Incredibles 2 Review

Director Brad Bird and the Entire Cast of the Original 2004 Film Return for a 14-Year-Later Sequel that May not be as Insightful as the Original, but is Equally as Fun.

Ocean's 8 Review

Director Gary Ross and Star Sandra Bullock Bring a Familiar and Fun if not Necessarily Exceptional Flare to this new Entry in the Ocean's Series.

TAG Review

A Host of Comedic and Action-Oriented Stars Band Together in this "So Weird it Must be True" Premise that Results in a Fun if not Always Engaging Time at the Movies.

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review

This Fourth Star Wars film in Four Years Begins to Hint at what Franchise Fatigue Might Feel like as Solo is Fine if not Memorable.

Hereditary Review

First-Time Feature Director Ari Aster Combines a Rich Familial Drama with Horror Tropes for a Truly Unsettling Experience.

First Trailer for CREED II Starring Michael B. Jordan

There is both much to be excited and much to be pessimistic about when it comes to Creed II. This sequel to the 2015 Ryan Coogler-directed film that continued the story of former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa as he served as a trainer to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend Apollo Creed, is a sequel MGM and Warner Bros. wanted to move forward with despite Coogler's obligation to Marvel and Black Panther. That is the first point of concern as Coogler, who had made only one feature prior to Creed, the cutting Fruitvale Station (also starring Michael B. Jordan), is/was a voice on the rise and it was his touch that made Creed a vital part of the Balboa mythology rather than just another way to capitalize on a known brand. For the sequel, the studios brought in Steven Caple Jr. who has also only directed only a single feature thus far, but has a fair amount of TV work on his résumé including episodes of Grown-ish and the documentary miniseries, Rapture, about hip-hop's impact on global culture that is now available to stream on Netflix. I haven't seen any of Caple's previous work, but judging by the look and feel of this first trailer it seems the guy has a capable pair of hands that this franchise has thankfully been placed in. They say the greatest weapon in a director's arsenal is a strategically placed song and even if Caple had no input on the trailer itself the use of Kendrick Lamar‘s “DNA” is a perfect pairing that indicates what is hopefully the overall tone and style of the picture. The other aspect that is somewhat concerning is the fact Sylvester Stallone penned the script for this thing along with Luke Cage scribe Cheo Hodari Coker, but to what degree they collaborated is unknown. Yes, it's a nice thought the writer/director/star of the original Rocky film has such a heavy hand in continuing the arc of characters born out of his original franchise, but given the plot details we know thus far it seems reasonable to worry this might be a re-hash of what has come before rather than Jordan's Adonis and his family unit making the franchise their own. Then again, I did enjoy 2013's Homefront so what do I know? All of that said, this trailer is indeed pretty great and if the final film carries out the energy and drama hinted at here I can't imagine being disappointed in what Caple, Stallone, and Coker have cooked up. Creed II also stars Florian Munteanu, Dolph Lundgren, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Russell Hornsby, and opens November 21st, 2018.

INCREDIBLES 2 Review

It has been fourteen years since the Parr family, including Bob (Craig T. Nelson), Helen (Holly Hunter), and their three children-Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile)-were introduced to audiences through the magic of Pixar and the imagination of writer/director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and arguably the best Mission: Impossible movie-Ghost Protocol). In those fourteen years since the first Incredibles film Pixar has steadily upped its output of sequels going from only a single sequel in Toy Story 2 as of 2004 to Incredibles 2 being the seventh Pixar sequel of some sort. Does this say anything about the studio outside of the fact they enjoy making money and are not immune to capitalizing on IP's the same way every other studio does? No, not really, but it does always feel like something of a missed opportunity when Pixar releases something that re-hashes a striking original rather than releasing what is hopefully another striking original. This is all to say that while The Incredibles always seemed like the most obvious choice for sequels, it was also a stand-alone film that didn't necessarily require any type of continuation. Thus bringing us to what is probably the most impressive thing about Bird's Incredibles 2 in that not only does the film seem to effortlessly pick up right where the original left off, but it validates itself thoroughly and makes its case that not only is its existence justified, but rather that the original needed this extension of the story to exist. And while this is impressive for obvious reasons it is the ideas the film dolls out as well as the engaging if rather complex without actually feeling convoluted premise that will earn Incredibles 2 this sterling reputation as a sequel that both earns its place alongside the original as well as one that improves upon it. Incredibles 2 will undoubtedly please the generation that grew up on it and are now entering their early twenties, but as someone who was among the Toy Story faithful, Pixar blossoming just before we did, I was getting ready to enter my senior year of high school when The Incredibles was released and feel no inherent connection to that original whatsoever. Due to this and the fact we live in a time where the market is saturated by super heroes it was genuinely surprising how much joy came from watching a family of super heroes strike a balance between feeding the machine and rebelling against it. Which, as Pixar sequels go, is par for the course. 

On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 12, 2018

HEREDITARY Review

It's not difficult to appreciate the craft and attention to detail in first time feature director Ari Aster's Hereditary. What is difficult to appreciate is the narrative path Hereditary follows and how much it ultimately feels patched together in order to execute horror tropes that, in all honesty, it is too good for. There is one aspect of Hereditary that feels right at home exploring the continued ramifications and deep-seated issues that are passed from one generation to the next while being more than willing to take on and explore how family can really mess you up given the most extreme of circumstances, but there is another side to the film that wants to utilize this most extreme of family dramas to paint itself definitively into the horror genre and this is where the movie kind of falls apart. The upside to this is that Hereditary only begins to really become or at least fully embrace this unnecessary narrative evolution in the last fifteen to twenty minutes or so. Prior to this, Aster shrouds so much of what is actually going on in this questionable state of what might be happening and what is actually happening by building Toni Collette and her Annie's mental state to a point where her actions are in total question of reality. We're made aware of her family history and their bouts with depression and mental health issues very early while throughout the course of the film Annie experiences incredible and unthinkable traumas that would undoubtedly bring such issues to the forefront, but while the devolving security of Annie's mental state is what ultimately brings about the true, genuine horror in Hereditary it is also this avenue, this idea of how bad parents can mess up their children that is placed on the backburner in favor of the more genre-specific plot elements. It is something of a shame it's with this familiar bang that Hereditary decides to go out as it leaves something of the wrong impression on the audience given the majority of what comes before the final revelation is an unsettling more than it is scary exercise in pacing that boils each individual party to an intentionally uneven place of uncertainty, exhaustion, and just...pure misery. Hereditary is one of those movies that is easier to admire than it is to necessarily enjoy, but it seems Aster only ever meant to paint a portrait rather than entertain a mass. It's not difficult to appreciate the camera, sound design, and especially each of the very committed performances in Hereditary, but that this twisted dysfunctional family drama ends up being more dysfunctional than it does pure family drama leaves a simplicity to be desired.

OCEAN'S 8 Review

Very early in this spin-off of director Steven Soderbergh's trilogy of movies about George Clooney's ultra-smooth, ultra-smart thief we are introduced to what is and arguably always has been the most fascinating thing about these movies not to mention heist and/or crime dramas in general. This being the fact that the type of people who find themselves in such scenarios have enough self-confidence and charisma to be able to pull-off whatever facade they wish to carry. It's not about what you may or may not be hiding on the inside or what you know about yourself that you believe everyone who sees you immediately assumes as well, but more it is utilizing your appearance, age, and swagger (or lack thereof) to allow those who see you to make those first, quick assumptions only for you to then deliver upon them so as they don't think about you again. It is an awareness of sorts that Clooney's character never fully utilized, he was always the cool guy in the nice suit, but it is almost immediately that his sister, Debbie Ocean, as played by Sandra Bullock utilizes this tool. And then she uses it again. And again. Hell, if her character's tastes weren't so expensive she could make a fine enough living as a salesperson given the way she is able to adapt to and go with whatever environment she finds herself in and whatever people she finds herself in front of, but this is a movie that is meant to both continue the Ocean's legacy while expanding on the diversification of those gender and ethnic gaps that are being actively addressed in Hollywood as of late. Whether you are in support of this or moronically opposed for one reason or another this agenda doesn't really factor into the execution of the film save for one very pointed line of dialogue that is delivered in such a fashion so as to provide reasoning if not necessarily a justification for this movie's existence. Whether this was an Ocean's movie or not though, what gives the film its pulse is this throughline idea of knowing how to interact with people by scanning them upon meeting them and figuring out what type of person they want in their life and immediately becoming that person. Bullock and a few of her co-stars are able to explore this in a few different ways, but it is mostly Bullock who presents a surprisingly layered approach to this train of thought as we see her Debbie battle with how long such a lifestyle can remain exciting as masked by intentions of justice and vengeance. It's a shame the movie itself doesn't follow through on these instincts as the movie Bullock presents us with and allows us to assume Ocean's 8 might become is far more fascinating than the fun, but ultimately derivative one it ends up being.

First Trailer for HALLOWEEN Starring Jamie Lee Curtis

Universal Pictures and Blumhouse have released the first trailer for the new sequel to John Carpenter's original 1978 slasher film, Halloween. This titled exactly-the-same, forty-year-later sequel is said to pick up in real time after the events of the first film, disregarding all subsequent films, and follows the residents of Haddonfield on another horrifying Halloween night as Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode faces her greatest fears when Michael Myers escapes the asylum where he’s been locked up since his first killing spree. Naturally, Strode has attempted to move on with her life and seemingly has as this movie will feature Judy Greer as Laurie's daughter, Karen, as well as Andi Matichak (Orange is the New Black) as her granddaughter. Where the narrative will go outside the "one final confrontation" remains to be seen as this teaser trailer more or less plays up the return of the series to its roots more than it does offer any insight into what the actual movie will contain-which is more than fine as it does this in an effective manner-but this is no doubt the point of most concern and curiosity. Curiosity due to the fact the screenplay was penned by new franchise director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Stronger) and one of his past collaborators in Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride). There is no doubt Green is a capable director who has the ability to ride any genre of film to success (see All the Real Girls, Snow Angels, Prince Avalanche, and Joe) and there is even less doubt that McBride is a capable writer with a twisted mind (see The Foot Fist Way, Eastbound and Down, and Vice Principles), but to see both of these guys go in on and come up with their interpretation of one of the original and greatest horror films in cinema history seems an experiment too good to actually have been funded. There will undoubtedly be a lot of influence from the original film at play here and I'm anxious to see how Green decided to balance that with his and McBride's interpretation, but mostly-and in part thanks to this teaser-I'm just really excited to see a fresh take on classic material considering the interesting and intelligent people they've recruited to accomplish that task. The film will also star Will Patton, Virginia Gardener, Dylan Arnold, Drew Scheid, Toby Huss, Miles Robbins, and will feature the return of the original Mike Myers, Nick Castle, in the iconic role with stuntman and actor James Jude Courtney helping to bring "The Shape" back to life. Halloween is set to open on October 19th, 2018.

Official Trailer for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD

By the time this third How to Train Your Dragon film opens next March it will have been a longer period of waiting in between the second and third installments of the series than it was between the first and the second and that wait for the initial sequel seemed like forever. It was because of that longer than usual wait that it seemed the box office for 2014's How to Train Your Dragon 2 was not what either writer/director Dean DeBlois hoped for or what DreamWorks Animation was betting on. The film made only $177 million domestically on a $145 million budget, but thankfully there was the internations totals for the film which garnered this thing another $444 million bumping its worldwide haul to that of just over $620 million. And so, it is likely DreamWorks lowered the budget a bit, but was still happy to have DeBlois cap off his trilogy of films with the continuing adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless. In this third and presumably final film (though there will no doubt be plenty of television series and maybe even spin-off movies should the brand endure) we see Hiccup fulfill his dream of creating a peaceful dragon utopia while Toothless' discovery of an untamed, elusive female Night Fury draws him away from his longtime friend. Of course, when danger mounts at home and Hiccup's reign as village chief is tested, both dragon and rider must make impossible decisions to save their kind. I've always had something of a soft spot for these films as they have both proved to be far better and far more enchanting and ambitious than I both expected them to be and in comparison to what DreamWorks usually rolls out in the animation department. There is a weight to these characters and their world and the emotion brought forth in both chapters thus far is notable in the beauty with which they are conveyed in the animation. That level of quality doesn't seem to have been diminished here despite that likely cut in the budget. The film looks flawless with it's sweeping landscapes and the characters look and feel as endearing as ever. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World features the voice talents of America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, Craig Ferguson, F. Murray Abraham, T.J. Miller, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and opens on March 1st, 2019.

First Trailer for A STAR IS BORN Starring Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga

If you looked at my Top 10 of 2017 article then you'll know I'm a big Lady Gaga fan and so it goes without saying that I'm fairly excited to see her big screen debut in a feature especially when that feature is the third remake of the 1937 film of the same name. A Star is Born was first re-made in 1954 starring Judy Garland and James Mason and then again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. This latest incarnation of the story deals in a country star helping a young singer find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral, will not only be Gaga's feature debut in a starring role though, but it will also serve as her co-star, Bradley Cooper's, directorial debut. The screenplay has been reformatted for what I'm presuming is a modern day if not just a slightly different take on the material by more than a handful of screenwriters, the latest of which includes Cooper himself and veteran Nicholas Sparks adapter Will Fetters (The Best of Me, The Lucky One), but fear not as there have also been drafts done by the likes of Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and Christopher Wilkinson (Ali) that lend an optimism to what was certainly a daunting project to take on as a directorial debut. If Cooper's particular brand of passion and commitment bleed into this as it typically does his performance work I can only imagine the heights this one might reach. And certain heights it seems this thing is destined to reach as the trailer already demonstrates its mass appeal (the country music demographic as well as Gaga's?) and potentially even awards season contention if the locked picture is anywhere near as good as this first official look at the film suggests it to be. I'm loving the look of Cooper's Jackson Maine and how natural the actor seems to be at having slipped into this type of role in this very specific kind of world. Furthermore, Gaga AKA Stefani Germanotta looks to have been a perfect fit to fill this modern day take on a story we've all seen before, but maybe (hopefully) never like this. A Star is Born also stars Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott, Michael Harney, Bonnie Somerville, Anthony Ramos, and opens on October 5th, 2018.

Teaser Trailer for BUMBLEBEE Starring Hailee Steinfeld

The first trailer to a movie I really can't believe was greenlit, sent through to production, and is now ready to be released has been released and, to my surprise, looks much better than I would have ever expected. After last year's massive drop-off in returns for Michael Bay's fifth Transformers film, The Last Knight, it would seem Paramount and Hasbro might collectively be trying to figure out what to do with the future of this franchise and to be fair, they probably are as Bumblebee was already in production when The Last Knight, for lack of a better term, tanked last year. Just as a reminder, The Last Knight garnered a worldwide total of "only" $605 million while the previous two installments had amassed over a billion a piece. That said, for the first time in the franchise's history the studio and toy brand are bringing in a different creative head to put together a Transformers-based film and it is in this that we find hope in a new live-action Transformers feature for the first time in over a decade as the last time I remember being genuinely excited for one of these things was for that of the first sequel in 2009 and we all know how that turned out. With Bumblebee, the studio appointed LAIKA CEO and director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) the man for the job while giving the screenwriting gig to a single writer in Christina Hodson (Unforgettable) rather than handing it over to a writers room tasked with plotting out an entire series of films. With these factors in place and the first trailer now having been released it can't help but feel as if this is a much smaller film with lower stakes if not still including some fantastical action sequences in the vein of something like Iron Giant (there are some serious Iron Giant vibes to be taken away here). Heading all of this up in front of the camera is Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) who consistently seems to be improving her brand/public persona and while this might have initially felt like a step back for the actress and singer if she and Knight can put their own unique and compelling mark on the property I look forward to seeing where this invigorated franchise could go from here. Bumblebee also stars John Cena, Pamela Adlon, Kenneth Choi, Megan Pryce, Martin Short, and opens on December 21st, 2018.

First Trailer for THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART

It was a given that The LEGO Movie would eventually get a sequel, but it's kind of crazy it will have been five years since the first film came out by the time the second movie arrives early in 2019. It seems much of this has to do with the behind the scenes issue of the revolving people in the director's chair as The LEGO Movie co-director Chris McKay was originally set to direct, but departed when Warner Bros. opted to make The LEGO Batman Movie first which he went on to direct and made a seriously great follow-up to the original out of. Community alum Rob Schrab next signed on to take the reins, but left the project after a year of "creative differences", at which point Trolls director Mike Mitchell was brought on board and was joined thereafter by original The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller after they dropped out of the Solo: A Star Wars Story project and signed up to fill more than their producer roles as they then helped craft the screenplay. Speaking of the screenplay, this first teaser seems to indicate that things have only gotten worse after the events of the first film with Chris Pratt's Emmett is in denial about the ramifications of everything that has recently occurred. Prompting new conflict though, is not the return of President Business, but the arrival of LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild. This is a pretty great idea in terms of how to continue to expand this universe while using the stable of toys they have to work with to their greatest advantage. The trailer features some pretty solid gags, an on point utilization of a Beastie Boys track, and-naturally, some commentary on the capability of Elizabeth Banks' Wyldstyle in contrast to the inability of Emmett who was still deemed the "special" and "hero" of the first film. I mean, I get it and am all for championing the strength and independence of women, but do we have to constantly put down men-even the dumb if not well-intentioned ones-every time? This probably wouldn't feel as glaring did it not follow a similar jab in that Wreck-It Ralph trailer yesterday, but alas-the times they are a changin' and that's fine, it's for the better, but let's find some new ways to convey what is meant to be empowering without constantly demeaning. The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part also features the voice talents of Channing Tatum, Will Arnett, Jonah Hill, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Arturo Castro, and opens on February 8th, 2019.