The Grinch Review

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

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.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD Review

At this point in our cultural landscape the reaction one has to the latest film set in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is largely dependent upon your history and affiliation with said wizarding world. It’s difficult to even comprehend the amount of lives Rowling’s work has impacted and become a major component of since the Harry Potter franchise became a worldwide phenomenon nearly two decades ago. The plan for the Fantastic Beasts franchise, outside of continuing to make money off the brand, was to hopefully introduce a new, younger generation to this world through new stories while naturally entrancing those who came to the world of muggles and magical folk in real time. Harry Potter has now been a part of my life longer than it hasn’t-twice as long nearly-and so, it is always with great anticipation and interest that I approach anything Rowling does even if the cultural temperature is a bit cooler than it used to be. Though initially pessimistic towards the idea of expanding the Potterverse via New York City in the twenties and based around the guy who wrote one of Harry and his friend’s textbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them turned out to be a rather charming introduction to a new facet of this world we only thought we knew; casting a strong enough spell to leave audiences wanting more adventures in the life of Mr. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). With Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Rowling and franchise director David Yates (the last four HP films as well as the first Fantastic Beasts movie) pick up the story they started two years ago some three months later in a sequel that ultimately serves as a series of revelations for the series’ main players while potentially changing everything we know about one of the Potterverse’s most important characters. The fact the franchise has moved and is moving in the direction of utilizing more primary Potter characters is a double-edged sword given it's hard not to want to see familiar aspects of this familiar world, but there is something of a greater desire to see an aspect completely independent of the events and characters in the Harry Potter stories so as to not potentially spoil what we already love. In other words, while I’m all in for further exploration of the magical world mythology and continuous world-building Rowling is so good at the fact of the matter is The Crimes of Grindelwald might have been more consistently engaging if it’d found a more entertaining story through which to convey these new developments.

Final Trailer for AQUAMAN Starring Jason Momoa

Warner Bros. has dropped the final trailer for director James Wan's Aquaman. The film follows Arthur Curry who learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and to be a hero to the world. It feels rather odd we're finally upon the release of the character's solo outing given a year ago at this time we were just getting our first glimpse of the DC hero in the unequivocal failure that was Justice League. Never mind the fact we were only getting our first glimpse of Aquaman for the first time in what should have been an accumulation of individual films, but more that the result of this botched team-up would produce anything resembling hope seemed all but lost after this same weekend last year. And yet, as Warner Bros. announced with the release of this trailer today that fans, specifically Amazon Prime members, can see the film a week early in theaters which prompts one to think they certainly don't plan on hiding this one the way they did the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon film. And there seems no reason to as this final trailer looks visually stunning. If this clip should suggest anything it is that Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring, and Furious 7) has delivered an action/adventure film in every sense of the word that looks to be about as fun as a film can be; here's to hoping that the pacing and energy of the trailer are notes that have been taken from the finished film. Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as the titular hero, Amber Heard as Mera, Willem Dafoe as Vulko, Temuera Morrison as Tom Curry, Dolph Lundgren as Nereus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta, Patrick Wilson as Orm/Ocean Master, and Nicole Kidman as Atlanna. The movie opens December 21, 2018.

WIDOWS Review

There is no more of a movie this year than Widows. Widows is a damn movie in every fiber of its being and I mean that not in the way that it could only exist as a feature-length film, but more in that it utilizes every aspect of the art form to do what the art form was designed to do: entertain and be thought-provoking. Widows is a damn movie. It's a damn good movie too. In fact, it knows it's toeing this line of being a genre film and something more thoughtful, more credible in the eyes of Academy voters, if you will and kind of flaunts it unabashedly. Widows is essentially director Steve McQueen (Shame, 12 Years a Slave) asking why he can't have the best of both worlds and then showing us with what feels like effortless finesse that he can. In a scene that occurs early in the film the current alderman of a south side precinct in Chicago, Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall), is arguing with his son, Jack (Colin Farrell), who is running to replace his father as a sixth generation alderman in the district. The discussion between father and son doesn't begin as an argument, but rather with Jack bragging to his father about how he acquired a piece of art from an up-and-coming painter for the price of a mere $50,000. The thing is, we already know from Jack's opponent in this political race, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), that aldermen in Chicago make around $106,000 a year and so there is this precedent for the lifestyle of an alderman that Jack and his father are clearly surpassing by supplanting what of their tastes cannot be supported by their public facade. Furthermore, as Tom and his son's discussion escalates Tom quickly resorts to insulting Jack's purchase by calling it "wallpaper". What is the difference between art and wallpaper? The film doesn't explicitly ask this question, but it certainly poses it to the audience further suggesting that-if you can't tell the difference-does it matter and if you can what makes one more valuable than the other? They both serve a purpose, but which is more functional? Later in the film we are introduced to Reverend Wheeler (Jon Michael Hill), the man with the biggest congregation in the district where Jack and Jamal are running for alderman. In the sermon we're treated to the pastor posing the question, "when did normal start to pass for excellence?" McQueen is once again reminding the viewer of this difference in either acceptably conforming to a standard or standing poised in such a way there is no doubt of intention. Widows undoubtedly conforms to certain archetypes of the crime genre, but it is also one of the most poised and confident examples of the genre in some time; an aggressively compact narrative with the style of a slick, tailored suit that expertly unpacks all it wants to address through a vibrant and straight-up electric piece that is chic enough to be purely decorative, but just abrasive enough to glimpse the art underneath.   

BOY ERASED Review

As someone who constantly wrestles with their faith if not necessarily the belief in a higher power, one of the lessons I've personally come to learn in life thus far is that, despite many a country songs telling you to "stand for something or you'll fall for anything," the truth of the matter is that to so deeply steep yourself in one set of beliefs is to ultimately guarantee that you'll eventually (in all likelihood) become a hypocrite. Human beings naturally evolve, we continuously experience new things, and gain greater perspectives on any number of situations all of which inform an ever-developing outlook on the world and the people that populate it. To be so stubborn as to try and categorize these present experiences and interpretations of life through the prism of a single piece of literature written over two thousand years ago only seems counter-intuitive to the abilities and intelligence God has blessed us with, not to mention a rather stressful way to frame ones existence; having to make sure what is inherently felt as right or wrong is supported by doctrine whose composers couldn't have imagined the world or society as it presently stands. There is so much clout given to these rules that outline what our behavior should be that people seem to often lose sight of that inherent voice-your conscious, God himself, whatever you want to label it-that really lets you know when something is right and when something is wrong regardless of what anyone or anything else's stance on the subject might be. That is not to say the Bible isn't helpful, of course it can be and is to millions upon billions of people across the globe, and this is not to imply there aren't certain absolutes of decency that can or should be swayed, but what is being suggested is that to commit so strongly to a single set of ideals is to also make one fear change. To fear change is to stop growing. And to stop growing is to willfully succumb to a limited or narrow view of the world. It is this conflict that Russell Crowe's Marshall Eamons, a Southern Baptist preacher living in Arkansas, faces in director Joel Edgerton's second feature, Boy Erased, when his teenage son is forcibly outed as gay.

Full-Length Trailer for Tim Burton's DUMBO

I'm going to be honest, it's been a long time since I've seen the 1941 Disney feature about a young circus elephant who is ridiculed for his big ears only to achieve his full potential through the encouragement of a mouse. That said, is it really any surprise we're getting alive action re-make of any Disney animated classic at this point? Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if we were to get a live-action Black Cauldron though I'd much prefer to see what someone might do with Oliver & Company or The Great Mouse Detective. Alas, as we have Tim Burton's Dumbo early next year along with Guy Ritchie's Aladdin in the summer followed by Jon Favreau's The Lion King a year from now and at least Niki Caro's Mulan in 2020 it seems I'll have to hope these endeavors continue to pan out if we're ever going to get deep enough in the well to see those re-makes come to life. While cautiously optimistic for Ritchie's take on Aladdin and all but busting at the seams to see a sneak peak at anything from Lion King I am most indifferent towards another Burton-esque take on this type of material as we all saw how Alice in Wonderland turned out. While that 2010 blockbuster more or less ignited this recent trend of re-imaginings for the modern age it was also a vastly different take on the material than the original, 1951 animated film. Over the course of nearly a decade these films have morphed into little more than replicates of the achievements in animation that came before them; see 2017's Beauty and the Beast if you need further proof. Still, there is sometimes fun to be had as both The Jungle Book and Cinderella were earnest enough to be enjoyable and though Burton hasn't exactly been on a hot streak as of late given it's been nearly a decade since he's produced an out and out critical success and even longer since he's produced both a critical and commercial hit, there is always that glimmer of hope each time out that we might get peak Burton. Why the auteur wanted to take on Dumbo I'm not sure, I told you I haven't seen it in a while, but if there is anything to be taken from this new trailer it is the fact Burton still has a knack for fantastic imagery as the time period and setting seem to play a large role in the lives of these characters and the overall tone of the film. How the film will update and hopefully improve upon the original remains to be seen, of course, but at least we can count of the film looking magnificent on the big screen. Dumbo stars Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Finley Hobbins, Nico Parker, and opens on March 29th , 2019.

OVERLORD Review

Here’s the thing about Overlord: I saw the trailer so many times I felt like I knew the movie back to front before I even walked in. It was one of those things where I’d notice something different or pick up on something new every time I saw the trailer to the point that when I realized the actual feature was opening this weekend it wasn’t that I didn’t necessarily care to see it, but I definitely felt indifferent about buying a ticket to a movie I didn’t expect to gain anything more from that I hadn’t already been conditioned to expect from the trailer. I tell this aspect of the story to lend a little perspective on why Overlord then ultimately came to be something of a pleasant surprise. In expecting a certain level of craft, care, and creativity I low-balled my expectations and was more than happy to find out I was wrong when the film kicked off and immediately kicked into high gear with a level of energy that was infectious. Stranger even, the opening of the film is the same scene that opens the trailer, but while there is the expectation of this being a full feature rather than a short preview there is also something to the altered pacing, musical accompaniment, and/or character dynamics that immediately plays into the level of investment one is willing to give no matter how much they think they know. This is a long way of getting around to saying that, despite the initial indifference through which it had to battle, Overlord is a movie that does very well at what it's built to do. It’s not an exceptional film that says something new or even anything terribly interesting about life or the psychology each of us project on its meaning, but as a movie that sets out to combine the terror of war with the terror of a zombie apocalypse and roll those into a somewhat hackneyed, but fully aware camp fest-Overlord accomplishes everything it could hope to and then some.

First Trailer for POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU

This is just...too weird. Warner Bros. has apparently figured out how to, after nearly two decades of prominence in the States, concoct a live-action Pokémon movie that actually looks nothing like I would have imagined the first live-action Pokémon movie would look. That said, I don't remember much about the whole Pokémon boom of the late nineties other than the fact that the show was mildly entertaining as were the Game Boy games and I never got that damn holographic Charizard card. I'm not necessarily a big fan of the brand, but I was able to get into it for a little bit when everyone else was given I was in junior high at the time and all anyone was doing was playing the new N64 games Nintendo and The Pokémon Company were pumping out. How the brand is still viable so long after it catapulted into the zeitgeist twenty years ago is beyond me (and no, I didn't play Pokémon Go a couple of years ago), but as these things go it's clear as to why WB and Legendary would partner with The Pokémon Company to bring these monsters to life for the first time: global appeal, global dollars. Still, POKÉMON Detective Pikachu doesn't exactly seem the obvious route to go. The film is apparently based on a spin-off game that came out a few years ago in Japan. The Japanese version had an older, deeper voice actor performing the role of Pikachu, but for this Americanized version we have Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds. To hear this very distinctive voice coming out of this well-known character is a bit disorienting to be sure, but it will be interesting to see if Reynolds can condition audiences to look past his voice and believe it really is the character of Pikachu rather than Reynolds in a booth somewhere. The film concerns itself with an ace detective, Harry Goodman, who goes missing thus prompting his son, Tim (Justice Smith), to find out what happened to his father. The trailer tells us Tim is the only one who is able to actually understand Pikachu and thus the two of them partner up as Pikachu assists in Tim's investigation; the two of them piecing together clues through the streets of Ryme City. POKÉMON Detective Pikachu also stars Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, is directed by Rob Letterman (Goosebumps), and opens on May 10th, 2019.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY Review

It's not what you say, it's how you say it. It is this common expression that the rather simple and safe interpretation of the story of Queen that Bohemian Rhapsody tells might have benefited from remembering. In a nutshell, Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher's biopic covers the early years of Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and Roger Taylor's (Ben Hardy) band just before it recruits lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) and becomes known as Queen up through their 1985 performance at Live Aid that is considered one of the greatest performances in rock history. This is all well and good and makes sense for the arc of the band during its peak time of popularity, but within this arc Anthony McCarten's (The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour) screenplay never digs deep enough for audiences to really catch a glimpse of what actually defined Queen as a group or what made them, as a unit, so willing and trusting in one another to the extent they'd each be willing to bet everything on the titular song being a hit despite the fact a senior A&R exec with more experience than all of the members of Queen combined doesn't believe it to be. Of course, this is where one would retaliate with the, "fortune favors the bold," phrase that is also used in the movie and I'm not saying the members of Queen were wrong or stupid for doing this-obviously they weren't-or that the A&R exec was right-obviously he wasn't-but what I am saying is that Bohemian Rhapsody, the film, never gives the audience reason to trust in the word of Mercury, May, Taylor, and bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello) over this more experienced character outside of the fact it presumes the audience knows the story and music of Queen well enough to just go with it. And that's exactly what Bohemian Rhapsody does the majority of the time: it simply asks the audience to "go with it" as it rotates through the band's greatest hits and gives the expected beats of their meteoric rise, the inner tensions and turmoil that come with fame and notoriety, the distance that naturally grows between Mercury and the rest of his band mates, and their eventual reconciliation that leads to a triumphant return. It's all here, but the real disappointment with the story of Queen in particular is that it has so many unique variables and perspectives that this predictable pattern of the music biopic could have been used purely as a template while the actual style and substance of what was being communicated could have been fulfilled in more creative and effective ways. Instead, Bohemian Rhapsody is unapologetically "fine" and will largely be remembered for finding an excuse to play so many great songs on theater quality sound systems.