night have put what is, at least for me, the most exciting film of the season on the back-burner. Going into the fall film festival season and then further into the rush of prime awards contenders being released it seemed A Star is Born was destined to go all the way and while eight Oscar nominations including one for Best Picture on top of $423 million worldwide on a budget of $36 million ain't too shabby, it was thought A Star is Born would be the most heavily favored film of the night, but when Sunday night comes and goes it wouldn't be surprising if Bradley Cooper's directorial debut goes home with only Best Original Song. Why A Star is Born went from pre-determined favorite to nearly flaming out completely is anybody's guess and could be attributed to voters disregarding the third re-make of a film to the highlights of other favored winners throughout awards season. It's somewhat depressing considering A Star is Born was one of my favorite films of 2018, but it will undoubtedly serve the film well in the years to come as it will be remembered more as a deserving film that got little love rather than an admirable film that received more than it deserved. Of course, the big winner of the night is expected to be Alfonso Cuarón's Roma as it garnered ten nominations and it wouldn't surprise me if it ended up taking home Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Foreign Language Film (as predicted below) among others (Cinematography seems to be a lock as well), but given Paweł Pawlikowski's director nod for Cold War it's entirely possible Roma takes Best Picture and Cold War takes Foreign Language. Other than this though, there isn't much by way of drama or uncertainty as to who will be accepting statues Sunday night and thus the reason I've not only included who I think will win in the predictions below, but who I think should win. Hit the jump for my full list of predictions.

New Trailer for ROCKETMAN Starring Taron Egerton

After releasing a slight featurette focused on the fact star Taron Egerton (Kingsman) would be doing all of his own vocal work as Elton John in director Dexter Fletcher's upcoming biopic, Rocketman, earlier this week Paramount has now followed it up with the second, official trailer for the film and it must be said that this thing looks a thousand times better than it initially did after the reveal of that first teaser. That first teaser was released around the same time Bohemian Rhapsody was gracing theaters last year and after Rhapsody more or less followed the traditional beats of a music biopic and given Fletcher was brought in to finish the film after the firing of Bryan Singer it was easy to see why that first look left a feeling this might be more of the same despite John obviously being a singular and unforgettable figure both in both music and pop culture. What is great about this new, full-length trailer though, is that while it does somewhat stick to the familiar beats of the "rise to stardom" arc we've seen countless times before in movies of the same ilk it also really lends a sense of getting to know the man behind the facade, behind the excess, and behind the extravagance. There is a particular shot in the trailer where Egerton, dawning the famously sequined Dodgers uniform John wore during his 1975 show at Dodger stadium, goes from backstage to out in front of the overwhelming audience and the change in his facial expression so perfectly captures not only the essence of what the character might have been feeling at the moment, but also speaks to how much of and how good of a showman John was and still is to this day. There are also hints of the more whimsical, weird movie Rocketman is no doubt destined to be as Fletcher is said to have tried to display John's larger-than-life stage presence through what is more of a fantasy-like approach that channels the music and personality of John more appropriately rather than keeping things completely straightforward a la RhapsodyRocketman also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden, Jamie Bell, Gemma Jones, and opens on May 31st, 2019.

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL Review

Though a fan of science fiction I'm not familiar with Yukito Kishiro's 1990 manga comic Battle Angel Alita that inspired the latest Robert Rodriguez picture as produced by James Cameron. I'll clarify that I truly enjoy science fiction largely for the genre's ability, whether it be in the writing or when translated to the big screen-the concept artist, director, or costume and set designers-ability to create a new environment and/or new world's altogether. Further, to apply a structure to this environment where an advanced, and if not advanced at least futuristic society, exists where the world follows the rules of this implemented structure is inherently fascinating as it undoubtedly takes cues from our present world and applies what the creator might think will be to the human races benefit or ultimate detriment. Such prophecies within the genre over the years have created an amalgam of tropes, motifs and clichés, but while the dystopian future has been a familiar trend over the last few years especially it does well to establish a compelling backdrop or habitat, if you will, for the kind of people we come to know in Alita: Battle Angel. Cameron, Rodriguez, and Laeta Kalogridis's (Shutter Island) screenplay shows early on that it has the aforementioned innate ability and, more importantly, a strong desire to construct a world centuries ahead of our present time that is not only inventive, but feels fully realized and lived-in. What the screenplay doesn't do and arguably fails to do is follow through on the promises of this world in which it builds. Meaning, that while it's not automatically a negative to utilize familiar sci-fi and action tropes there does need to be a unique take on whatever traits your movie or story might be adopting from the genre and there are certainly flashes of as much in Alita, but most of it comes from the investment in our main character rather than any kind of investment in the beats she is following. You want to know more about the character, you want to live alongside them because this world that has been created feels so alive and so layered and so interesting, but it's almost as if you also wouldn't mind checking in on and seeing what other characters are up to because as much as we like Alita, there isn't really much depth or surprise to the video-game structured script that is pitting her against the ultimate final boss in the sky.

First Trailer for THE HUSTLE Starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson

The first trailer for the upcoming gender-swapped remake of the 1988 Frank Oz film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which itself was a remake of the 1964 film Bedtime Story), now titled The Hustle, has dropped via MGM and despite having sat on the shelf for a year or so now seems primed to be something of a runaway spring/summer hit. The trailer isn't exactly overly impressive as there's no real reason to be seen as to why Anne Hathaway is sporting something of a dreadful British accent, but there certainly seems to be some chemistry between her and co-star Rebel Wilson as the pair play a couple of con artists who team up to take on the men that have wronged them. While having never seen an episode personally, I've heard enough good things to imagine that the fact this new iteration comes from Veep director Chris Addison is nothing but a good sign for what the film has in store for audiences. In the film, Hathaway's character is the refined pro, while Wilson will naturally be playing the more scrappy, street con artist. While there are a few solid laughs in the trailer featuring both leads it is clear the film will lean on Wilson's weight as a point of comedy and while I find Wilson tremendously appealing she has certainly played that shtick out in the Pitch Perfect movies with hopes that Addison (along with help from Jac Schaeffer's re-worked screenplay) might not lean so much on this aspect, but instead find more creative comedy outlets. It's easy to see this one becoming something of a sleeper hit due to the pure and simple fun laced into the premise with the pairing of Hathaway and Wilson being something of an unexpected, but interesting one that might, at the very least, produce some sense of manufactured fun if not necessarily genuine laughs. There is enough here to be optimistic about the film's prospects though, and if the two leads do in fact have some dynamite chemistry it's not hard to imagine there being more adventures of the same ilk with these two. The Hustle also stars Alex Sharp, Tim Blake Nelson, Dean Norris, and opens on May 10th, 2015.

New Look at Disney's Live-Action ALADDIN Starring Will Smith

Things are not looking good for Disney's live-action adaptation of their 1992 animated classic, Aladdin, as it seems with each new look there is a fair amount of online backlash-most of which seems to be around Will Smith's incarnation of the Genie. Of course, if you're familiar with that seminal nineties movie (and if you're not, you need to get familiar) Genie was always going to be the biggest hurdle considering Robin Williams' groundbreaking iteration of that being who could grant you three wishes. While Williams' performance will obviously loom large it would be completely unfair to dismiss Smith's take on the character based solely on a single (likely unfinished) CGI shot and a single line of dialogue. I mean, I understand the complaints, but it doesn't look THAT bad and I can only hope the animators continue to the balance of real-life Smith with his animated incarnation to the point the final product offers a more convincing aesthetic. What's unfortunate is this spot revealing Smith as the more recognizable version of Genie was-in some capacity-probably a response to the negative backlash Smith and the film received for this Entertainment Weekly cover. More than anything, my hope is that Smith thought this whole scenario through before even agreeing to take the role in the first place. Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Dumbo, those are all one thing, but when you have a property that fuels nostalgia for the entire generation who is now the base of your expendable income demographic there has to be a plan in place. Smith had to know he was in something of a no-win situation given the reverence for Williams' interpretation and the fact he would have to come with something both radically different and pretty special to even be allowed in the same conversation. I hope this is the case. I am a massive Smith fan and have been for a long, long time, but I really hope he has an ace in his back pocket here otherwise it begs the question of why he would even take on this challenge in the first place. We do get a few glimpses of other, big moments from the animated film here as well, but despite director Guy Ritchie's filmography it all looks very staged and fake as opposed to the natural tangibility one would think is the point of these live-action re-makes. On the plus side though, the film will feature new songs by Alan Menken and La La Land songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Menken wrote with Howard Ashman and Tim Rice for the 1992 version). Aladdin will also star Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and opens on May 24th, 2019.

THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART Review

It was a given The LEGO Movie would eventually get a sequel, but it's kind of crazy it took five years for that sequel to actually happen. That said, Warner Bros. has certainly expanded the LEGO brand by giving LEGO Batman his own feature as well as delivering their only misstep thus far, The LEGO Ninjago Movie. And while there was some trepidation going into this delayed, but inevitable sequel given original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were no longer at the helm there was some hope given it was still their minds that conjured up the screenplay. Thankfully, Trolls director Mike Mitchell was brought on board and has successfully converted Lord and Miller's screenplay into a sequel that keeps things in step with if not necessarily surpassing the original. Of course, given the precedent set for the original and what it turned out to be versus the raised bar for the sequel and what it has turned out to be-that's a solid accomplishment and a resounding endorsement. That is to say, upon initially hearing there was going to be a movie based solely around the LEGO brand and the toys and properties they owned it seemed obvious the eventual movie would turn out to be little more than a cash grab; nothing more than one big commercial, if you will. To expect this was ultimately foolish given the creative team behind it as Lord and Miller delivered a witty, colorful, and (per usual) meta piece of cinema that took some unexpected themes and conveyed them in a manner that allowed the children to enjoy the toys coming to life while the adults latched onto those ever fleeting moments of innocence that come with raising children and attaching certain memories to their playthings. The LEGO Movie intentionally evaded everything audiences expected it to be, disrupting the status quo and turning heads, but how was something so inventive and appropriately rowdy supposed to then follow itself up with something as conventional as a sequel? Especially given the abstract qualities of the first and having to continue the same narrative while holding tight to the themes the first film so perfectly encapsulated? It turns out, the trick is to lean into such things even further; deliver the same goods in a different package and through different techniques. And though The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part might feel redundant in certain ideas, the ideas it's pedaling never don't need to be heard...especially when they're this creatively catchy.    

First Trailer for SHAFT Starring Samuel L. Jackson

In the summer of 2000 I was thirteen and too young to see Samuel L. Jackson kick ass in Shaft or to know what Shaft was, for that matter. And so, never did I catch up with this billed-as-a-remake, but really more of a generequel (maybe the first of its kind?) as Jackson's John Shaft character was the nephew of the earlier film's Shaft. In never going back to catch-up with that film I also never caught with any of the three previous Shaft titles starring Richard Roundtree that were released in 1971, 1972, and 1973 with a television series picking up that same year and producing seven 90-minute movies through 1974 with Roundtree reprising his role in each. In 2000, Jackson was as hot as ever though. Leading up to Shaft Jackson was double-billed with Tommy Lee Jones in William Friedkin's Rules of Engagement and followed it up with (somewhat ironically) M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable; because I'm sure the guy thought nineteen years ago that two of his films that year would produce sequels, but that both would take nearly two decades to come to fruition. Speaking of Jackson, as Glass presently sits atop the box office for its third consecutive weekend the man will also appear in next month's Captain Marvel as a younger version of Nick Fury, there's no telling how much Fury might show up in Avengers: Endgame, and if the first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home is any indication it looks as if Jackson's Fury will be playing a fairly pivotal role in that MCU film as well. So, three Marvel movies, two sequels including Shaft to nineteen-year-old properties, and potentially two other major releases this year (The Last Full Measure and The Banker) put Jackson as not only the busiest actors in Hollywood, but considering the likely box office for each of his franchise films here, also one of the most profitable. As for the trailer itself, it looks like a mixed bag of fine enough action and some solid comedy bits-most of which will come from Jesse T. Usher's not-as-inherently-badass long lost son of Jackson’s character. Tim Story (Think Like A Man, Barbershop) directs from a script by Kenya Baris (Black-ish) and Alex Barnow (The Goldbergs). Shaft also stars Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Matt Lauria, Titus Welliver, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, and opens on June 14th, 2019.