Coco Review

Disney and Pixar Have Crafted Yet Another Moving Tale of Love and Family Through Familiar Beats, but with Unparalleled Execution.

Justice League Review

The DCEU has Shifted From Fascinating Critical Backfires to Bland, Vanilla Filmmaking with their First Super Friends Adventure.

Wonder Review

Based on RJ Palacio's New York Times Best Seller Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky and a Winning Cast Remind the World How far a Little Kindness Can Go.

Thor: Ragnarok Review

Director Taika Waititi brings Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder into the Current Marvel Phase with a Standard Structure, but some Hilariously Inspired Moments.

Daddy's Home 2 Review

Stars Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell Reunite in this Unnecessary Sequel, but are Charming Enough to Provide Reliable if not Quality Entertainment.

First Trailer for JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM

I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of the Jurassic Park franchise, but I enjoy them well enough. I can remember being ecstatic about finally getting to rent the third, non-Spielberg directed installment, when it arrived on DVD because my parents weren't big fans of going to the movies (and with five kids, I get it), but my excitement mainly came from finally being old enough to see one of these movies I'd heard so much about and been too young to see before. I saw snippets of the original throughout the years, but never watched the trilogy as a whole until buying the blu-ray box set a few years back. I also revisited the original when it was re-released in theaters three years ago and though I haven't re-watched Colin Trevorrow's (Safety Not Guaranteed) Jurassic World since seeing it on the IMAX screen upon its initial release, but I simply remember having a lot of fun with the movie, not worrying too much about logistics or details, but simply becoming wrapped up in the experience of it all. I genuinely liked and enjoyed the film upon seeing it and will definitely make time to re-watch it prior to venturing out to see director J.A. Bayona's (The Impossible, A Monster Calls) follow-up in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.  Bayona is a director who can work with big scales on comparitvely smaller budgets and while both of his previous films have left me a little lukewarm (though I did enjoy A Monster Calls more than The Impossible, so maybe he'll only continue to get better) I look forward to seeing what the filmmaker can do with as big a budget as he was no doubt granted here. All of this taken into account, this first teaser for Fallen Kingdom is visually magnificent with the aesthetic overall looking slick and impressive while it be hard to argue the dinosaurs themselves have ever looked better. What is really important though is tone and the tone of the trailer is keen to let the audience know what they're in for here. This doesn't look to be little more than a rehash of an earlier film or something that is retreading old ground, but while some have balked at the idea of the premise it only seems a natural progression of what might have come next in the real world. Not that I wasn't ever going to be, but I'm on board and can't wait to see this on the biggest screen possible. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, James Cromwell, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Geraldine Chaplin, Daniella Pineda, Toby Jones, Rafe Spall, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum, and opens on June 22nd, 2018.

THE POST Review

The Post is as much a movie as it is a strict documentation of a sequence of events that deal in something as fleeting as time and the importance man places upon the construct of time. Time, by all definitions, is a mental construct used to make sense of movement. There is a great sense of the collusion between time and movement in the latest from director Steven Spielberg and how what man has created to help maintain order can also spin us into the very midst of confusion as chaos is so often categorized. Simply by defining how long something has the potential to be powerful or life-changing we set ourselves up for large successes or failures. It is no surprise then that Spielberg focuses not on the passage of time or how this fleeting thing called life is formed against the backdrop of the time we just so happen to have been born into or exist within, but rather how time is what we do with it. What defines our lives and the time we are able to spend on this earth is not simply how we make it through one day to get to the next, but by the actions we take, the strides we make, and the deadlines we set for ourselves and either meet or don't. It's a thesis based on the hope that nobility is a prized possession in any viewer that sits down to take in history as told by the movies. This thesis of sorts is meant to both stir something deep within for the pride in one's country that allows for, "the press to serve the governed, not the governors," while at the same time utilizing this message to remind us all that history undoubtedly repeats itself. One would be remiss to go through a full discussion around The Post without mentioning its relevancy, but more so-its poignancy-in relation to the present state of the world and the leaders that are in power; utilizing their power for personal gain and favorable poll numbers rather than in the interest of world peace. Our present day is not the world the characters in The Post thought they were shaping or being bold enough to attempt to usher society into and while Spielberg makes no direct indication of his intent the opportunistic quality of the project is enough to suggest as much. It would be futile to not mention such obvious parallels and why this film in particular feels more like a product of today despite taking place forty-six years ago. This isn't a negative in terms of how it plays throughout the narrative either, but is more a return to this idea of time, time as a construct, and how it isn't a neat and tidy sequence of events one can always apply a narrative to, but something that is forever reminding us, the human race, what we must do and what values we must continue to uphold in order to ensure our continued survival. The Post may not exactly be a revelatory piece of work, but it is certainly a direct and not so gentle reminder there has to be examples of the best of us in the worst of times.

WONDER WHEEL Review

One might summarize Wonder Wheel, this year's offering by the prolific Woody Allen, as being the epitome of what many would call, "meh." "Meh" is what one would call expressing a lack of interest or enthusiasm. "Meh" is what one could define as uninspiring or unexceptional and in the pantheon of Allen-produced films over the past fifty years Wonder Wheel certainly falls into the category of "meh". That said, the visual elements that see legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Last Tango in Paris) shooting Allen's fifties-set melodrama like it were a postcard where the colors are saturated to the point they are about to burst off the screen are fantastic and serve to be the only thing that is somewhat memorable about Allen's latest effort. The sweeping sequences that involve Storaro's re-creation of Coney Island that is partly comprised of practical effects, part location B-roll, and other part full-on digital trickery would seem to encourage the movie to immerse the viewer in this setting and yet, even as the strongest facet of the film, the location serves as little more than a backdrop. A backdrop for yet another of Allen's explorations of the kinds of characters made famous in the likes of Tennessee Williams works that he's already explored in Blue Jasmine and has probably explored multiple times before that, but my Allen filmography knowledge gets a little spotty prior to 2005 sans the obvious stand-outs. What I kind of expected from Wonder Wheel given Justin Timberlake's (yes, Justin Timberlake is your Woody Allen stand-in this time around) delivery of certain lines in the trailer was that of an homage of sorts to (or even parody of) the big melodramas of yesteryear where the actors were performing with a knowing sense of what they were going for and of letting the audience in on the fact of what they were going for. Were this true and we, the audience, ended up laughing with the movie instead of at the movie it might feel like a completely difference experience, but as it is Wonder Wheel is a movie out of touch with what it should be and what it needed to be in order to pull-off what it seemingly wanted to be. But hey, it really is visually stunning, so there's that.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 5, 2017

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER Review

My first experience with a Yorgos Lanthimos film came two years ago when, in a spur of the moment decision, I decided to see what The Lobster was all about while attending my first Toronto International Film Festival. I walked out of that film a little mystified and largely confused about what I'd just experienced and, looking back, that was undoubtedly appropriate. While I wasn't overly fond of the film I found myself thinking about it day after day in what likely ended up being the film my brain latched onto the most out of that festival as far as contemplating what it meant and how it was crafted. There were other films I liked more, but I was more than fascinated with The Lobster. Months later, I found myself eager to purchase the Blu-ray when the film arrived on home video and eager to re-watch what had perplexed me to see if I might gain new perspective or insight. I made it through about half of the film before it started to feel like this great concept that Lanthimos was tracking began to wear thin. Funnily enough, this is similar to the experience I've now had with Lanthimos' follow-up, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, as well. To this end is to say that, while it's best to go into the film cold, it's hard to know what to expect even if you have seen a trailer or read the synopsis. With either kind of expectation the first forty or so minutes of the film prove to be especially engaging. There is a frankness to the whole affair that is rather shocking while at the same time wholly engulfing due to the fact these characters can and do say literally anything that is on their minds at any given moment of conversation. While the basic character dynamics are established within the realm of this first hour there is still no real indication as to why it's vital to know who these people are or why they're in each other's lives. Moreover, Lanthimos is crafting this off-kilter universe where we, as a race, still operate under the same societal structures (which you couldn't say about The Lobster), but our behavior as such is completely altered. In this type of scenario one can't help but to be naturally intrigued as to what the hook with such a set-up might be, but as it comes to be in The Killing of a Sacred Deer I would have much rather been allowed to just exist in this strange world for, as soon as the general conflict kicks in, the rest of the film feels largely senseless and hollow. 

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Review

In the first scene of writer/director Martin McDonagh's (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) new film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Mildred Pierce (Frances McDormand) drives past three billboards that are falling apart on an old road outside the titular small town she lives in that no one has used since the freeway opened. Hell, the last time a company even utilized the billboards for actual advertising was Huggies in the mid-eighties. Due to the contemplative look on Mildred's face we know the inciting incident is set to occur at any moment, but more important is the fact we take in the appearance of Mildred. Her hair is down, her clothes rather casual, and while Mildred never seems like she was ever the kid of woman to get too made-up, she looks to be in a certain place in her life that, while not peaceful, is one where she's come to terms with the reality of her situation. You see, Mildred's daughter was murdered a year or so prior to the beginning of the film and the investigation by her local police department seems to have waned over time-Mildred stating she hadn't heard a peep from them in at least seven months-prompting her to take matters into her own hands, but not in the manner of a revenge fantasy a la The Punisher or a recent Quentin Tarantino flick, but more in the vein of calling out those responsible for seeking her daughter's killer and rapist and holding them accountable for failing at their civil responsibilities. If you've seen the trailers you know Mildred does this by renting the three aforementioned billboards to send a very clear message to the Ebbing police department, calling out Police Chief George Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) in particular. Once Mildred goes through with this though, her look changes and, in turn, so must her mentality. No more does Mildred ever look as casual as she does in that first scene. No more does it feel as if Mildred might ever be at peace with what has occurred in her life. Rather, from the end of this scene on through to the end of the movie Mildred pulls her hair up into a tight ponytail, the back of her neck now shaved as if to say she has no frills about what she's doing. Never again do we see her in public with her hair down or her wearing anything resembling khaki or flannel, but rather Mildred only wears her industrial work uniform and bandana. This outward exterior that takes no crap from no one is key to her surviving the ramifications that come from her actions and the complexities she didn't expect as a result of those actions. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri takes on this exterior as well, but don't be fooled as this is one of the most brutal, funny, dark, sad, and best movies of the year.

LADY BIRD Review

There is a line in Lady Bird that goes, “different things can be sad. It’s not all war!” Which not only served to make me feel more validated in times of my own sadness despite knowing there are countless others who have much more to complain about than myself, but this line of dialogue also kind of reassured me that all kinds of films could be great-not just the serious dramas that carry a weight of self-importance. Maybe Lady Bird does this somewhat intentionally as it knows its target audience will be the twenty to thirty-somethings that grew up in the early aughts as depicted in the film, largely compiled of the more artistic and individualistic states of mind that flock to such indie fare, who will inevitably contemplate if a coming-of-age comedy, such as Lady Bird, can be as great a film as anything else they've seen this year despite not necessarily being about something as earth-shatteringly important as other movies undoubtedly will be. Maybe writer and first-time director Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America) understood who her audience would be and wanted to reassure them of the safe intellectual zone where it would be okay to praise her debut to levels of near perfection it ultimately wouldn't be able to match triggering the inevitable backlash that she would blindly blow past due to her effortless charm. Maybe Gerwig recognized all of this in the midst of writing the film and decided to consciously insert this line of reassurance reminding all of us that it's okay to love her movie as much as you admire whatever Steven Spielberg or Paul Thomas Anderson are putting out this awards season, or maybe she was simply re-living a feeling from her youth when someone made her feel small about something she felt was really big. Either way, the fact of the matter is that Lady Bird, while admittedly specific to a certain demographic of the population (I'm all for diversity, but that doesn't mean we have to denounce films where there isn't as much we think there could be), is not just a straightforward coming-of-age movie, but one that is more about the navigation of that period in life that does the seemingly impossible task of collecting all these moments and disparate elements that no doubt each felt like defining moments in Gerwig's own adolescence and brings them together in a film that allows each to permeate throughout the entirety of the movie while at the same time shaping a thorough, comprehensive picture of our titular character.

THE FLORIDA PROJECT Review

There is a sense of uneducation that comes with viewing The Florida Project. It seems as if director Sean Baker (who broke out with 2015's Tangerine, but actually has three prior features to his credit) is intent on showing audiences that the magic of the cinema can exist without the typical three act structure that Hollywood films have conditioned audiences to expect and it's not that other films haven't done the same thing or attempted to prove as much, but this seems a point of real effort and focus on the part of The Florida Project. That isn't to say the picture becomes sidetracked or caught up in this endeavor, but rather that it makes for an interesting take when going into the film. This won't even necessarily hinder expectations, but it is a facet of the film that is to be observed in terms of craft as the film slyly deconstructs our expectation of what a movie is supposed to be by showing that such a product can still be engaging and entertaining while not necessarily delivering an outright objective for our protagonist to accomplish by the time the hour and forty-five minute mark hits. Rather, The Florida Project is a beautiful rendering of childhood on the fringes with the central subjects not necessarily being aware of their surroundings or situations, but more it addresses how the innocence of childhood tends to take away any association of status and instead replaces it with the simplicity of making the most of what one has to work with. In this way, The Florida Project accomplishes the difficult feat of being both incredibly light and fun in the way it elicits smiles from the audience as we witness the preciousness of youth while being simultaneously just as heartbreaking when it comes to the realization of the reality these people are living. It is a testament to innocence in many ways as the film exercises this abandonment of structure by chronicling the adventures of three six to seven year-old's during the summer months as they live just outside Orlando and in the shadow of Disney World-the happiest place on earth. It abandons structure because these children know nothing of such a thing in their lives while what comes to pass is absolutely necessary, undoubtedly for the best, but also incredibly emotional because of the nearly two-hour journey we've just experienced with these characters. It's a chronicling of that transition from innocence to experience in many ways, but this isn't the focus of the film and neither is the backdrop of this poverty-stricken community, but rather it is the wonder and hope that makes childhood universal and, in turn, The Florida Project so affecting.

Official Trailer for AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

In what will be ten years to the weekend after Iron Man arrived in theaters in May of 2008 we will see the (first part of the) culmination of the first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's hard to believe we've been living in this world for a decade now when, looking back, those beginnings were so humble. I clearly remember sitting in the theater not knowing what to expect from Iron Man, but mainly being excited that a new The Dark Knight trailer was playing before it. Oh, how the tables have turned as we come off the lukewarm reaction and success of the rushed Justice League and see what time, patience, and care have done for the MCU with our first glimpse at Joe and Anthony Russo's Infinity War. Bringing together all of Marvel's heroes has always been ambitious, but as the MCU-train has rolled on and the roster only continued to expand it has become more and more curious as to how Kevin Feige and the Russo's might bring this all together in a cohesive manner. If this first trailer is any indication it seems they have done so with real charm and scale. There isn't a lot of details plot-wise, but there are enough shots to suggest that, if you've been following along with the previous MCU films, many of the strands from previous films will be, if not resolved, at least touched upon in this first part of what will ultimately be a two-part finale. I honestly can't get over how this trailer has made me feel. It made more hairs on my arm stand up than do in that shot of Peter Parker experiencing his Spider sense. Spider-Man's suit looks amazing, Black Panther's line in regards to Captain America is fantastic, and that music...that music is really paying off for Marvel. Good for you, Alan Silvestri. The visual scope also looks to fit the number of characters which has been something of a shortcoming for Marvel in the past with many of their films feeling great, but looking flat. The location shots among the sprawling green planes of Wakanda lend a sense of true epicness and that final tag, that final tag is just perfect. I seriously can't wait. Avengers: Infinity War stars Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Zoe Saldana, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner, Cobie Smulders, Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Pom Klementieff, Dae Bautista, Josh Brolin, Paul Bettany, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Benicio Del Toro, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, and opens May 4th, 2018.