The Fate of the Furious Review

The Eighth Film in this Mega-Successful Franchise is as Big and Entertaining as Ever, but it's Beginning to Feel Like it's Spinning its Wheels.

The Circle Review

Even the Likes of Emma Watson and Tom Hanks Aren't Able to Bring Up this Cautionary Tale that Doesn't Seem Sure of the Message it Wants to Convey.

Beauty and the Beast Review

Director Bill Condon and an Impressive Cast Re-Imagine the Classic 1991 Disney Animated Film to Serviceable if not Significant Effect.

Gifted Review

Director Marc Webb and Stars Chris Evans and McKenna Grace Deliver a Familiar Tale with Fresh Zeal Resulting in One of My Favorite Films of the Year.

Going in Style Review

While the Film itself is Anything but Exceptional the Pedigreed Cast Lend the Picture an Incredible Amount of Charm nad Fun.

THE CIRCLE Review

Not everyone is going to like you. That is a lesson today's society could stand to appreciate a little more if not learn, but that doesn't mean that's going to stop people from trying. Wanting to be liked isn't inherently a bad thing, but when we depend on "Likes" to sustain our own sense of self-worth, when we're living off "Likes" there could certainly be one or two issues pop up. When we live through the persona we've created online and reach a point we can't identify our true selves then what people like isn't actually the individual anymore anyway, so where do we draw the line? How can this age of transparency be utilized in positive ways rather than resorting to fake or devious methods to again try and prove that some lives are more valuable or more special than others? In The Circle Emma Watson plays a young, presumably middle glass girl in her early twenties who goes to work for a tech company a la Google called The Circle and essentially becomes their poster child for transparency. Submitting herself to the line of thinking that she can only be her best self when she knows people are watching her; that to leave her to her own devices would mean that she would develop and keep secrets and to harbor secrets is to have something to lie about to the world. Sound slightly cult-ish? It's supposed to, but while the tech company that is The Circle clearly has ulterior motives for their extreme invasions of privacy that they so lovingly convey as being concerns for the greater good of mankind The Circle the movie doesn't seem as clear on what its motives or meanings are supposed to be. On one hand there is certainly an analogy at play for the world as presented in the film when compared to that of the social media-driven culture we're all currently a part of, but while Facebook can still plead connection and bringing people together as their main objective it is so blatantly obvious that The Circle seeks world domination that it's past the point of believable someone hasn't called them on their bluff already. Furthermore, the film builds in a fashion where the audience is led to believe there is going to be a major twist, a serious maneuver of innovation over intelligence, a battle of wits for the ages, but when such metaphoric beans come to be spilled there is hardly any cohesion to the point our protagonist makes. Watson's Mae Holland uses The Circle's tools against its nefarious leaders, but she has no point, no position, and all we're left with is a clouded message of a movie that goes nowhere.

GIFTED Review

I was reading a piece last week by Jaime Weinman for Vox that talked about a shift in film criticism recently and how critics have become more socially conscious than ever. While the piece is an interesting assertion of how many movies of late have come to be judged as much for their ethics as their art there was one particular section that took me by surprise and stuck with me. In a section titled "The end of Kaelism" Weinman says, "A work of art — serious or popular — isn't supposed to be judged by how much you agree with it, but by how it makes you feel and whether it can convince you of its validity." The context of this quote is key as the writer was discussing the approach of critics such as legendary New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, the man who invented the auteur theory, as critics who ultimately sported an "art-for-art's-sake approach to culture." I was reminded of this approach, this train of thought, as I sat watching the latest from director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man). I was struck by the fact that despite recognizing the predictable tropes utilized in Gifted that I was really, really into the story and that despite the clichés of the courtroom drama Webb's techniques were overcoming them in a way that was delivering a film, a piece of art, that made me feel good; that made me appreciate movies for showing me what they can do. How they can move you. I went into Gifted expecting something along the lines of a sappy, Hallmark-style melodrama with better actors and production design, but within the first fifteen minutes Gifted had convinced me of its validity — it had convinced me of its sincerity that was ingrained in its otherwise competent execution. Sure, many will dismiss Gifted for being the type of film that is emotionally manipulative because it wouldn't be mad if you shed a few tears and/or formulaic in the way that the premise is an old cliché that has been used before (specifically in 1991's Little Man Tate which I haven't seen, but more or less sounds like the same movie), but just because a movie might indeed be full of cliché or admittedly formulaic doesn't mean it's automatically bad. Webb is able to tell this recognizable story in ways that allow it to pop. The director and screenwriter, Tom Flynn, are able to prove certain tropes aren't always bad and that doing the opposite isn't always good by delivering all that is predictable and formulaic about Gifted with a warm and wholly wonderful sincerity that comes straight from the heart.

FREE FIRE Review

"Everyone's from somewhere," says gun runner Vernon shortly after his introduction in director Ben Wheatley's (Kill List, High-Rise) Free Fire. Vernon, as played by South African native Sharlto Copley, is observing the plethora of people who have ascended upon an abandoned warehouse in Boston in 1978 to buy some of his guns. These people come from all over; some from Ireland, others from America, and further there are those of different ethnicities to be considered. This melting pot of participants bring history, prejudice, and a laundry list of assumptions about one another to the table. These preconceptions inform the tone of where each individual might register in the likelihood of who they're going to snap at and could potentially inform us of how this particular scenario was going to play out even before it did, but instead such quirks are only relied on for humor. Each of these men, these proud, overcompensating men tell us the clichés of their ancestry and fire insults back and forth with one another that same heritage being the punchline of most of them. Given the odd amount of time devoted to jokes and jabs about it, we assume there might be a point to it all in that they come to see past the error of such ways and that despite what someone might have heard or been told about a culture that it doesn't necessarily apply to all or that, at the very least, the stereotype might be something of an embellished truth. But no, Wheatley along with co-writer and frequent collaborator Amy Jump have no time for depth, leaving such ideas on the table and only using those clichés and stereotypes for the aforementioned comedic purposes. That isn't to say that a film can't have fun and be good while having no substance whatsoever, but it is saying that if this is the route your movie chooses to go it better be damn good at accomplishing what it sets out to accomplish and Free Fire just isn't. The idea is there, that is clear. The ambition is admirable, no doubt. Still, Free Fire never seems able to reach the heights of what Wheatley or Jump likely had in their heads when they were writing and storyboarding the project. Having only seen High-Rise prior to this and not being a fan of that film there might be an inherent hesitance toward the director's work, but there seems an obvious disconnect between the idea that spawned such a movie and the execution that has delivered the disappointing final product we see play out on screen.

THE LOST CITY OF Z Review

The Lost City of Z is a twenty year epic that essentially chronicles the fine line between ambition and irresponsibility. It's an illustration of how one must gauge the ramifications of their actions in the long run to better determine that present decision. In The Lost City of Z we are told the story of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) a man who became obsessed with finding what no one around him believed could be true. It wasn't always the driving force in his life, when we meet Fawcett he is simply looking to restore the respect of his name, but as his life evolves and opportunities arise he develops a need or more, the ambition, to discover the unknown that he knows is out there. Even as his wife (a wonderful Sienna Miller) waits at home for him raising what amounts to be their three children. Fawcett is gone for years at a time when on his expeditions and given those twenty years take place between 1905 and 1925 his younger children often forget who he is by the time he returns. The questions Fawcett eventually has to come to terms with are those of if the lost years with his children and wife were worth what was on the other side of the world? It would seem, as the movie tells it, that they were. That there was no letting go of this need to know the unknown and that even if he had done so in favor of remaining with his family for the rest of his days that those final days would have undoubtedly been tinged with regret. It's a difficult position to be in emotionally; knowing you should likely do one thing in favor of the other, but realizing that itch is never going to go way until you scratch it. As a film, this is the angle director James Gray takes in choosing to convey the story of Percy Fawcett. A true story of a man who displays fearlessness from the beginning, a selfishness necessary to leave a certain type of legacy, and a mentality that fully surrenders to the idea that death is the best sauce for life. This may all sound beyond enticing and rather mysterious, but The Lost City of Z is a rather straight-forward and old fashioned adventure movie that delivers its ruminations in subtle enough fashion that an impression is left even if the adventures themselves aren't as grand as one might imagine if they know Fawcett's story before going into the film.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 25, 2017

Full Trailer for KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Last week we received a brief, 16-second teaser for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. This is the follow-up to the wildly successful Kingsman: The Secret Service from 2014 with director Matthew Vaughn returning for what will be his first sequel despite two other films he's directed having spawned follow-ups. So, what is it about the world of the Kingsman that made Vaughn want to return? It seems to be the fact there is so much more to explore here whereas Vaughn knew that what he had to say about Kick-Ass and the X-Men universe was more or less complete in his films. With Kingsman, which, like Kick-Ass, is based on a Mark Millar graphic novel, the filmmaker seemingly only scratched the surface of the world in which this secret service organization exists and the sequel is certainly expanding that world. Bringing in a host of big name newcomers The Golden Circle sees the Kingsman's headquarters being destroyed and the world coming under siege forcing Taron Edgerton's Eggsy and the the rest of the gang on a journey that leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. These two elite secret organizations must band together to defeat a common enemy. While an added layer to an already familiar operation is always an exciting facet in a sequel it would appear that, from this trailer, Vaughn and his crew have really upped the ante in this second film by not simply adding more characters, but by genuinely expanding the scope of the universe in which these kinds of individuals can exist with not all of them falling under the same category of being slick-suited super-spies. Rather, we get a fair amount of footage of Channing Tatum sporting Americana to the brim while essentially being the U.S.'s answer to Britain's Eggsy. I was a big fan of the original and am a big fan of Vaughn's work in general so I'm hoping that given he's finally decided to make a sequel that this turns out to be well worth the time and creativity invested. Kingsman: The Golden Circle also stars Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Sophie Cookson, Mark Strong, Michael Gambon, Colin Firth, and opens on September 29th, 2017.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2017

Due to some unfortunate circumstances in my professional life I was unable to make a list of my most anticipated films of the year so I'm happy to have had the time to scour the release calendar for the summer and get to know a little better what we'll be seeing in theaters over the next few months. The summer movie season is always one of my favorite times of the year because it seems people outside those of us who consistently devour movies seem to make a big deal of what's opening at the theater each week. And when it's something the masses are interested in it feels like a celebration and no matter how crappy or generic some of these movies might be that attract the masses-I can't help but smile about people finding joy and excitement in the cinema. I've always prided myself on trying to find a balance between big-budget and indie fare whereas a large number of well-renowned or even fairly compensated critics tend to dismiss the blockbusters and adore the smaller, intimate movies without hesitation. I like to try and think in terms of objectives and how well a movie accomplishes the objectives it sets out to accomplish by the end of the film and I find this especially critical when approaching summer movies. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily more excited for Transformers: The Last Knight than I am something like It Comes at Night, but rather that I'm interested in both of them for very different, albeit intriguing reasons. While neither of those titles will be on my list I would place director Trey Edward Shults follow-up to Krisha within my personal top fifteen alongside the likes of Alien: Covenant, Luc Besson's Valerian, the strangely appealing The Hitman's Bodyguard, as well as the latest from Sofia Coppola in The Beguiled which I could see breaking out with the current stock of Nicole Kidman rising (though it has a lot of tough indie competition this year). Elsewhere, you won't find the likes of The Mummy or King Arthur on my list (I appreciate Guy Ritchie, but just can't seem to muster any enthusiasm for this familiar tale) and neither of the animated threequels that will make bajillions of dollars in Despicable Me 3 and Cars 3. Like I said though, I'm by no means opposed to unabashed blockbusters as is evidenced in my number ten pick...

Teaser Trailer for AMERICAN ASSASSIN

Lionsgate and CBS Films have released a first look at their feature adaptation for the late Vince Flynn's long-running series that centers around character Mitch Rapp. While I haven't personally read any of Flynn's novels there are apparently a lot of people who do. Each one of Flynn's fifteen (fifteen!) novels that are set in the world of counter terrorism and feature Rapp have been a New York Times best-seller, the three most recent entries having gone to number one, with the series as a whole having sold nearly 20 million copies to date. While we're on the subject, it seems American Assassin is actually the eleventh book in Flynn's series, but the first chronologically. This makes sense as to why the studio would then cast Dylan O'Brien in the lead role at the ripe old age of twenty-five as they are no doubt hoping this film might potentially kick-off a profitable franchise for them. All of that taken into consideration, this teaser for American Assassin is quite terrific and promises everything one could hope for from a piece of genre filmmaking like this. Director Michael Cuesta made one of the more underseen investigative procedural's and all-around underrated films of three years ago with Kill the Messenger and with the tone of the story he's working with here as well as an screenplay adapted by the likes of Michael Finch (Predators), Marshall Herskovitch (The Last Samurai), Stephen Schiff (The Americans), and director Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond) it would seem Cuesta might be able to bring that same sense of urgency, suspense, and intrigue that he did with his last feature. Here's to hoping this is more along the lines of Christopher McQuarrie's Jack Reacher than that of Zwick's lackluster sequel from last year. American Assassin also stars Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar, Taylor Kitsch,and opens on September 15, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 18, 2017

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

After a huge March where we essentially saw would-be blockbusters open every week April has been relatively quiet since. That is, until now as the eighth installment in the ever-expanding The Fast amd the Furious franchise opened on Friday and raced to a record-setting debut weekend. The first film in the franchise post-Paul Walker and things are dark for Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto and his team. Not only were fans of the series curious as to where these characters might go next after the departure of their brother, but with the twist that Dom had all of a sudden gone rogue fans seemed even more enticed by what might have caused such a shift in the wake of everything and everyone finally being at peace. While The Fate of the Furious didn't come anywhere close to besting the domestic debut of Furious 7 ($147 million) this eighth chapter in the street car saga was still able to top $100 million easily leading the Easter weekend charge and becoming the second 2017 release thus far to top the $100 million mark. The big headline of the weekend though was that on top of its solid domestic debut, The Fate of the Furious also opened in over 60 international markets where it brought in a record total of $432.3 million which, when combined with the domestic total, comes out to another record total of $532.5 million worldwide. The first number breaking the international opening record and the second breaking the worldwide debut record. This worldwide record was previously held by Star Wars: The Force Awakens with $529 million, but as of this past weekend the latest installment of The Fast and the Furious was bigger that the latest installment of Star Wars. Needless to say, the plans for a ninth and tenth film in the franchise, currently set for release in 2019 and 2021, are no-brainers as there seems to be no slowing down this franchise-at least not in terms of profitability. That's all for this week, but as always be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week!