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.

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.

Venom Review

Tom Hardy Attempts to Salvage this Dumpster Fire of an Experiment, but while Venom is Certainly Bonkers, it's not Frequently Fun Enough.

Halloween Review

Director David Gordon Green Re-Invigorates the Halloween franchise by Erasing all Previous Sequels and Taking Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode in a New Direction.

The Hate U Give Review

This Adaptation of Angie Thomas' Timely YA Novel is as Eloquent as it is Angry with Performances Across the Board Elevating the Already Powerful Message.

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.

New Trailer for the Coen Brothers’ THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

While the first trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs debuted back in September prior to the films festival run it has still taken some time to come to terms with the fact that 1) we're getting a new Coen Brothers movie this year, but that 2) their latest endeavor will in large part be seen via Netflix. Given the prestige typically lauded upon Coen Brother films it feels oddly anachronistic in terms of the level of time and care put into the project and the level of time and care through which it will be consumed (for the most part anyway, Netflix is dropping it in a few theaters this Friday so as to be eligible for awards consideration). All of this is to say that while I would most definitely prefer to see a Coen Brothers movie on the big screen as opposed to my TV I also find it highly unlikely the film will play in any theaters around me and it will be unbelievably hard for me to not press play when a new Coen Brothers movie is at the convenience of my remote control. Either way things go it seems the Coens have ensured a hell of a good and rather beautiful time as they've constructed an anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West. This anthology of Western stories was originally planned as the Coens' first foray into television, but ultimately morphed into the feature length film at Netflix we have today. While it might have been interesting and easier to swallow had the Coens stuck to this original plan and delivered ten or so hours of content to be digested piece by piece rather than it feeling as if their next feature was being reduced to a television premiere this latest trailer certainly sells the appeal of what always makes the Coens' work so enthralling; this balance of comedy, drama, and violence that is as brutally funny as it is straight-up brutal. The cast is something to write home about as well as Tim Blake Nelson plays the titular Buster Scruggs and is accompanied by the likes of Tyne Daly, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Zoe Kazan, Harry Melling, Liam Neeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubinek, Tom Waits, Clancy Brown, Jefferson Mays, Stephen Root, and Willie Watson. The Balled of Buster Scruggs will receive a limited, one-week theatrical run starting November 8th before expanding globally in select US and European cities and premiering on Netflix November 16th, 2018.

THE HATE U GIVE Review

The Hate U Give might come off as a perfectly-timed opportunity given the "Black Lives Matter" movement and the unfortunate, consistent headlines that tell us a young, unarmed black individual was gunned down by a white police officer, but fortunately, director George "Notorious" Tillman's adaptation of the Angie Thomas novel is not an opportunistic publicity stunt aimed at an audience who are already well-aware of the points the film is making. Rather, The Hate U Give is a well-rounded and appropriately angry piece of filmmaking that tells of both these types of crimes and the reasons for the feeling of need for movements such as "Black Lives Matter" in our country at the moment.

Tillman luckily has a strong grasp on the multiple themes and rather epic scope of his film as Audrey Wells' adapted screenplay weaves in a multitude of challenges that face the black community outside of discrimination. Whether it be police brutality or white privilege or more universal issues that have become more associated with being black than is fair such as drug abuse, drug-dealing, and a lack of the traditional familial structure, Tillman is able to take each of these strands and weave them into a coherent narrative that, while maybe tying things up a bit too neatly at the end, is most admirable for admitting it doesn't have all the answers, but instead making plenty of suggestions on how to spark change.

HALLOWEEN Review

As much time has now passed between the original 1978 Halloween and star, original Scream Queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis' return to the role of Laurie Strode (though she did reprise her role in the original 1981 sequel) in 1998's Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later as it now has between H2O and 2018's Halloween. That is a long way of saying it's been forty years since writer/director John Carpenter first introduced us to "The Shape" otherwise known as Michael Myers, but it is also to point out that while Curtis' twenty-year reunion with her most famous character saw Strode as a woman on the run from her past, changing her name, concealing her identity, and attempting to move on while having raised a child in as much of a captive environment as possible director David Gordon Green's (George Washington, Pineapple Express) new film sees Strode as someone who has lived with the trauma of that single night for forty years and who has been waiting for an opportunity to take back what was stolen from her. It's admittedly both a rarity and an oddity to be able to see two different, but fully fleshed out interpretations of a single character and the aftermath of dealing with such a traumatic event, but it is in considering the different ways in which Strode's life might have unraveled as a result of that Halloween night in 1978 that Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley find their "in" in terms of how they can make their iteration of a Halloween sequel both different enough and justified enough for it to exist in the first place. In reality, we're dealing with a viewer's pick of alternate timelines based on preference and 2018's Halloween throws its hat in the ring by offering up the idea that everything that occurred in each of the seven sequels, including 1981's Halloween II that famously disclosed Laurie Strode was Michael Myers' long-lost baby sister, ever happened. No longer is anything canon except for what went down in the only installment Carpenter himself directed. And so, with that, Michael Myers no longer has a familial connection to Strode and thus no reason to make her his mission. This opens up the possibility for 2018's Halloween to simply be about a cold-blooded serial killer who murders at random because he's a monster following his impulses whereas Curtis' Strode is now the one who has built-up this connection between herself and Myers and sees it as her destiny that the two of them might once again come face to face. That Strode is more attached to Myers than he is her is the "in" Green needed to bring a fresh perspective to this endlessly re-made and ret-conned horror franchise, but it is with this twist on the original, principle character that not only do we get fertile new territory to explore, but we get to genuinely and sometimes gruesomely see the process of Laurie Strode truly taking back what was taken from her all those years ago.

First Trailer for THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING Starring Rebecca Ferguson

Writer/director Joe Cornish returns to the big screen next year with his first feature since 2011's Attack the Block (which, if you haven't seen it, see it now) with The Kid Who Would Be King about a band of kids who embark on an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace. The film was originally scheduled to open this September, but obviously that didn't work out. If this first look at the film is any indication though, it seems to have had nothing to do with the quality of the product, but more the timing of it all. What is interesting about this is that studios seem to be beginning to remember there is an entire market out there of kids between the ages of nine and fifteen who don't really care to be relegated to only animated films (as good as the computer generated images may be) and shouldn't be operating on a steady diet of only comic book movies. Or, as Scott Mendelson so wisely phrased it, "over the last 15 years, the PG-13, the four-quadrant global blockbuster has supplanted the adult melodrama and the kid-targeted fantasy as the go-to pick for all demographics." And so, while The Kid Who Would Be King was originally set to open on the same weekend as Eli Roth's The House with a Clock in Its Walls I'm happy to have to wait a few more months so see Cornish's long-awaited follow-up so as to have it potentially reach a bigger audience than see it be buried under a higher-profile film in the same genre fishing for the same audience. The Kid Who Would Be King looks like the kind of movie that thrived in that time we're all nostalgic for now and if Cornish, who wrote and  directed this, is able to create a new adventure film based on the template of King Arthur and the knights of the round table with plenty a creative twists for the current generation to become nostalgic for in another twenty-five years, well then, all the more power to him. Given the current cinematic climate, all this generation will have to be nostalgic for are less than stellar reboots of what the previous generation was nostalgic for anyway. Well, those and Marvel movies. This is all to say the first trailer for the film looks like an ad for a movie filled with wonder and that is sure to be a ton of fun. Here's hoping it was worth the wait, Joe. The Kid Who Would Be King stars Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart, Tom Taylor, Ashbourne Serkis, Rhianna Dorris, Dean Chaumoo, Denise Gough, Angus Imrie, and opens stateside on March 1st, 2019.

FIRST MAN Review

Are you rushing or are you dragging? This quote from the most famous scene of director Damien Chazelle's second feature, Whiplash, kept coming to the forefront of my mind as I sat and took in his latest project-a project that, on the surface-feels radically different from anything the guy has done before. While Chazelle has carved out his niche by making films as influenced by the music that shape them as they are the pictures that compose them the closest thing First Man has to a musical number is a tease that Neil Armstrong was a fairly good piano player and that he might have written a musical with a friend in college. Are you rushing or are you dragging though? This line of dialogue from music instructor Fletcher via J.K. Simmons reoccurred to me though, due to the fact that this time around, in his fourth feature, Chazelle couldn't quite seem to figure out what tempo he wanted to keep. That is to say, there is this grand juxtaposition in First Man between the sections in which we're fully engulfed in the development of the NASA missions and the defining of the procedures and the role Ryan Gosling's Armstrong played in these decisions and then there is the home life of Armstrong, a visually warmer, but still very cold atmosphere that this man inhabits due largely to the fact he is still grieving and dealing with the death of his young daughter-even years after she has passed away. On their own, both serve as equally compelling narratives about a man in crisis each trying to figure out how to overcome something that has both never been done before and something they've never had to deal with or ever dreamt of having to deal with before. And sometimes, when these two disparate environments if not similar situations in regards to their circumstances come together they do so in effective ways; one crossing over with the other creating a broader picture of the layers that not only played into the daily lives of these men, these engineers, these astronauts, but into the lives of their wives (both Claire Foy and Olivia Hamilton are stand-outs in two different types of supportive roles), and their families. There is a particular instance dealing in how "good" the Armstrong's once were at attending funerals as a result of the line of work Neil was in, but while certain moments feel layered and others pop due largely to the stakes at hand there is an inconsistent tone to the overall piece where many sequences dealing in the moon missions feel as if they're rushing given the sheer amount of information screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight) is trying to cover while the more personal, introspective moments at home tend to drag in an honest attempt to truly convey Armstrong's mental and emotional processes. Fortunately, by the end, Chazelle is able to haul his intentions over these hurtles and merge the contrasting tones to create a moment that is both visually and emotionally monumental.