IT Review

Director Andy Muschietti and a Charismatic Cast of Kids Allow this Stephen King Adaptation to be About More than just the Clown.

American Assassin Review

Star Dylan O'Brien does what he can to add Life to this Generic Action Thriller, but Director Michael Cuesta Keeps his Film Squarely in the Safe Zone.

mother! Review

Director/Writer Darren Aronofsky Tackles Some Heady Topics with his Wholly Metaphoric Film, but the Point of it all Feels Lost in the Cause.

The Hitman's Bodyguard Review

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson's Chemistry can Only do so Much to Save this Otherwise Shoddy and Unfunny Riff on the Buddy Cop Movie.

Wind River Review

Writer Taylor Sheridan Makes His Directorial Debut with this Hard Boiled Crime Drama that Utilizes Atmosphere in More Ways than One.

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE Review

There is a difficulty to pinning down what exactly it is about Matthew Vaughn's work that makes it stand out if not necessarily resonate, but to date it has been difficult to not at least enjoy, on a surface-level, every single film the director has released including the oft forgotten 2007 Neil Gaiman adaptation, Stardust, that is a genuinely great, very funny, and wickedly entertaining fantasy film told by someone who knows how to manage tone. Maybe this is it. Maybe it is the way in which Vaughn is able to deliver on a particular tone above everything else that makes his personality shine through so much more than other for-hire action directors tend to be able to do. It would be easy enough for studios to craft generic comic book adaptations, X-Men sequels, and James Bond spoofs-everyone is making some variation on one of those today-but to bring a unique perspective and distinct personality to such common proceedings is a gift and there is no denying Vaughn has that gift whether you appreciate where he's coming from or not. It is a tough thing, straddling what is to ultimately be an intangible aspect of one's final film, but Vaughn has always done well to imprint his films point of view throughout the film-thus making for the literal actions of the characters in the climactic scenes to feel all the more successful as they have not only accomplished the proper resolution the plot desired, but have simultaneously satisfied their moral compasses. Having listed many of Vaughn's previous projects it isn't difficult to note the guy has had ample opportunity to make sequels, but that he hasn't and that he did decide to take on the follow-up to his surprise 2014 hit says a lot about how much he is invested in this world and in this material. What then would Vaughn do in his first sequel? What is the direction he would choose to go? Those were the thoughts and questions stewing in my brain as the Kingsman logo on the front of the Kingsman tailor shop is revealed once more in the opening moments of Vaughn's latest, but while Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a bigger sequel and dares to explore the extended universe that exists around this independent agency we were introduced to three years ago it isn't nearly as cheeky or outrageous as we've come to expect the Kingsman or for that matter, Vaughn himself, to be. And so, while the film is serviceable and generally a good time it doesn't touch the bonkers and bawdy tone of the original despite being bigger in every sense a sequel can be.

First Trailer for Wes Anderson's ISLE OF DOGS

As someone who isn't necessarily a fan of the stop-motion aesthetic it is still hard to deny a Wes Anderson movie, whatever the medium he chooses to tell his typically delightful stories in. This is what might be so intriguing about this first trailer for the latest from Anderson though in that, while this is technically an animated film, Anderson is telling a story that is so seemingly odd and unique that it wouldn't be one you would inherently assume might benefit from being an animated feature though, as the clip plays on, is easy to see why Anderson chose to return to stop-motion for the first time since his twice Oscar-nominated 2009 effort Fantastic Mr. Fox. Since Fox, Anderson has made the equally fantastic Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, each of which I've watched more times than I can count with the latter being a required viewing at least once a year. So, while I may not be one to typically flock to stop-motion animated films (with the exception of Laika, I'll give anything they do a shot) I am anxiously awaiting the latest from Wes Anderson simply because it is the latest from Wes Anderson. Speaking of the film itself, it is titled Isle of Dogs, and follows a young boy who ventures to an island in search of his own dog after an outbreak of dog attacks in a near-future Japan forcing all canines to be banished to live on a garbage-filled island hence, the title, the Isle of Dogs. Once on the island, the young boy comes across a pack of Alphas lead by Edward Norton‘s Rex. This will mark Norton's third collaboration with the director, but he isn't the only cast member who is returning to work with Anderson as the rest of the voice cast is made up of frequent collaborators such as Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, and Bob Balaban while also featuring the talents of Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Kunichi Nomura, Harvey Keitel, Akira Ito, Akira Takayama, Koyu Rankin, Yoko Ono, Courtney B. Vance, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, and Liev Schrieber. Isle of Dogs is set to open on March 23, 2018.

New Trailers for JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE Starring Dwayne Johnson

To the surprise of everyone the first trailers for Juamji: Welcome to the Jungle that dropped in June made it seem not terrible, but instead...potentially really fun. Updating from the board game that was used in the 1995 Robin Williams original to that of a 90's-era video game is a great hook and having four Breakfast Club-like archetypes stumble upon it in detention only to be sucked into the game and transform into the avatars they choose is another gem of an idea. While Welcome to the Jungle will no doubt profit from being yet another Dwayne Johnson vehicle, and he looks to be in fine comic form here, what is most exciting about this premise for me is being able to see Jack Black get a showy role that he can really elicit some big laughs from (which you see more of in the international trailer). Black has done well to understand the current phase of his career and with both this and Goosebumps the comedian is establishing himself as the guy who will be fondly remembered by the tweens and younger teens of the current generation for being the funny dude in all of their favorite movies-that is, if this turns out to be as good as it looks. Better even, when they get older, they can go back and discover even more of Black's rather impressive collection of work. Also of note is the inclusion of Kevin Hart who I am happy to see reunite with Johnson on any level after the terrific chemistry they displayed in Central Intelligence and who I look forward to seeing mix it up with Black as well. The wild card of the bunch is Karen Gillan, but these second trailers do well to establish her as one of the more confident members of the team while playing up the riffs on video game tropes. While I still can't get over how much better this looks than I initially imagined I'll hold out any official celebrations until after the movie opens this Christmas. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle also stars Missi Pyle, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Marc Evan Jackson, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, and opens on December 20th, 2017.

First TOMB RAIDER Trailer Starring Alicia Vikander

In this day and age when every budding young actress must have a franchise of their own it kind of makes perfect sense that Alicia Vikander would go on to star in the re-boot of Tomb Raider as Lara Croft, the highly intelligent, athletic, and beautiful English archaeologist-adventurer who ventures into ancient, hazardous tombs and ruins around the world. As someone who doesn't play video games I never knew what the huge fuss around the games or the character was, but of course, as a fourteen year-old male in 2001 I was compelled to see what that fuss was all about when Angelina Jolie (who was twenty-six at the time!) took on the iconic role in what turned out to be a disappointing Simon West actioner in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Though it spawned one sequel, 2003's Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, the franchise sputtered out of existence afterwards as neither film seemed to be able to capitalize on whatever the appeal of the video game might have been. If the Tomb Raider video game series is still around and/or relevant at all I have no idea, but apparently movie studios still believe the character is a viable investment and thus, fifteen years after the last Lara Croft film, we are getting a new Tomb Raider movie that looks to have taken the more grounded and gritty route as opposed to the flirting with every kind of CGI they can get their hands on route that every action movie in the early aughts suffered from. It is understandable, in retrospect, why everyone was so anxious to utilize this new technology, but as the dust has settled there has been found this nice balance of practical and computer effects and it seems director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) has found that balance with his take on the character while the film itself looks to be one of those origin stories that may not give us what we actually came for until the last frame of the film. I'm intrigued by the participation of credible talents such as Vikander and Walton Goggins in the role of the antagonist, but can't say much else about this clip excites me. Still, I look forward to seeing what these actors do with the material and if Uthaug can offer an interesting take on the material. Writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet is also something of a question mark as she has a laundry list of potentially big credits to her name including Captain Marvel, Sherlock Holmes 3, Gotham City Sirens, and a Dungeons & Dragons re-boot, but it seems Tomb Raider will be our first taste of what this new voice has to offer the world of cinema. Tomb Raider also stars Hannah John-Kamen, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Alexandre Willaume, Rowan Polonski, and opens on March 16, 2018.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN Review

When you're one of those people that goes to the cinema a lot it is movies such as American Assassin that seem to become the most stale and the most generic the fastest. Of course, to audiences that only see a few movies in theaters every year American Assassin will be a perfectly acceptable piece of action pulp. American Assassin is a film that will no doubt fulfill expectations for those that felt intrigued enough by the trailers to go out and buy a ticket, but while American Assassin is acceptable in terms of technical prowess, some interesting performance choices, and a rather straightforward if not clichéd plot it fails to really exceed in any way within the narrow parameters it has given itself to operate and exist within. No doubt hoping to piggy back off the success of last September's secret assassin thriller, The Accountant, American Assassin has neither the intrigue nor the style that picture had, but rather with this adaptation of the Vince Flynn airport novel director Michael Cuesta (the criminally overlooked Kill the Messenger) has settled squarely into middle-of-the-road  territory with a story that isn't afraid to go big, with Cuesta (in his first major studio movie) unfortunately deciding it best to stay as safe as possible. This inherent feeling stay as safe as possible is to be understood in many ways for, by making this a competent action/thriller and little more, Cuesta stood more of a chance to please the general public than he did taking risks and appeasing a few critics. With such a consensus comes a solid return and more opportunity and eventually, more power over ones endeavors. Cuesta is playing by the rules in American Assassin. To the movie's credit, it does subvert a handful of expectations within certain scenarios while never being afraid to flaunt its more brutal aspects, but it also never embraces its own genre for the more exciting aspects that such a genre has to offer. Rather, this is a movie that is given ample opportunity by its genre to do some cool things with the story it is telling, but rather than take advantage of them American Assassin seems to consistently waste each and every one of them.

MOTHER! Review

mother! is one of those films where it is easy to appreciate the intent without being able to necessarily enjoy it at all. That is to say, while there is much to discuss in the latest from auteur Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan), there isn't much of it that is enjoyable. That isn't to say every movie-going experience has to be enjoyable as mother! still offers an escape in one form or another, but while Aronofsky is very clearly trying to make a statement here it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly he is trying to say. For further proof as to why mother! is simultaneously admirable and bewildering is the fact it is also one of those films where each scene is a puzzle piece the viewer is supposed to put in place to slowly realize the bigger picture. mother! is deliberately confusing in that it wants you to try and figure out what is going on and what the metaphor is that's at work, but while this coyness may at first seem to be both crafty and a product of Aronofsky's knack for crafting visuals to pair with what are otherwise ephemeral concepts it is by the time the film reaches its third act and things begin to fall into place that mother! is neither surprising nor unsettling enough given this buildup. It is also very easy to see how many people will disagree on this point and either find it wholly fascinating and become enamored with discussing the film or not understand what the writer/director was aiming for and thus dismiss it as a symptom of confusion. While I can't say I fall into either of those extreme categories it is almost more disappointing that I don't as what is most evident after walking out of mother! is that Aronofsky was looking to evoke a reaction from his audience-whether it be fascination or disdain. Rather, mother! is a film that gets points for being something different, for taking on the challenge of making this huge metaphor work for what it is, but that it never transcends the correlation between what is being presented and what they represent so as to bring something new and insightful to the table is disappointing. mother! is a film where nothing seems to quite make sense and everyone around the protagonist seems to know what it going on while the main character and audience surrogate is left in the dark. Because of these kinds of set-ups where the audience is unsure of what is happening and why people are acting the way they are the movie becomes increasingly frustrating to the point the third act really needs to deliver on the purpose of having executed the majority of the film in this fashion, but while mother! could be interpreted as many things one thing it is not, but certainly seems to hope it will be, is groundbreaking.

First Trailer for ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

Ridley Scott is pushing 80. He will be 80 come the end of November which means by the time his second film of 2017 lands in theaters he will have hit that milestone of a birthday. That's right. Not only is Scott nearly older than most of your grandparents and making gigantic action/sci-fi movies, but he's making and releasing two big studio pictures a year (not to mention serving as a producer on multiple projects including the Blade Runner sequel). This second film, which looks as prestige as anything the filmmaker has produced since 2013's misfire The Counselor, follows the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather (Kevin Spacey) to pay the ransom. When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal. With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money. The film is based on the true story of the 1973 kidnapping of John Getty III with a screenplay by David Scarpa (2008's The Day the Earth Stood Still). I'm liking all of what I'm seeing here whether it be the fact that Scarpa is the sole screenwriter on the project no matter his previous work, that Scott apparently shot this earlier this year and that it's already ready for release, as well as the fact the cast is rather exceptional with word on the street being Spacey might just give Gary Oldman a run for his money in the Best Actor category as Oldman has been the early favorite for his role as Winston Churchill where he is equally as made-up as Spacey is here. That said, Spacey is hardly the center of attention here, but more the catalyst supporting character as Wahlberg and Williams look to be leading this with solid chemistry to spare. Wahlberg may not be the greatest actor of his generation, but it's hard to argue his versatility based on his output in 2017 alone which will now include this crime thriller, a Transformers movie, and a broad comedy in Daddy's Home 2. Needless to say, I look forward to how this plays and am hoping, as always, for the best. All the Money in the World also stars Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan, Olivia Grant, Teresa Mahoney, Marco Leonardi and opens on on December 8th, 2017.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2017

This fall has come to be something of a strange time in terms of movie-going as I was supposed to be attending the Toronto International Film Festival this week, but due to some unfortunate circumstances I wasn't able to make the trip. And so, in lieu of seeing and reviewing some of the big prestige pictures set to arrive this fall I decided to highlight some of the films I was most excited to see for the remainder of 2017. It's been a fairly dry year thus far with only a handful or so of exceptional films some of which include a rather stand-out year for super-hero films with Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Wonder Woman all doing stellar jobs of sticking with me while Spider-Man: Homecoming was a ton of fun if not necessarily great. Still, I know plenty of people who would disagree with me on that point so I can only hope this spells good things for Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League come November. That said, given I was anticipating going to TIFF this year much of what makes up my most anticipated for the remainder of the year are those that I would have been seeing this week with others that I might have had the chance to see falling by the wayside in the wake of mapping out the final three months of the year, but that I'm still very much excited to see. For example, while titles such as Hostiles, Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and Downsizing are all films I look forward to for one reason or another they didn't make my final cut (though, if the word out of this year's collection of film festivals is to be believed I'll grimly regret leaving Call Me By Your Name out of this list).  Not to be left out, there are certainly other blockbusters that I wasn't able to include on the list either that I'm anxious to lay my eyes upon including Pitch Perfect 3, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, as well as the latest works from the likes of Steven Spielberg (The Post) and Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World). All of that said, let's get into the movies that I am excited to see and see which did and didn't make the cut.

Full Trailer for THE DISASTER ARTIST

I've never seen Tommy Wiseau's 2003 film, The Room, which is famously hailed as one of the worst movies ever made, but I have seen enough clips online to know those who have seen it and have created this kind of cult film status around it aren't exaggerating in their claims. This is all to say that I don't know if I could even manage to make it through the whole movie, but I still may need to try and watch the entirety of Wiseau's film to fully appreciate the latest from director and star of The Disaster Artist, James Franco. With his latest endeavor, Franco has adapted Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's book that documents the behind-the-scenes look at the making of, "the greatest bad movie ever made." There is something of a little bit of what one could call anger or resentment at the moment as the film just debuted as part of the "Midnight Madness" selections at the Toronto International Film Festival last night where I was supposed to be this week, but it's encouraging to hear the film is getting positive to rave reviews out of the festival with A24 dropping this full length trailer this morning to keep the hype train going all day. The fact this latest clip from the film makes me want to see it all the more is both frustrating and encouraging all at the same time, but I really am excited to know this will get a wide release and that it might in fact live up to the strange expectations I'm now holding for it. Franco has loaded the cast down with comedy names that range from his typical troupe of friends to that of recent co-stars like Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally. I'm also eager to see Franco work so closely with his brother, Dave, which I don't know that I've seen before and which looks to be a real highlight of the film if this trailer is any indication. Needless to say, this should really be something special. The Disaster Artist also stars Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Ari Graynor, Jason Mantzoukas, and opens in limited release on December 1st before going wide on December 8th, 2017.