Ralph Breaks the Internet Review

This Disney Animation Sequel is Both as Equally Inventive and Concerned with Character as its Predeccesor if not as Well-Defined in its World-Building and Ideas.

Creed II Review

Steven Caple Jr. Takes Over for Ryan Coogler in this Follow-up to the Continuation of the Rocky Franchise that Runs with its Inherently Silly Premise and Rises Above it.

The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Screenwriter J.K. Rowling and Director David Yates Continue this New Wizarding World Franchise by Asking More Questions Instead of Offering Fresh Insights.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

BUMBLEBEE Review

Bumblebee is produced by Steven Spielberg, but it doesn't feel like a 2018 Steven Spielberg-produced movie, it feels like a 1987 Steven Spielberg-produced movie. That is to say this Travis Knight picture is undoubtedly influenced by the young ensemble adventures of Spielberg's early days and is nothing short of a welcome change of pace for a franchise that, let's be honest, had long since passed its breaking point and was desperate for some change in direction (take note, Wizarding World!). Knight, the son of Phil Knight AKA the co-founder and current Chairman of Nike, Inc., who is himself now the current president and CEO of Laika Animation-a studio he helped re-organize and re-brand over a decade ago-had only directed a single feature (2016's Kubo and the Two Strings) prior to taking on the task of re-energizing a major franchise, but damn it if the guy doesn't have a grasp on exactly what this franchise needed: simplicity. The key is simplicity in everything and Knight as well as sole (emphasis on sole) screenwriter Christina Hodson (Unforgettable) understand that from the perspective of the story all the way down to character design; things are streamlined in order to simultaneously wipe the slate clean and inject some much needed adrenaline into the concept of robots in disguise. Gone are the convoluted plots and multiple McGuffin’s of Michael Bay's films and stripped are the overly detailed and multi-colored Transformer designs as Knight and co. make everything better by making it easier. In doing so, Bumblebee quickly establishes itself not only as a thrilling, adventure origin story of sorts, but as one of the more heartwarming films of the season as well (I know, I'm as surprised as you are). A true coming-of-age story for both the title character and Hailee Steinfeld's Charlie that features a few massive action set pieces rather than the other way around, Bumblebee is somehow able to retain the tone of a Saturday morning cartoon while rising above being little more than a campy homage to those Spielberg-involved films of yesteryear a la The Goonies or E.T. In fact, Bumblebee is more an unabashed update of The Iron Giant that changes the setting from space race era America to the radically free MTV-inspired era of the eighties. With its feet firmly planted in a universe where the kids are always smarter than the adults, where the aliens are as fearful of us as we are of them, and where every scenario we're presented with is one any group of young children could play out in their backyards Bumblebee resuscitates a series that had long been surviving on life support.

First Official Trailer for AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Avengers: Infinity War is currently and is likely to remain my number one film of 2018. What that film accomplished and the amount of expectation it lived up to is as close to immeasurable as I can imagine and so, to say that anticipation for the follow-up and conclusion of what has been a decades worth of films is high is an understatement. Since the credits rolled on Infinity War in late April of this year leaving room for only a minor Captain Marvel tease afterward there has been little discussion about what was to come in the direct sequel to the film despite coming to know how absent players like Ant-Man and the Wasp played into the events of the film. Marvel Studios will of course be rolling out Captain Marvel in March of next year and delivered a second, full trailer for the Brie Larson-fronted film on Monday night as rumors are also swirling that our first look at Spider-Man: Far From Home will be arriving tomorrow via the Sony Panel at the Comic-Con Experience in San Paulo, Brazil. Sony no doubt wanted whatever kind of teaser has been put together for Far From Home to play before the upcoming Into the Spiderverse that opens next weekend and given at the end of Infinity War that character was a pile of dust there would need to be some kind of statement from Marvel or glimpse at the second half of Infinity War so as the more casual viewers might possibly understand how Tom Holland's webslinger was back. Up until this point though, not even a title was know for the fourth Avengers film and now, as we have the title and have seen images from the film confirming it will in fact be ready to go by this summer movie season it's kind of surreal in a way that this was always going to be unavoidable, but somehow it seemed as if it might be so big as to forever elude us. Avengers: Endgame also stars Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner, Evangeline Lily, Vin Diesel, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Pom Klementieff, Dae Bautista, Josh Brolin, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, and opens April 26th, 2019.

GREEN BOOK Review

There isn't a person you wouldn't love if you could read their story. I tend to try and not speak in absolutes and there may or may not be some exceptions to this rule, but the point is an obvious one: all the races and people with different sexual orientations or different religious beliefs can get along once we really get to know one another; that we're not really all that different after all. That's all well and good, but it's also a tried and true formula that at least one Hollywood production trots out every awards season to try and make us all feel better about ourselves. One might think, given the current cultural climate, that any movie attempting to bring people together might immediately be dismissed as one party's agenda to corrupt another into actually having a conversation with a person of opposing views, but maybe that's ultimately why Green Book feels so good right now and ironically, so needed. There isn't a damn thing here you haven't heard or seen before and director Peter Farrelly (one half of the brother directing duo who brought us comedy classics like Dumb & Dumber and There's Something About Mary, but also brought us Dumb & Dumber To and The Heartbreak Kid) directs with the eye of about as mainstream a filmmaker as it gets meaning there is nothing glaringly unique or interesting about the way in which he captures these events, but this does mean it will undoubtedly speak to a very large audience. There was some slight hope that Farrelly might utilize his experience in his years of making broad studio comedies to infuse the many predictable formulas this movie utilizes with a more striking tone or presence, but while taking on a project like this might have been a bold thing for the filmmaker to do given his past credits he alas decides to do nothing bold in the execution of this change in pace, but instead plays it right down the middle. Fortunately for Farrelly, the story has such a great inherent hook and given he's hired two more than capable talents to lead his film it hardly matters how he's saying what he wants to say as long as it's competent enough to capture how Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen are saying what they want to say. It's largely through these two performers that Green Book transcends the calculations of a movie such as itself, eclipsing every predictable note it plays that could have so easily rung false to become something genuinely endearing; a true crowd-pleaser in the least cynical and most delightful of ways.

ROMA Review

Roma is what one would call a hard sell. Despite being writer/director Alfonso Cuarón's follow-up to his Oscar-winning Gravity (Cuarón won Best Director for this effort) it couldn't be more different and because of this, more daring. It's daring based simply on the fact it is a two-hour personal opus, shot in black and white, and featuring English subtitles. In going ahead and acknowledging the elephant in the room, it's not difficult to see why the production companies who gave Cuarón $15 million to make the project also decided to go with Netflix as their distributor. And while, based on nothing more than its pristine aesthetic, Cuarón's most personal film to date certainly deserves to be seen on the big screen, given the content of the film and the types of people whose lives Roma explores it also makes perfect sense that the film be released to audiences in the most accessible way possible. It is a fine line to walk and while, as someone who loves going to the cinema, will always believe seeing a movie in the theater is the best way to see a movie it's hard to argue that the majority of mainstream audiences don't see many a films until years after they've been released and on their own televisions or other devices. Is it a shame some viewers will only experience the beauty of Cuarón's cinematography (yes, he serves as his own cinematographer here too) on their smart phones? Of course, but by making a film like Roma available to those who aren't within driving distance of a theater, but have a subscription to Netflix allows for the film to connect with what Cuarón is illustrating as well as connect with a bigger, more diverse audience than it likely would have if limited to a traditional theatrical and home video release. The key word here though, is illustrate. Roma doesn't so much as tell a specific story or drive home a certain narrative as much as it does illustrate a contemplative yet precisely executed observation of a year in the life of this upper-class family in Mexico City in the early seventies and more pointedly, on that of the family maid, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio, making her acting debut).

WRECK-IT RALPH 2: RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET Review

Walt Disney Animation Studios is now in the stage of their resurgence that began in 2010 with Tangled and was cemented two years later with Wreck-it Ralph where they are hoping to maintain the momentum of this resurgence by beginning to produce sequels to the movies that helped solidify their name as an animation powerhouse once more; that Disney could still be Disney without Pixar. Whereas the former flourished in hand-drawn animation for years and years (obviously) the mouse house hadn't had much luck with their transition to computer animation (Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt each largely failed both critically and commercially at the time of release) and in trying to re-capture the magic of their nineties hot streak with the hand-drawn Princess and the Frog in 2009 it only seemed the studio was moving backwards instead of forward. With Tangled though, things began to shift and, in many regards, the first Wreck-it Ralph was a confirmation that the Disney brand was back in full effect. Wreck-it Ralph, unlike the more traditional approach Tangled took, was a cool and hip concept that was both relevant and nostalgic, but most importantly it was an idea that-when you were a kid-would have loved to think could really be true. Like Toy Story, Wreck-It-Ralph was about what happens after the kids are done playing and characters must go on with their lives. This was all well and good and spurned a rather fantastic and inventive film about feeling insecure in the role society has assigned you and securing the confidence to break free of that mold and not only become whatever it is you aspire to be, but to gain confidence in and embracing what others might inherently assume about you. Though this wasn't exactly a stretch for the studio given it was ultimately a variation on the "be yourself" lesson countless pieces of children's entertainment have spouted, it worked well given the format. The catch was, Wreck-it Ralph told such a tight and compact story that it was difficult to imagine how directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston would naturally extend the film into something new that felt organic and wasn't dark as hell considering the inevitability of this arcade eventually closing and all of the games getting unplugged (which they'll have to address in the trilogy-capper, right?). And while the trailers hinted at something scarcely close to The Emoji Movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet is the rare, equally inventive sequel that strives to say something more even if what its saying gets somewhat lost in translation. Even still, the dynamite dynamic between John C. Reilly's Ralph and Sarah Silverman's Vanellope is enough to hold down the fort...or the internet.

CREED II Review

The "sins of the father" idea has been played out time and time again since first making its appearance in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, but never has it been so deliciously executed as it is in Creed II given the poetry or, as one commentator within the film calls it, "Shakespearean" nature of one Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of former heavyweight world champion Apollo Creed, coming face to face with the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) some thirty-three years after he killed his father in what was supposed to be an exhibition match. The weight of these circumstances would certainly be hailed as nothing short of mythic to any innocent bystander filled in on the details just prior to the projector heating up and then rolling the whole of Creed II, but for anyone who has seen or been a fan of the Rocky franchise for any amount of time and has specifically basked in the glory of all that is simultaneously great and terrible about Rocky IV then it's not as difficult to see how easily Creed II could have turned into an unmitigated dumpster fire that was unable to capitalize on the great mythology of these events because it couldn't re-configure the tone. The tone of Rocky IV, while featuring Rocky's most formidable opponent and the death of his former enemy turned best friend, is somehow largely light and alarmingly disengaged from the consequences of any of the actions any of the characters take, but what it has afforded this new generation of Rocky films that take the name Creed is the opportunity to see these events through an era where sequels aren't simply cash grabs, but rather that they are taken seriously and can be exceptionally executed pieces of cinema depending on the creative team and the amount of freedom afforded them. In taking advantage of the studio who wanted to take advantage of credible filmmakers who were interested in continuing the story of Rocky Balboa, the result so far has been two films that not only revel in the training montages set to motivational music or intensely choreographed boxing matches (though they still take full advantage of these staples), but films that are also genuinely interested in chronicling the present generation and how they operate based on the influence (and sins) of those that came before them. Whereas 2015's Creed showed us Jordan's Adonis figuring out who he wanted to be and overcoming the obstacles and shadow of his father to get there, Creed II continues this development by pushing our protagonist past the point in life where his father found himself; forcing the new heavyweight champ to determine how history will define him outside of being the son of Apollo Creed.

Teaser Trailer for Jon Favreau's THE LION KING

The first trailer for director Jon Favreau's "live-action" adaptation of Disney Animation Studios 1994 classic, The Lion King, has arrived and while it gives us more than that Aladdin teaser did a month or so ago, this is still very much a tease. While it's easy to be cynical about what are more or less re-makes of your childhood favorites in favor of modern technologies such as motion capture and some downright astonishing CGI over the classic hand-drawn style of animation that mine and so many generations before me were raised on it is also hard to deny the beauty and scope of what Favreau has seemingly been able to accomplish here. Like Favreau’s The Jungle Book, the filmmaker's take on The Lion King will feature a mix of CGI and live-action techniques as is evident in the shots in this first-look footage; the tangible environments only making the clearly CGI, but nearly convincing animals all the more convincing. The moment that music breaks in though, I dare anyone born between 1985 and 2000 to try and be overly cynical or pessimistic about what this movie might potentially bring to the table as the majesty the song captures and the pure grand spectacle these visuals boast is something that-even if we know the story and know what's coming-will be astonishing to experience on the big screen. Speaking of the music, one has to wonder how many of the original songs will be included and to what degree. Favreau included the notable arrangements from the 1967 animated The Jungle Book in his 2016 version, but while there has been talk of cutting certain songs, The Lion King has such an iconic roster of musical moments it's hard to imagine the finished product with any of them missing. That said, Elton John did in fact return to re-record some of his original music for this updated version collaborating with cast member, Beyonce Knowles Carter, in the process. The Lion King will also feature the voice work of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Eric Andre, Billy Eichner, Alfre Woodard, James Earl Jones, John Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Kani, and opens on July 19th, 2019.