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.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT Review

The Lazarus Effect feels like it should be a cheap horror film. It is the end of February, there hasn't been much of a marketing scheme and it tops out at a brisk hour and twenty-three minutes. With those factors taken into consideration I wondered what might have drawn the likes of talent such as Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass to the project not to mention a supporting cast that includes Evan Peters and Donald Glover. There had to be a little something more to this if not for names of this stature to get involved, but for the fact these names usually represent some kind of interesting tendencies. Duplass especially as not only does the guy star in an outright hilarious sitcom, but has written, directed and starred in more than a handful of very indie-feeling films that generally receive good reviews. So, what was it about this very obvious-looking genre film that made it acceptable for each of these actors to dip out of their known niche and into something that might otherwise come off a little second-rate? Well, for starters there is the fact it comes to us courtesy of director David Gelb who made Jiro Dreams of Sushi which was a rather acclaimed documentary four years ago and was co-penned by Jeremy Slater who was picked up to write the Fantastic Four re-boot for Josh Trank. Coming at the film from this more optimistic perspective one can see early on what the attraction might have been for the actors. Most who come to the art form of acting likely have more consistent existential crises than the majority of us and The Lazarus Effect gets the point across fairly quickly that it wants to mess around with some big questions whether it is ready for the big answers or not. There is discussion about the after-life, metaphoric implications of what exists after we die might mean as represented by the lives we lead as well as good ol' talk about the precautions of playing God in a laboratory. The good is there is plenty of interesting topics to latch onto here, the bad is that the film doesn't give itself room to breathe and really explore any of its topics much less focus on a main thought.

FOCUS Review

I faced something of a conundrum with Focus as I was really rooting for it and yet I'm wondering if I enjoyed the film more because it wasn't as all over the board as it seemed to be or if it's because it's genuinely pretty fun. There is also the case of Will Smith. Smith is one of those personalities I feel like I've known my entire life and that I've grown up with. And like many, I've acquired an affinity for the actor/rapper over the years and have been happy to support him in his mega-stardom and remain hopeful when he delivers bombs like After Earth. If anything, anyone who is, was or might still be a Smith fan was looking to Focus to redeem our hope in big Willie's style and get the guy back on track, back to where he needed to be both at this point in his life and career. For me, that was the aura surrounding this film and it felt good because Smith had never looked cleaner and the film had all the same slick edges to it that seemed to match Smith pound for pound in its style. Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love) these guys are the first ones in what seems like too long that actually know how to use Smith in what he does best. In Focus there are plenty of pretty people wearing what are no doubt outrageously expensive clothing in exotic locations, but it is the confidence of Smith not only in his appearance, but in the way he conducts himself and his ability to portray all of that effortlessly with a sense of cool to match that keeps him our main point of, well, focus. And so, despite being concerned I was coming at the film from something of a biased perspective (though really, I have no reason to) I can't help but feel it follows through on what it promised in that it's a stylish con man thriller in the vein of not only pulling one over on its characters, but the audience as well in that they're too self-aware to go for the "one con to end them all" scheme, but that they instead get away with as many twists and turns as they do while coming out unscathed with audiences who are seemingly hip to their game. In a movie that is so much fun to watch with characters so attractive and interesting one is literally unable to take their eyes off the screen.

First Trailer for LOVE & MERCY

I'm a sucker for music biopics and it looks like I might be a little spoiled this summer. Besides the N.W.A. film, Straight Outta Compton, closing out the summer movie season on August 15th we will also have director Bill Pohlad's film about The Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson. The film premiered to great reviews last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival and I have been anxious to hear and see more about the film and today we have our first teaser. You would have to have been living under a rock your entire life to not know or at least recognize one of The Beach Boys songs. They are beyond distinct and the reason behind their multiple hits and unique sound is Brian Wilson. Wilson is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and influential creative forces in popular music by critics and musicians alike for the creation of The Beach Boys 1966 album "Pet Sounds", but what many may not know is that the musician suffered from multiple nervous breakdowns and deteriorating mental health all-around throughout the 70's and 80's. This state of being led to Wilson's contributions to The Beach Boys diminishing with his erratic behavior ultimately leading to tensions within the band. In Pohlad's film, Wilson is played in two different time periods by Paul Dano and John Cusack that helps chronicle the rise of Wilson's unorthodox approach to song composition and arrangement to his older, more turbulent times within his own mind. Love & Mercy also stars Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Jake Abel, Kenny Wormald, Tyson Ritter and opens on June 5th.

2015 Academy Award Winners & Round-Up

It is easy, as a member of an unofficial community of online film lovers, to forget that the majority of America and some parts of the rest of the world tune into the Oscars in order to see some of the most famous movie stars on the planet act like normal people and reward themselves or better yet, recognize the best of what they had to offer, from the previous year in the art of motion pictures. I anxiously awaited this years ceremony though as there were some interesting match-ups and undetermined winners as well as Neil Patrick Harris hosting the occasion. NPH started out strong with the expected musical number featuring guest spots by the ever game Anna Kendrick and Jack Black, but his hosting duties quickly fell into that of reading obvious and ill-timed jokes off cue cards and going on about a lockbox that didn't amount to much of a punch line. There were no selfie or pizza moments to be had this year and the energy of the festivities suffered greatly for it. With little energy to feed off and the understanding that the Academy Awards have come to mean little more than a game of politics and/or who has the best backers promoting their films the only real thing to look forward to were the possibilities of upsets and the eventual crowing of either Birdman or Boyhood as the big winner of the year. There were a few surprises, a few nice speeches, some solid musical performances and one or two NPH jokes that actually landed (I genuinely laughed at the Travolta one) while Travolta was again prone to creeping us all out (get your hand off her face, bro!). I'll go through my predictions and what I guessed right and wrong, where I wished I would have been wrong, why I was happy to be wrong a few times as well as go through the full list of the winners after the jump.

McFARLAND, USA Review

With something like McFarland, USA you know exactly what you're getting into the moment you purchase a ticket. Still, McFarland is full of surprises and the big one here is that despite being an inspirational Disney sports movie based on a true story director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) and screenwriter Grant Thompson have garnered the genuine heart and real sense of community in this story and successfully brought it to the film adaptation. There is immediately a stronger aesthetic to the film than any of the more recent outings in this mini-genre that make the stories feel manufactured and the characters little more than archetypes. Everything from the titular location to the characters we should seemingly already know feel authentic in a way that garners an inherent respect for what is trying to be accomplished. To the point of going in and expecting one thing and getting more than you bargained for it is somewhat surprising, given his résumé, that Kevin Costner hasn't already starred in one of these Disney sports films and kind of unbelievable this story hasn't already been tapped for a feature film. I'm glad it hasn't and that Costner waited patiently for, despite his clear admiration for films around America's pastime, a film that makes good use of not only his persona, but the influencing factors of that persona. This adoration for baseball we associate with the actor allows him to fit perfectly into the mold needed for Coach Jim White. For as much as White is out of his depth in the city of McFarland we see the unease of Costner in returning to a genre that makes him feel at home. Just as Costner is trying to reinvigorate his career White is trying to figure out his life as a coach maybe not of the sport he knows best, but of the ones his particular pupils have a greater skill for. He is out of his depth, but he is willing to try and find something that reinvigorates his passion, just as the actor playing him is doing. McFarland, USA isn't really about Coach White though, but the community at large and reinforcing Costner's casting all the more is the fact he's a perfect surrogate for the majority of Americans into a world we think we understand well enough, but have no honest idea of.

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2 Review

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and maybe less impressionable, but while I found the original Hot Tub Time Machine to be humorous in its attempt at pure ridiculousness this sequel seems to be latching so hard to the absurdity of the first that it just falls flat on its face every single time it tries. I guess trying is maybe too kind of a word as it seems that is the last thing on the people behind this debacles mind as they contort and twist their way around one too many reasons why John Cusack isn’t back for this go around. I can’t say it really adds or takes away anything with Cusack not being present in the sequel, but more he was smart to stay away from it even if the truth is he wasn’t asked back at all. The funnier route to go would have been to publicly acknowledge how difficult the actor was to work with by having his friends in the film say how they never really liked him anyway and that he quit hanging out with them after they got back to the present and leave it at that. Instead, the script from Josh Heald, who also wrote the original and who has only penned one other film outside the hot tub franchise called Mardi Gras: Spring Break is doing nothing here but walking in circles and hoping the chemistry between the characters will be enough to elicit laughs from the audience. Instead, the friendships seem stale, the tone is beyond unenthusiastic and worst of all the movie just sits there with second rate components and characters who have no idea what they’re doing. This should be a sequel where, much like its predecessor, it exists simply to have a little fun or as an excuse to let off a little steam and laugh at something meaningless, but rather than simply go for emphasizing the camaraderie between the cast and letting these guys pre-defined senses of humor spill out over the presented outlandish scenarios both Heald and director Steve Pink bog them down in semantics of the plot and scenarios so forced we can't hardly buy into any of it being remotely funny despite the one thing anyone going into this should know is that it's all completely ridiculous. Ridiculous can be funny, but forcing laughs never is and that is Hot Tub Time Machine 2's greatest offense.

2015 Oscar Predictions

When the Academy Award nominations were announced last month they came with their expected favorites and a few upsets that weren't completely unexpected, but hey, you can't please everyone. Many have called these the "whitest" awards in years while voters themselves blame the marketing team behind the likes of Selma for not getting them screeners soon enough. God forbid someone actually gets up to go sit at a theater to watch a movie rather than from the comfort of their home, but that's another complaint for another article. Selma, while lacking in the majority of categories was seemingly handed a Best Picture nomination as a favor while the remaining Best Picture contestants flourished in many of the other above the line categories. We have American Sniper with six nominations (tied with Boyhood, actually) which I wouldn't be surprised to see win a few more given how much of a colossal hit that film has become while obvious awards contenders like The Imitation Game (eight nominations) and The Theory of Everything (five nominations) could walk away with one or less for the night. I'll get into the specifics of who I think will win and who I think should win after the break, but you have to wonder how something like The Grand Budapest Hotel can garner nine nominations (tied for the most with Birdman) and walk away with nothing more than a few technical statues. Since recovering from the onslaught of end-of-the-year movies I've found Budapest to be one of the most re-watchable films of last year and would have loved to see Ralph Fiennes sneak into the Best Actor category (though not before Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, which only found one nod in the Best Original Screenplay category). The other curios inclusion is that of Foxcatcher. The film fascinated me and I think Bennet Miller's film actually deserves more adulation than it has received, but it essentially took the place of Selma in all the sub-categories while not receiving a picture nomination. It won't win anything, which is unfortunate, but I'm torn in if that is the case should it have been nominated at all and would Selma have had a better shot were it also included in the Director and Actor categories? We'll never know, but you should know-both films deserve your attention.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS Review

Based on the stage musical written by Jason Robert Brown and adapted for the screen by Richard LaGravenese (PS, I Love You) The Last Five Years is a story of love and falling in and out of it. It is a simple premise with intricate emotions and lyrics to describe them as such. It is quite an achievement Brown has accomplished by so seamlessly weaving together interesting and compelling words that often rhyme to create these two distinct personalities taking part in the documented relationship. I'd never heard of the off-Broadway production until recently when the trailer for this film premiered. In that it is simply "about" a relationship between a hip New York couple told through musical stylings we automatically assume that all is not as clear as it appears and that the film and the story itself is more a deconstruction of this relationship at the heart of things and how the two sexes, these two competing personalities come to contribute to something that we know from the beginning ultimately doesn't work out. Like any film with a standard premise that might fall into at least one tired genre it is up to the creators to innovate and execute their story to a different, fresh level in a fashion that still conveys the small emotions and moments they wish to describe but in a way that will not feel as clichéd and banal as every other piece of art that wants to say the same thing. The biggest obstacle with going after a goal such as this is the risk of your final product coming off boring and worst of all, obvious. The good news is that, despite not reading any reviews of the stage play, I doubt The Last Five Years has ever been criticized with either as it is clear from the beginning the skill and precision that has been labored over to correctly elicit the feelings and moments that come to light in the relationship of our leads, Jamie and Cathy, as most in attendance will have experienced their own versions of what they're seeing. Brown's hook, his innovative push that LaGravenese projects with seemingly little effort though is the structure and inner-dialogue the songs bring to life in a way that rings truer to the emotions we're feeling in such moments than our talking voice could ever relay.

First Trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK

I'm not necessarily a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s, but I certainly don't dislike what he has built and what he has going on. He is a director of a distinct flavor more than style and has used his power to bring wider audiences to the likes of solid horror flicks such as The Orphanage and Mama. In his own creations he has delivered the likes of Hellboy and its under appreciated sequel while consistently capitalizing on the artistic and critical success that was Pan's Labyrinth. As I seemed to be in the minority on Pacific Rim (fine, but not amazing) I found myself feeling on the outside of understanding what made del Toro singular in his approach that made his film worth celebrating more than those delivered by the likes of Shawn Levy or Michael Bay. I realize there is more of an artistry to the way del Toro looks at the detail and pulls meaning from his creature designs and shot choices, but I've never seen him as something of the auteur he has been credited with. If he is to prove me wrong though it looks as if he might do so with his latest, Crimson Peak. Visually, the film looks breathtaking and is a teaser in the true sense it doesn't give away much of the story, but only hints at certain dynamics. For not already being sold on the combination of director/star/concept I actually found the clip extremely enticing and look forward to what the film has to offer with the thought of not watching any further marketing items in hopes of making the experience of actually seeing the film all the more thrilling. As excited as I am to see the likes of Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston in a movie at all it does feel like somewhat predictable casting. Being as great as each of them are though I'm anxious to see them flourish with this material. Crimson Peak also stars Charlie Hunnam, Doug Jones, Burn Gorman and opens on October 16th.

First Trailer for HOT PURSUIT

As I was saying yesterday after three fairly major trailers were dropped within twenty-four hours of one another-the summer movie season is all but impending and the studios are ready to let us know what ALL of our choices will be this year. The latest is another comedy that will look to fill the slot of the weekend after the opening bow. This was typically reserved for the likes of romantic comedies that serve as fine enough alternative programming to the big-budget, highly anticipated sequel, comic book/superhero/fantasy offering that came the week before. As the rom-com has grown more out of style though that trend has changed over the last few years to include the likes of Dark Shadows and The Great Gatsby with Neighbors last year now setting a trend for what looks like a stomping ground for comedy. This years doesn't necessarily look to be particularly strong as far as edgy or substantial is concerned, but more a safe reincarnation of The Heat that pits two, strong female leads against one another all while concerning a police case. Granted, I know this isn't the same premise, but the concept looks to be similar and you can't blame Warner Bros. or New Line for wanting to capitalize on the success of Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy collaborations by hiring the director of The Proposal and Reese Witherspoon. It's also not a bad idea to get this one out there, make their money and be done before Feig and McCarthy's latest, Spy, even shows up. As for the actual film, it looks to be fine enough even if I don't necessarily care for the pairing of Witherspoon with Sofia Vergara. Witherspoon looks to be having a lot of fun though with Vergara doing her same schtick and if nothing else it looks completely harmless with the possibility of being fun. Hot Pursuit also stars Jim Gaffigan, Robert Kazinsky, Mike Birbiglia, John Carrol Lynch, Richard T. Jones and opens on May 8th.

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE Review

I don't know much about the early James Bond films. My parents weren't much for movies and much of my watching of older films has come from my own doing through my high school years with a large chunk of help from film classes in college. Still, neither of these have included going back and catching up on the twenty or so Bond films I'd missed since the beginning of the series. Instead, Daniel Craig became my Bond of choice after only seeing Die Another Day followed by Casino Royale. For the record, one day I will purchase the complete Bond collection and make my through each of them, but until that day I will continue to enjoy its current incarnation for what it is. All this to say that though I may not understand the specifics of the kind of movie Matthew Vaughn is attempting to riff from there have been plenty of other movies in the vein of Bond for me to understand the overall reach Vaughn has envisioned and to know that he grasps it all pretty damn well. With his fifth feature film director Vaughn has created an exhilarating and hugely entertaining take on the spy movie franchise by keeping the structure and all the players intact and messing with the conventions of what each of these expectations play into. In all honesty, there isn't anything necessarily original or unique about what Vaughn and frequent collaborator/screenwriter Jane Goldman have produced here, but more than anything it is refreshing in its perspective and creative in its execution. These count for a lot in our current cinematic landscape and Vaughn knows precisely how to tap into making something old feel like something new and exciting. He did the same with Stardust eight years ago (yeah, that was eight years ago) taking a typical-seeming fantasy film and churning out a completely fulfilling adventure. The same can be said for Kingsman though, on many levels, it is even more fun in a raucous sense given one has a similar mentality to that of the characters and the guy who's brought them to the screen.

First Trailer for THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Even when the summer movie season feels like it might be a rather dry one compared to previous years it always begins to reaffirm its status as the premiere time of year for would-be blockbusters by the time March rolls around as we're knee-deep in trailers for non-superhero properties that we didn't necessarily know a lot about before they went into production. In the last twenty-four hours we've received trailers for what could possibly be the biggest comedy of the summer, Cameron Crowe's latest and now we have our first look at Guy Ritchie's (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes) re-imagining of the 1960's television show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I have no prior knowledge of the British television show that starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, but given the credentials this new version has going for it I'm definitely intrigued. Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) star as two opposing agents from the CIA and KGB who are forced to team-up in order to stop a mysterious criminal organization working to create numerous nuclear weapons. The trailer looks to be a lot of fun as Ritchie's trademark energy is fully intact and any number of the frames could be taken from a bygone era Bond film. The film looks to perfectly balance the style, action, humor and depth in a way that Cavill and Hammer will be doing much of the complimentary lifting to Ritchie's distinct style. Hammer especially looks to be having a lot of fun here while Cavill seems to purposefully be playing it so straight the humor will naturally float to the surface. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. also stars Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris and opens  on August 14th.

First Trailer for Cameron Crowe's ALOHA

I feel like I'm supposed to inherently be a fan of Cameron Crowe and while much of what is now likely considered his prime came at a time when I wasn't allowed to see his movies it has been interesting going back, watching those films and seeing what was so captivating at the time. Obviously, this hook is more clear in something like Almost Famous whereas it is tougher to detect in Jerry Maguire. I mean, I get it, but it seems strange now when watching the film back and knowing this was something that caught on in a major way. Since that film though, Crowe has seemed to have a few issues recapturing that kind of sentiment, branching out with Vanilla Sky and returning to comfortable grounds with both Elizabethtown and We Bought A Zoo. While those last two features may generally be considered lesser Crowe I didn't mind them and found much to appreciate in both. With his latest, Aloha, the writer and director looks to be working in the same vein, but will hopefully transcend the issues many had with his later, more sap-fueled features. As I feel something of an inherent liking to the artist this trailer only looks to be a hint of what is a solid, creatively-written film that takes an introspective look at not only a specific type of person, but a lifestyle that those outside it don't typically concern themselves with. The reasoning for the love triangle isn't necessarily fresh, but the circumstances at least offer justifiable reasoning and with Bradley Cooper on nothing short of a hot streak I'm anxious to see if he saw something enticing in the script or if it was simply the prospect of working with Crowe. Aloha also stars Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride and opens on May 29th.

First Trailer for Judd Apatow's TRAINWRECK

I remember watching the "Finding Ben Stone" featurette on the Knocked Up DVD and wondering what it might have been like were Judd Apatow not clearly positioning that film as the breakout lead for Seth Rogen. This featurette included a handful of mock auditions of other major and up and coming comedians in the role of the lead character. The audition I remember the most was that of Bill Hader's. He had just started his run on Saturday Night Live at the time and instead of acting like a regular guy kept doing different impressions in each take. Ever since Hader left SNL as one of the more celebrated players of that shows illustrious history I have been waiting for him to take a leading role in a major comedy that might allow him that transition from cast member to movie star. While the latest from Apatow, after the commercial and somewhat critical failures that were Funny People and This is 40, is his first film he hasn't also written it does come from the mind of and stars Amy Schumer. Schumer has become well-known and regarded for her stand-up comedy and Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, but I have not listened to or seen the show so have no opinion on her outside of what I just saw in this first trailer. Needless to say, this makes my anticipation for the project based more off the inclusion of Hader as a headliner and Apatow at the helm, but will admit it's nice to see a change of gender roles in the rom-com as the girl is the one slaying the guys this time around and I'm anxious to see what else Schumer may have done with the rom-com formula that we aren't being shown in the trailer. Trainwreck also stars Colin Quinn, Brie Larson, John Cena, Marisa Tomei, Ezra Miller, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia, LeBron James and opens on July 17th.

LAGGIES Review

Laggies, in short, is about a distraught twenty-something who's extremely close to nearing thirty and becoming more anxious every day about trying to figure out who she is after putting it off for so long. It's a movie about identity crisis, of existential questions we've no doubt seen countless times before, but that doesn't make it any less endearing. In fact, if there is any one thing that makes Laggies stand out from the number of typically depressing Sundance films about rumination it is just how adorable the movie tends to be and how delightfully the characters allow their difficult circumstances to influence their attitudes in alternative ways. It is easy to forgive the conventions at play here, specifically those that crowd the foreseen outcomes of each characters situations in Andrea Siegel's debut screenplay, but when handled by a director such as Lynn Shelton (Your Sister's Sister) who can be so precise in zeroing in on the quirks that make characters individuals more than stereotypes we naturally feel more sympathy for their plights. I don't pretend to know what it's like to be lost or not knowing what to do with my life as I've always known what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be (my problem has been achieving the level of those goals I aspire to, not the lack of drive), but through the eyes of Keira Knightley's Megan we get a first class seat in experiencing what it's like to having the world at ones fingertips and taking it all for granted in desperately trying to piece it all together. One could easily look at Megan as something of a spoiled brat, a hipster if you were prone to do so though I never looked at her as this middle class kid who was entitled because of her pedigreed education, but instead I ended up seeing her as kind of a basket case who was comfortable in her skin at a very specific point in her life and who time has forced out of that skin and into the that of an adults. She finds it hard to embrace this facade and in turn reverts to where she might be accepted for being who she's comfortable being. I guess that might mean she isn't just trying to find herself, but others who will help her become both who she's supposed to be and who she wants to be simultaneously.

Red-Band Trailer for STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

I'm a sucker for movies about music. They combine two things that are individually attractive enough that I fill my life with as much of them as possible so when they come together it is nearly always something akin to a euphoric feeling. I count Walk the Line among one of my favorite films of all time, I think Notorious was largely unappreciated because of its January release date, I still listen to the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack on a regular basis, I put Get On Up in my top ten last year and Whiplash at number two if that adds anything to my argument. Needless to say, I've been excited for what director F. Gary Gray (Friday, The Italian Job) might bring to the table with his N.W.A. biopic and if this first, red-band trailer is any indication things look extremely promising. Featuring an introduction from Ice Cube and Dr. Dre this nearly four-minute first glimpse gives us an idea of how far the two hip-hop superstars have come since first starting out and how long our society has left to go. I'm sure it's weird for them to see these iconic moments of their lives recreated as they didn't seem them as much as "moments" when they were living them as they were simply trying to make it, but damn if you can't feel the electricity in this trailer. All of that said, I don't personally have an emotional connection to the group or any of its music, but am of course familiar with it and with the story of the group so while it's not a story I've been dying to see brought to the big screen it is the type of story I love to watch and am optimistic for what is to come. Starring O'Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Jason Mitchell as Easy-E along with Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr., Marlon Yates Jr, Paul Giamatti, Keith Stanfield, Orlando Brown, Corey Reynolds, Keith Powers and R. Marcus Taylor Straight Outta Compton opens on August 15th.

SEVENTH SON Review

With it being the time of year it is one knows exactly what they are getting into when buying a ticket to Seventh Son. It is as simple as that, really. Even after only reviewing films legitimately for a couple of years it has become something of a tradition to walk into a sci-fi/fantasy film that has for one reason or another experienced production issues and been delayed because of it and this year begins no differently as Seventh Son is clearly looking to continue an unwanted trend that the likes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and I, Frankenstein have made customary as of late. A perfectly average fantasy film within the constraints of the fantasy genre, Seventh Son suffers only from being rather boring in spots with not enough narrative umph to push it towards what feels like the obligatory two-hour mark. It is a movie you know and recognize before it even begins and once it does you recognize every beat because it has seemingly pulled something from every other movie of the same vein. The music is reminiscent of any Hans Zimmer score you've heard over the past few years or any of its multiple imitators after The Dark Knight and it feels like they took the backlot of any number of films set in medieval times and re-used it with no updates or customizations. The stars, Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, do what they can without any kind of character development and Bridges, more than anyone else, seems to have taken this on more for a paycheck while delivering a performance so ridiculous he seemed to be testing the limits of just how far his credentials might get him. It is both hilarious at times and incomprehensible at others. I couldn't tell whether or not the pedigreed actor was really trying to develop an original character at first, but by the time he's fighting his third CG monster I imagined any kind of effort that might have been sparked from reading the formulaic script was all but dead and he was just having some fun. I can't really defend the film and there's no reason to. I had a fine enough time with it as I knew what I was getting into and it aligned with those expectations. No more. No less.

JUPITER ASCENDING Review

There is something oddly charming to the outright oddity that Jupiter Ascending is trying so hard to be. It is in this pushing, this trying to separate itself that the Wachowksi siblings, Andy and Lana, perpetuate their inherent "weirdness" while what they are actually trying to do is paint a mind of possibilities in a way that feels illogical when first introduced, but makes greater sense as a greater understanding and deeper contemplation are taken into account. As written by The Wachowski's it would seem likely that Jupiter Ascending once had a greater amount of substance to it than what the final product delivers. As the credits began to roll what I was left with was the incessant nagging of my brain questioning what exactly the directing duo were trying to say with this film. There is always a stream of consciousness to The Wachowski's films hinting at an overarching theme, but it seemed all I was left with here were a few cool ideas, some exceptional visuals and a solid piece of entertainment value, but little to actually ponder. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with making an outright spectacle that delivers large scale thrills in spades with little to no substance, but what makes Jupiter Ascending not that type of movie is that it's clear that wasn't the original intent of its creators. Throughout, there are consistent hints of a much larger, much stronger narrative existing within this well-developed universe The Wachowski's have created, but unfortunately much of it is lost in the barrage of frequent action scenes that take us from point A to point B. It's also true that the plot becomes a little too convoluted and tiresome by the time it reaches the third act yet I was never bored either with what I saw unfolding in front of me or what might be staged next. In this regard, while Jupiter Ascending is certainly strange to the point it will immediately off-put some and may be The Wachowski's most outright weird production to date for others familiar with their work it is also their most commercially accessible given the style over substance mentality it has seemed to take on in its delay. Despite it not living up to what I'd hoped it be, there is still plenty of fun to be had here and more than enough to marvel at.

First Trailer for POLTERGEIST Remake

I watched the original Poltergeist a few years back on Halloween as it is the one time a year I try to go back and catch up on any horror classics I might not yet have seen. I enjoyed the film and found reading about it afterwards all the more fascinating given the content of the movie and the circumstances surrounding many of the cast members deaths. Sure, it can be chalked up to coincidence, but it is strange nonetheless ultimately giving the actual product a vibe no one necessarily wants to touch. Thirty-three years later though we have a remake that intends to further the commentary on screens taking over our lives by discussing how things have only become worse since the original was released. What is reassuring about this new film though, despite horror fans and lovers of the original no doubt crying foul before ever giving it a chance, are the credentials it has going for it. Director Gil Kenan has only made two features prior to this but they are two solid, underappreciated features. The first being 2006's wonderful Monster House for which I distinctly remember my theater-going experience. I didn't expect much, but was pleased to allow the wit and creativity to wash over me. The same could be said for his second feature, 2008's City of Ember though I haven't revisited that film as often as Kenan's first feature. To top it off Kenan has enlisted a cast that includes Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jared Harris as well as newcomer Kennedi Clements. This first trailer certainly hints at some pretty insane stuff and, if nothing else, looks like a fun PG-13 horror flick in the vein of The Ring. Even if I'm not necessarily excited about the thought of continuing to rehash old material, I'm at least happy to see another film from this promising director. Poltergeist opens in 3D on July 24th.

First Trailer for MAGIC MIKE XXL

Well, here we are. In a world not only where Channing Tatum has become something of a formidable actor, but one where his original hit dance movie has spawned four sequels and now his second hit dance movie is getting a sequel as well. Granted, that second dance movie concerned a more specific set of skills and was more of a passion project for the actor as well as featuring THE performance from Matthew McConaughey that signaled his complete one-eighty-it is with anticipation we awaited what Tatum and collaborator Steven Soderbergh have come up with for this second time around. Though Soderbergh only acted as cinematographer this time as directing duties went to Greg Jacobs (who has served as second unit on countless Soderbergh flicks) Tatum again penned the script with Reid Carolin who he also wrote the original film with. While I enjoyed that the first film didn't deliver exactly what everyone expected, this second trailer certainly plays up that same angle so as to pull in the "girls night out" crowds. It will be interesting to see if the ladies still flock to this one knowing how the first turned out, which was good for the rest of us, but maybe they were fine with what dancing and grinding they did see to the point there is no question about attending a sequel. Heavily bumping Ginuwine's "Pony," and putting all their eggs in the confident and cocky basket, Magic Mike XXL is looking to have a massive fourth of July weekend even without the McConaughey returning. Magic Mike XXL also stars Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Amber Heard, Elizabeth Banks, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Glover, Andie MacDowell, Michael Strahan and hits theaters on July 1st.

WILD CARD Review

Wild Card starts off by quickly setting up two intriguing predicaments. One is to show what our main character, Nick Wild (Jason Statham), does for a living while the other is an unspecified woman being dropped off, beaten and battered, at the emergency room. There is no need to understand how the two scenarios might connect as the movie isn't intent on making a major mystery of anything, but rather Wild Card is more intent on simply hooking you in hopes that you might stick around to see what scenario the next Statham caricature might be forced to use his martial arts skills to take care of. Giving credit where credit is due, the hook is nicely placed and I'm a fan of Statham so I was willing to go along with what could of course never rise to become more than a mediocre action flick. That is simply what we expect from Statham in his solo outings, but somehow he always manages to bring something more to the table than we ever expect. Whether it be the tone and setting of Homefront, the large amount of sympathy and goodwill contained in his character from Safe, the twists of War, the time period and fellow actors in Killer Elite or even the gritty, grimy style of something like The Mechanic-there is always an aspect of these Statham films that allow them become more than what we bargained for which was a direct to video movie so trashy and standard it is instantly forgettable. Instead, Statham operates on the principles of intriguing character pieces despite him being pegged as playing the same guy over and over again. This is partially true as each of the characters the action star portrays resembles one another in some form or fashion, but their circumstances always paint a different picture and it is this information that informs the state of mind of the character that allows Statham leniency from his British accent and bad boy facade. In Wild Card he is again a kind of bodyguard, but he is a man with an addiction and one that doesn't derive from drugs or alcohol, but that of one he could make a clean break from if he so chose. It's the choices that make Statham's characters different and if anything new comes to light in this otherwise generic film it is why Statham is equally as heralded as he is crapped upon.