Black Panther Review

Director Ryan Coogler and an All-Star Ensemble bring this Marvel Event Film to Life with Genuine Substance and Heady Themes, but it Lacks a Certain Visual Edge.

A Wrinkle in Time Review

Selma Director Ava DuVernay and a Strong Ensemble Deliver Ideas and Themes for Days, but Their Movie can Hardly Hold Them all Together.

Red Sparrow Review

Jennifer Lawrence and Hunger Games Director Francis Lawrence Deliver a Bleak, Brutal, and Rather Epic Spy Thriller that Unfortunately Feels more Hollow than it should.

Game Night Review

A Rock-Solid Ensemble and Fun Spin on a Simple Premise from Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein make this One to Enjoy Time and Time again.

Peter Rabbit Review

Easy A Director Will Gluck Returns to the Family Film Realm with this Updated Take on Beatrix Potter's Classic Stories that is Far Better than it has Any Right to be.


The newly re-booted and freshly grounded Tomb Raider from Warner Bros. isn't necessarily bad, but it is pretty bland. There is a constant back and forth as one experiences the final product given there is real promise in what is essentially the entire first act as the viewer gets to know this younger, more inexperienced Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) and the mysteries surrounding her father's disappearance as well as the issues she has been working through as a result of such. It is when the movie goes from slyly intriguing to full-on what the target demographic expects from a Tomb Raider movie that most of the intrigue disappears and what we're left with is a series of action sequences that look like the actual video game that inspired the movie. The more reliable and realistic visual effects become the easier it will be to lean on them and while this seems to have become more and more apparent over the last few years it seems especially glaring when the source material for an effects-laden blockbuster is that of a fully digital world. Once our titular protagonist gives into the life she was always meant to have, despite who she was when trying to make a living on her own accord being more interesting, Croft is quickly swept off to Hong Kong and then to the next level, I mean act, of the movie where we continue to go through stage after stage of Croft getting closer and closer to her end goal, which in this movie, has something to do with an ancient Queen that was said to command the power over life and death. Why someone would want to seek out much less break open the tomb of an ancient spirit that was capable of killing people simply by touching them is beyond me, but that is the quest we're sent on and the tomb we're meant to raid and so that is what unfolds. Naturally, there are layers and bad guys along that way that make this journey a little more interesting or at least a little more dramatic, but it no matter how much Tomb Raider wants to feel like a fun adventure tale it is far too gritty and routine for its own good. Unlike last week's A Wrinkle in Time, which didn't necessarily work as a whole, but was at least trying to do something fresh and innovative with the material it was based on Tomb Raider instead works as a coherent whole in terms of style and tone, but does nothing with these features to accentuate them in any special or meaningful way.


Yesterday the wizarding world was warned to get their #WandsReady in preparation for today's premiere of our first look at the follow-up to 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and here we are. This sequel, said to be the second film in a planned five film franchise, picks up where the first film concluded by following-up the reveal that Colin Farrell's Percival Graves was actually the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald as played by Johnny Depp. The titular Grindelwald was captured by the Magical Congress of the United States of America with the help of our hero, Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander, but Grindelwald has since escaped custody and set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda to raise pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings. With The Crimes of Grindelwald, returning director David Yates (who also helmed the fifth, sixth, and both parts of the seventh Harry Potter films) and sole screenwriter and creator of this wizarding world, J.K. Rowling, we pick-up with a younger Albus Dumbledore than we've ever seen before as portrayed by newcomer to the series Jude Law as he enlists his former student, Scamander, to help in an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans completely unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. While this trailer certainly matches the implied epicness of such a synopsis and it is cool to see this world continue to expand as it seems much of the action in The Crimes of Grindelwald takes place in Paris I can only hope that Yates is able to remain in a genuinely creative and innovative headspace rather than becoming complacent with his position in this universe. Still, this first look appears to be all a fan could want from a film inspired by Rowling's world and I'm more than intrigued to see where this film intends to take the series as a whole. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald also stars Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Carmen Ejogo, Jessica Williams, and opens in theaters on November 16th.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 13, 2018


This one is a hard nut to crack. Both for this reviewer and the filmmakers as Madeline L'Engle's 1962 novel that serves as the source material for this latest Disney live-action adaptation has been said to be unfilmmable. A Wrinkle in Time was always going to be different though, in that this wasn't a Disney live-action re-make in the vein of one of their treasured animated films from their golden age or renaissance period, but rather the Mouse House had enlisted Selma and 13th director Ava DuVernay to bring this much beloved material to the screen. On the other end of this review is myself who somehow made it through grade school without finding L'Engle's novel despite being an avid reader and fan of all things science-fiction/fantasy. A Wrinkle in Time is one of those cases where my intent was to in fact read the book prior to seeing the film, but that intent never led to any kind of fruition and so I walked into DuVernay's adaptation of this seemingly complex yet still kid-friendly source material last night with little to no expectation as to where the story might take me. What I did know was that the trailers hinted at some pretty spectacular imagery as well as some intriguing ideas that would be interesting to see worked out through a narrative. First things first though, A Wrinkle in Time misses a huge opportunity to inject a rather epic title card (which, if you've read my reviews before, is kind of a thing for me), but more so by the third or fourth scene it's clear there is a stiffness to the events that have unfolded thus far and that there is a certain flow most movies settle into that A Wrinkle in Time isn't finding. It's a weird kind of phenomenon that either happens or doesn't and most of the time, especially with movies such as this AKA big-budget spectacles produced by Disney, there is such a reliability factor that we as viewers automatically settle into the groove and/or movement of the environment the movie invites us into, but this speaks to what is the biggest weakness of DuVernay's adaptation in that it's never sure enough of itself. Where this apprehensiveness comes from in terms of movie language doesn't necessarily seem to come from DuVernay's filmmaking skills as anyone who saw Selma can attest to her talent, but there is a more deep-seeded issue at the heart of this big-budget spectacle and I don't know whether it comes from the seeming compression of the original text or the inability to materialize the countless words L'Engle put on the page, but 2018's A Wrinkle in Time is essentially a concept that possesses these larger than life ideas as reduced to their simplest form.


Red Sparrow is at once a movie that feels so calculated and well put-together that it should be obvious it knows what it is and yet this thing can't help but to feel all over the place. It knows what it wants to be, but doesn't accomplish as much. It has style for days and the feel of an epic spy saga, but the events that actually occur within these constructs couldn't feel more mediocre or forced. This is terribly disappointing considering the talent and money behind such a large, original production, but something about director Francis Lawrence's (I Am Legend, The Hunger Games franchise) latest never clicks in the way it should. Red Sparrow is one of those films that asks you to settle into it; where the viewer becomes so entrenched in the proceedings it should feel as if the viewer is still in the world of the film when walking out of the theater, but Red Sparrow never hits a stride in such a way that the audience is able to make this transition from spectator to participant. Instead, Red Sparrow quickly shows all of its cards by letting us know this thing is going to be as bleak and brutal as one can possibly imagine and then some. Red Sparrow is a film that takes advantage of its star's status and places Jennifer Lawrence in this role where she is trained to use her sexuality in ways that are to the advantage of the men controlling her (timely, eh?). Lawrence's Dominika as well as the movie itself consistently relay that she's doing what she's doing to regain this feeling of being special that she's recently lost, but this quest holds no weight due to the fact she's the star of the film and we more or less can guess this aspiration is going to be fulfilled even when the odds are stacked against her. All of this is to say that Red Sparrow may as well be known as the movie where J-Law learns to expertly cover up domestic abuse with top-of-the-line make-up rather than the one where she kicks ass and takes names because, as was noted earlier, there is very little that occurs here that lives up to the style and scope on which it is operating. Likely the biggest mark against Red Sparrow though, is the fact this opinion is coming from someone who generally basks in the dark and gritty tone of movies that like to take themselves seriously. Red Sparrow takes itself seriously, no doubt, and it has spurts of tension that compel as well as several locations and shot compositions that are downright breathtaking, but in the end the final product tries so hard to twist social expectations that it ends up feeling like cheap shock rather than frightening truth.

2018 Oscar Predictions

When the Academy Award nominations were announced in January they came with their expected favorites and a few upsets that weren't completely unexpected, but for the first time in some time it seems the Oscars got it more right than wrong which has led to a couple of interesting races-especially in the biggest one of the nigh, Best Picture. In my mind, there are three possible contenders for the top prize with The Shape of Water still leading the pack. I am hesitant to even make that declaration though, as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri could certainly still be the top contender for that award (it is all but guaranteed two acting trophies) whereas, per the trend of more recent years, the Academy might split the Picture/Director winners as The Shape of Water's Guillermo del Toro is the front-runner for Best Director. If del Toro takes this, Three Billboards walks away with two acting trophies, and if Greta Gerwig takes home Best Original Screenplay for Lady Bird my bet is that the Best Picture winner could be Get Out as I don't see the Academy sending Jordan Peele or his film home empty-handed; not right now and not when that film speaks for so many during a time they feel isn't theirs or doesn't represent who they are. Get Out has become something more than a cultural event, but a cultural representative for many state's of mind and I just don't see Academy voters letting that go unstated this weekend. I also don't see them letting Gerwig or her lovely film walk away without a win as well which is why the Writing win would seem to make sense. Still, this could go a completely different way than I'm expecting it to and The Shape of Water could indeed sweep in Picture/Director and a number of technical categories as it's record number of nominations have foretold while Three Billboards gets the acting wins along with Gary Oldman's "lifetime achievement award" and Allison Janney's final box to check on her rather incredible awards season run. This doesn't leave much room for anything interesting to happen which is why the Best Picture race has maybe been made to feel so interesting and the least predictable this year, but maybe most are indeed just overthinking it.


Writer/director Rel Dowdell has made two previous films, both narrative features, each of which tackle relevant social issues that largely pertain to the urban community. With his third feature, Dowdell continues to put an emphasis on relevant social issues, but for the first time the filmmaker is doing so through the format of a documentary feature. In Where's Daddy? Dowdell sets out to investigate and discover the root cause of the child support issue in America-what people's problems are with it, how it is failing at its purpose, and how it can be improved. Furthermore, Dowdell goes one step further and asks the even tougher questions of why the government has intervened in such private affairs at all? Why are single mothers raising multiple children is such an epidemic? Dowdell focuses in on the black community in his hometown of Philadelphia in what he hopes to resemble a piece of the larger problem that is plaguing both the American courts system as well as societal stigmas that need to be reconfigured and altered as often times such stigmas are rendered untrue by the details of each case, but remain labeled or interpreted as such due to the broad rules of said system. As a thirty year-old white male who was raised in Arkansas, who was raised with both parents in the home, and who is now married with a three year-old daughter of my own I have no particular affiliation to or against the child support system. I don't know enough about it to hold a position on either side of the line and so if Where's Daddy? is nothing else it, at the very least, serves as an introductory course to this seeming injustice on many fronts that exists outside of my bubble. Dowdell's film paints a well-rounded portrait that attempts to elicit how many different sets of experiences can be had when it comes to a father not being able to make his court-ordered child support payments so that this notion of the punishment fitting the crime becomes present in this regard and not just the blanket punishment of jail time where it costs more to process these individuals than the total amount many of them are even behind on in their payments.


When your movie opens in Oakland you automatically enlist this inherent cool factor that appeals to this child of the eighties, especially considering I've watched The Defiant Ones, Straight Outta Compton, and Boyz n the Hood in the last week. Opening the film with a brief history of the fictional nation of Wakanda, its origins, and how the Black Panther came to be a symbol for the monarchy that reigned over it and a hero to the people who resided within it director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) then drops us into this unsuspecting setting of Oakland, California in the early nineties where we are served a series of events that establish the basis for what will fulfill the drama that occurs in Marvel Studios' Black Panther. This is a smart move on the parts of both Coogler the director and Coogler the co-writer who, along with Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story), roots the beginning of his film in the zeitgeist of hip-hop; when rap was finding its footing and when the world began to take notice of what was being said within the genre. This is most definitely intentional as Coogler no doubt means to draw the comparison so as to confirm any doubt that Black Panther isn't a movement within itself. Though there have been black super hero movies before (in this analogy Blade would be your Sugarhill Gang) Black Panther is more than a defining moment as there has never been anything this explicitly black in or about a super hero movie before. Black Panther doesn't just star an African-American in the lead role as the titular hero, but it is about black culture, about black heritage, and conveys the highs and lows, the good and bad of this world of which I have no rightful place to really speak and so I will trust that when the many black people I do know who have seen the film say it is a real *moment* for their culture and for society in general I will trust that it indeed is. On the other hand, the question is how does Black Panther rank in terms of being a piece of entertainment despite Coogler inherently making this about more than just entertaining the masses? Well, it's another in a long line of reliable if not completely singular Marvel movies that tend to only break the mold every once in a while. Granted, Marvel has been on something of a hot streak lately mixing up the genres of which inspire their fare (2017 was especially strong) and Black Panther is no different in this regard as it, by default of its source material, feels fresher than anything the genre has had to offer in some time even if the potential of all the positive factors going on within the film never seem to be fully realized.