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.

First Red-Band Trailer for AMERICAN ULTRA

Adventureland feels like one of those forgotten gems that no one ever really gave a chance because expectations set it up as something else. It was director Greg Mottolla's follow-up to Superbad and we all expected more of the same, but Adventureland was a more personal journey-slight, but precise and really is worth a re-watch. All that is to say that it's good to see Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart on screen together again, this time in something of another stoner comedy. Penned by American Werewolf in London, Animal House and Blues Brothers director John Landis's son, Max, and directed by Project X helmer Nima Nourizadeh the film is a hard-R comedy about a stoner who is set to propose to his girlfriend and play out a typical existence in their sleepy, small-town when everything goes nuts after being disrupted by a past Eisenberg's character didn't know he had in the form of a government operation that subconsciously made him a secret agent. Combining multiple, seemingly opposite genres has always been a way to generate something fresh feeling and this first red-band trailer certainly does that for this film. It seems only yesterday I considered Eisenberg the lesser of he and Michael Cera, but since The Social Network Eisenberg has continued to prove the more versatile actor of the two. While he can certainly handle dramatic material and even has a flair for the outrageous and rather confident roles that wouldn't seem to fit his personality his roots seem to have always been in comedy. Those muscles look as if they're being stretched quite nicely here and I can't wait to see this late-summer stoner comedy that should be good for plenty of laughs if not something a little more substantial. American Ultra also stars Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Connie Britton, Bill Pullman, Tony Hale and opens on August 21st.

ALOHA Review

Aloha is a strange bird. From the opening credits laid out over vintage footage from Hawaiian celebrations to the music of Hanohano Hanalei there is a sense of slapdash to it. Given this is a Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) film there is a sense of expectation to it, but more than anything he's done over the past ten years Aloha immediately feels more free-wheeling. From the outset we get the sense not of Crowe's writing style, but more the dedication of the actors to the defining characteristics and personalities of their characters. The films lead is entrusted to one of our few bankable movie stars in Bradley Cooper whose Brian Gilcrest was nearly killed in a bombing while serving in Afghanistan and now has trouble with both legs. Gilcrest's jaded and cynical outlook will no doubt serve as the catalyst to be shifted over the course of the film. We are quickly introduced to a roster of familiar faces that are equally defined lending to the thought that this could really be something special. There is Emma Stone's Allison Ng who exudes a hyper-strictness to military conduct while at the same time being blunt, to the point and somewhat over-eager regarding her latest assignment that includes Gilcrest. There is the old flame Gilcrest has tried to forget about since losing her to himself as personified by Rachel McAdams. McAdams ends up coming away with the most emotionally resonant performance of the bunch as it is clear she is anxious to not necessarily reconnect with her former lover, but more get some things off her chest that have been weighing on and need to removed for her to move on. This weight has certainly interfered in her marriage to Woody (John Krasinski) who fully embodies the "strong and silent type". Woody is resistant to change and he knows it, but the time has come to face it when Gilcrest returns to what is Woody's cozy little Mayberry military base in Hawaii. Then you have Bill Murray playing some billionaire technology developer who's looking to buy all he can. Murray is the not-so-wise old man that pretends to have the perspective, but really just has the deep pockets. With all of this going on and all these likable people breathing life into Crowe's quirky dialogue one has to wonder how the film can't at least be appealing or even charming. The fact of the matter is that it actually kind of is despite ever being able to lift the cloud of peculiar that hovers above it.

SAN ANDREAS Review

Given the texture of the special effects and the scope of the aerial shots one would not be wrong in thinking Roland Emmerich was at the helm of this latest, big disaster flick. Emmerich, who has directed the likes of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, has somewhat monopolized the genre as of late, but San Andreas isn't the unrelated sequel to Day After Tomorrow where Emmerich follows another group of people as they deal with another cataclysmic event. Instead, San Andreas is more the love child of something Emmerich would make and the pure, star-driven action adventures of the 80's and early 90's. While you might say those could easily be one in the same Emmerich's films are typically more of an ensemble whereas San Andreas is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's film through and through. So, if not Emmerich, then who? Well, that honor would go to Brad Peyton who has previously only directed two features, one of which was Journey 2 with Johnson who likely vouched for him here. Being compared to the likes of Emmerich certainly isn't a jab though and if Peyton was going to take notes from anyone when making a disaster flick on this scale he would be the obvious choice. To bring this little precursor of a thought full circle and segue into my overall impression of the film though would be to say that Emmerich would no doubt be proud. Now, what Peyton, his actors and his screenwriter (which, oddly enough, is power producer Carlton Cuse of Lost and Bates Motel fame) have done best with San Andreas is to have fun with the kind of movie it is. Naturally, you get what you expect from a movie like this and little more, but the movie is knowing without being completely self-aware as it seems to intentionally lay on the one-liners the audience already knows are coming and has a fair amount of fun with them. The fact I could hear the people behind me mouthing certain lines before they were even spoke speaks to how ingrained in our subconscious these types of films and their beats are. For San Andreas to be able to include and overcome the cliches and archetypes of the genre to deliver a genuinely fun thrill ride is not necessarily something to celebrate, but it's certainly nothing worth complaining about either.

First Trailer for POINT BREAK Remake

Confession time: I've never seen Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 film, Point Break, that starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in what are now considered classic roles. Even if you've never heard it before, Reeves character name, Johnny Utah, sounds like something from classic pulp lore. Naturally, as it's been nearly twenty-five years since the original Hollywood decided it was time for a remake and so we now have the first trailer for director Ericson Core’s (Invincible) reimagining of the material that stars Lukle Bracey in the role of Utah and Edgar Ramirez taking over for Swayze as Bodhi. Having not seen the original it is difficult to make any comparison on how this seems to measure up, but taking the new Point Break on nothing but its own terms it looks to be a visually stimulating action ride at the very least. Sure, there are a few moments here where I was laughing at something wholly unintentional of being comedic, but that is largely relegated to the stilted and clichéd dialogue whereas the action sequences are captured with a verocity and tone that feels incredibly attractive and practical. Honestly, the whole premise seems a little silly and little more than an excuse to show off some insane stunts, but then again, this may have worked for the original as people seem to love it and again, I'm not sure how much of the story has been modernized for today's audiences. That said, I'll definitely be checking out the original before wandering into theaters to see the remake this holiday season. Point Break also stars Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer Delroy Lindo and opens on Christmas Day.

TOMORROWLAND Review

There was the suspicion going into the latest from director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) that Tomorrowland would harbor some core mystery that was too great or too big to be revealed in the marketing and that the secrets it held within its narrative structure would not only set it apart from the onslaught of grim, dystopian tales we've received over the last few years, but bring back the fascination of childhood that was present when we truly experienced something wonderful. After seeing the film, I'm not sure what they were talking about or even trying to hide. I guess I shouldn't necessarily be surprised given the sole screenwriting credit outside of Bird is given to Damon Lindelof (Lost) who enjoys asking questions and letting the audience explore possible answers more than actually supplying solutions himself. That aside, Tomorrowland is not without spectacle and strong ideas. In fact, there is a lot to like about Tomorrowland as the first two-thirds of the film whizz by and build exposition and intrigue in interesting ways. Offering up an intertwining tale of two separated by time, but equally innovative minds the film is an attempt to discuss, while not necessarily plot out, why the world has become such a dark place. By preaching the message it does the film inherently makes any critic who discusses the negative aspects of it feel like a part of the problem it is attempting to address. Smart move by Lindelof, but that doesn't make me feel bad enough about myself to keep me from recognizing the shortcomings of Tomorrowland's third act. Unfortunately, I had somewhat high expectations going in given the minds behind the film were ones I admire and the opportunity to see Bird's fresh, retro-futuristic style in full-on live action was beyond enticing. With Tomorrowland though, Bird has crafted his first sub-par film, which is naturally disappointing, but more than that it clearly has so much ambition and so many possible roads to travel that it might have been truly something had the final product lived up to its vision rather than becoming part of the trend it's criticizing.

First Trailer for MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS

The race to find the next big young adult adaptation has been one of fierce competition and many failures that now seems all but tired and pretty much over. That said, last falls The Maze Runner turned out to be something of a nice distraction and a second-tier financial hit to the tune of $340 million worldwide on a $35m budget. This was more than anyone expected and now it stands as kind of the last game in town, which believe me, is a nice advantage. While we still have the last two screen adaptations of Veronica Roth's Allegiant to go through, I am now more excited to see where Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) and his friends wind up in this twisted world of betrayals, backstabbing's and lies than anything having to do with Tris and her one-dimensional friends. Many attempted to capitalize on the YA trend, but it seems the time has passed and the likes of The Maze Runner and its remaining film adaptations might be the last true examples of a trend that will inevitably rise again in due time, but for now-this is it. I haven't read the five-book series by James Dashner and likely won't given I'm already along for the ride, but I hope the movies are able to keep up with the solid momentum of the first. If this teaser trailer is any indication it looks as if director Wes Ball has a keen intention of doing just that as the pacing and ensuing adventure of the concluding bombshell the first film presented look to be on point here. This time around, Thomas and the surviving members of his maze face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials also stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Giancarlo Esposito, Ki Hong Lee, Rosa Salazar, Jacob Lofland and opens on September 18.

LRFF: GOD BLESS THE CHILD Review

There is something to be said for filmmakers who attempt to work outside the system, outside the realm of what is thought to be striving towards success in favor of what feels natural and organic and if anything is to be said for directors Robert Machoian and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck's second narrative feature it is that it feels wholly instinctive, spontaneous and more uninhibited than anything you'll see put out by a studio this year. Beginning in the early morning of a day that seems like any other, the second of five children jumps alone on the family trampoline in nothing more than his underwear when he notices his mothers car driving away. He chases after her for a moment before giving up, trusting that she'll be back eventually. The hook of Machoian and Ojeda-Beck's God Bless the Child though is that the audience doesn't. How could a mother abandon her five children? Ranging in ages from thirteen to two with the oldest also being the only girl of the bunch, the weight of the responsibility is hung on Harper. Harper not only has dealt with being her mothers guinea pig in how to raise her own children, but now Harper must take on the role her mother seems to have so easily walked away from. We don't know it at first, distracted by all of the comic relief and small moments that ring true via the adventures of young boys, but Harper is the silent hero of the piece. Harper is the one we come to appreciate and admire and who delivers an arc that slowly creeps up on the viewer allowing the power of the film to do the same. God Bless the Child is very much a film made by filmmakers who seem in tune with letting the images speak for themselves. Giving the audience a suggestion of where the gamut of emotions may run and letting them decide for themselves by documenting the core characters actions not with flashy camera work or distinct directorial flourishes, but rather in the way that they remain steady, trusting in their subjects and the untaught realism they bring to this slightly devastating reality.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 19, 2015

PITCH PERFECT 2 Review

Back in October of 2012 I said that Pitch Perfect was pure formula if not damn entertaining formula and that formula worked to the tune of $115 million worldwide on a $17 budget. This was not the real story though, what really catapulted Pitch Perfect into the realm of cultural phenomenon was that it had the lucky sense of good timing and strong marketing. Pushing out the DVD and Blu-Ray just two months after its theatrical release and right in time for the holidays Pitch Perfect officially became a "thing" by spinning its rendition of "Cups" into a legitimate radio hit and adding itself to every female tween, teen and shared dorm room collection that Christmas. It was the newest ole' reliable, the one movie you could count on to play and make everyone happy. In capitalizing on this loyal following a sequel has of course been made and while I had doubts it could recapture the lightning in a bottle feel the first one possessed so effortlessly writer Kay Cannon and supporting player turned director Elizabeth Banks have been able to both hit the strongest beats of the first film in new ways with the sequel while at the same time creating something of a different structure so as this doesn't ever feel like a carbon copy of the original. There was certainly hesitation in embracing a sequel to something that had so quickly become beloved, but with Banks taking over there was also intrigue as to what she would do with the opportunity and where she would take the Barden Bellas in their next round. Interestingly enough, Banks and Cannon take that formula and work a little more loosely with it this time around again giving the Bellas an ultimate goal in redemption, but also largely deviating in structure through a mix of several subplots and character arcs that allows for this second film to be just as fun to watch as the original while not hitting all the same notes and let's be honest, that's all the goal really needed to be in the first place.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Review

I went into Mad Max: Fury Road knowing little to nothing about director George Miller's franchise. I attempted to watch his original 1979 film a couple of weeks prior, but found myself bored and unable to pay attention and so as much as that statement might be read as sacrilege in the film community, I gave up and decided not to move on. This didn't lessen my excitement for Miller's latest installment as I'm a fan of both Tom Hardy and the incredible trailers that were crafted for the film. My only hope was that the final product lived up to what we caught glimpses of in the trailers. And so, while I have no real frame of reference (and I know I need to go back and at least watch Road Warrior as I've read the words "action classic" tossed at it at least a dozen times over the past week) I went into Fury Road with optimism and excitement, hoping that what was promised would be delivered and it was. The fact Miller, who is now seventy, was even able to pull off half of the stuff we see on screen here is amazing, but that he is able to subtly sneak in a compelling story underneath the mayhem is all the more reason to be fascinated by the highly saturated images we watch frenetically move across the screen. The big screen. It almost goes without saying that the film is gorgeous and the action is superb, but as the opening moments play out it is clear one doesn't necessarily have to be familiar with the previous adventures of Max Rockatansky (Hardy). A brief overview by the titular character is given in the opening moments as he stands on the edge of a sand-drenched cliff, getting set for his "next adventure" as I'd like to see it. Into the frame creeps a two-headed lizard, quickly slithering its way closer to Max where he stomps on it with his boot heel and picks it up to gather protein. We know immediately this is not our world, not the one we know. We can see, even if we haven't before, that this is a land full of inhabitants who are full of desperation and that bubble of desperation is about to burst. For the full two-hour runtime of the film Fury Road barely has time to slow down and catch its breath and even less does it rely on dialogue to move the story along. Miller firmly believes that actions speak louder than words and he puts that mantra on full display here as Mad Max: Fury Road is completely bonkers in every way; every good, entertaining way it can be.

LRFF: UNCERTAIN Review

After watching Noah Baumbach's latest feature, While We're Young, a few weeks back I'm afraid of becoming terribly cynical when it comes to documentaries and the documentarians that seemingly have to manufacture certain parts of the truth so as to make their projects all the more engaging. With Uncertain though, it's hard to see where any embellishments or adjustments were made as directors Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands have approached a number of individuals taking refuge in a small part of the country no one else would bother to visit and picking out the more interesting stories that came to the surface. It is interesting to question whether or not McNicol and Sandilands knew what they were looking for before making their way to Uncertain, Texas or if they were simply gambling on stumbling upon something worth their investment. I have no doubt the initial draw here was the lake, the towns only real source of income, that is being threatened by a substance obtained from a plant that's essentially polluting the water, clearing out the fish and ultimately making everyone's future in the small town, well, uncertain. In the midst of scientists working to eradicate the plant though McNicol and Sandilands have come across three varied men who spell out the repercussions and grim outlook the lake-infesting weed presents much more so than strictly fact-based presentations the scientist gives. The documentarians take it from here, guiding the audience through the lives of these three residents whose lives each share a kinship with the titular adjective and place they call home. Full of gorgeous cinematography and breathtaking beauty despite the camera capturing what are images of a time tainted town that has become draped in the harshness of reality and desperation of the times Uncertain paints an uncomfortable picture of modern, small-town America. It's a picture we typically care to turn a blind eye to, but can't help but be fascinated when this rock is lift up to reveal the ongoing life underneath it.

LRFF: KRISHA Review

Krisha has a lot of interesting ideas going for it, but one begins to doubt its ability to bring them all together as it races towards its final minutes and seriously begs the question of what exactly everything is building to. Opening with a close-up on the epic face of the titular Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) writer/director/editor and actor Trey Edward Shults goes from here onto deconstructing the pain that is hidden beneath the cracks and crevices of Krisha's skin. The glaring first shot presents us with a composed if not slightly faltering facade surrounded by darkness. We are seconds in and we already have a million questions. Though the film only runs a mere eighty-three minutes Shults is careful to build dynamics and define relationships both in relation to our title character and throughout the supporting cast so as to make the impact of the final act all the more unnerving. Unnerving would be the key word given the audience is privy to only pieces of information in each scene. There are moments of frustration where you begin to wonder if Shults is holding back too much; keeping the plot details as restrained as his music, but as if he knows the fuse is running short the director will intermittently deliver montages of movement and sporadic sound that not only capture the chaos of a house on Thanksgiving day, but the swirling of thoughts, conflictions and turmoil that are rushing through Krisha’s mind. Despite the fact it taps into the tone of a psychological horror film, Krisha is in no way intended to be a scary movie. If anything, the film is a family drama steeped in the secrets we all keep from one another and the boiling point when they all come spilling out. It is a deconstruction of the idea of what happens when you don't like the people you're forced to love. You don't get to choose your family, but more importantly you don't get to choose who they become and Krisha can't stand the superficial kin she's related to. As the day the film documents goes on, histories are unraveled and truths are revealed to the point one knows they're experiencing something absorbing, but can't help but to shake the feeling more deserves to be said.

First Trailer & Stills for JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS

I have no idea what Jem and the Holograms is. Apparently, it's a live-action adaptation of a 1980′s action cartoon about a record executive who lives a secret life as a rock star. In that cartoon the titular Jem is said to have gone on truly outrageous adventures as Jerrica Benton runs both Starlight Music and is also the pink-haired lead singer of Jem and the Holograms, a pop-music girl group with really big dos and elaborate fashions only the 80s could conjure up. Originally airing between 1985 and 1988 Jem and her Holograms belted out musical numbers and battled the evil schemes of nasty industry executive Eric Raymond and rival female band, the Misfits. In short, none of this outrageousness seems to be a part of the 2015 version. Instead, what Blumhouse pictures and director John Chu (Step Up 2 & 3, two Justin Bieber Documentaries and the second installments of G.I. Joe and Now You See Me) have created is a standard tale of going from an unknown to a worldwide phenomenon in the matter of days with the threat of losing ones true identity to the music industry is the biggest threat. Maybe this is an origin story of sorts that will gets fans of the 80's show to where they want to be by the end of this inaugural film or maybe they just wanted an excuse to use the branding and name recognition to tell another coming of age tale, but that seems like a waste. Given I have no real investment in the original cartoon or this adaptation I don't necessarily care what the outcome of this film is, but needless to say, adapting the actual source material certainly sounds like a more fun and original film. Jem and the Holograms stars Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Hayley Kiyoko and Aurora Perrineau as the titular rock band. Molly Ringwald, Ryan Guzman and Juliette Lewis co-star with the film opening October 23rd.

LRFF: KING JACK Review

In King Jack, there is a bully, an older brother, a younger cousin and a world of adults that doesn't seem to exist. In what are the essentials for a coming of age story, our titular Jack is forced to deal with each of these things that could very well exist as nothing more than archetypes in a genre that has become flooded by an affinity for nostalgia over the past few summers. What allows these factors to be set apart, or at least find its own voice lies both in the ability of the actors on screen as well as the films knack for striking a perfect tone. There is a distinct aura around first time feature director Felix Thompson's film that gives it a quality of timelessness. Sans a few minor factors, King Jack could essentially take place at any point in time over the last few decades. The problems are the same, the struggle is identifiable and the predicaments are ones you grow accustomed to if you happen to live in a small rural town where the summers get long and often boring. Jack is on the brink. He is in transition from the boy he's always known to the man he will eventually become and because he doesn't know his way around his own mind, because the world is becoming a bigger place more unknown to him than he's ever felt prior it opens up a sliver of vulnerability in the kid who grew up forced to figure things out on his own. We are introduced to Jack (Charlie Plummer) as he tags a neighbors garage and come to know him all the more through the course of a weekend that sees him not only facing all the aforementioned opponents, but coming to terms with taking responsibility for his actions and ultimately looking out as much for himself as for the few people in his life that he truly cares about.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 12, 2015

THE D TRAIN Review

The D Train is an odd movie. It's an interesting one, don't get me wrong, but it's an odd one for sure. I'm a rather faithful comedy fan and have said many times on this site before that I carried a rather rabid affinity for the fan appointed "Frat Pack" that originally consisted of Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Owen and Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Any time any of these guys decided to head up a film there was a desperate hope they would include a couple of the others in the proceedings. Soon, Judd Apatow and his gang emerged and the universe has been expanding ever since. In the wake of this merger it always felt like Black was somewhat left behind. This was obviously unfortunate given Black is one of those guys who can make you laugh with a simple facial expression, but his output has become increasingly stale since hitting a high mark in 2008 with Tropic Thunder and Kung-Fu Panda. Looking back through his filmography it is almost alarming how little he has done in the past few years with his last out and out feature being the horribly marketed and little-seen The Big Year in 2011. With The D Train, Black seems to be making something of a statement in that, at the very least, he'd like to see his career go in a more mature way, one that puts him in the position of actually investing in his characters and developing his skills rather than simply cashing the quick check and making the same faces. We've seen this before from the comic, especially in the underrated Bernie, but here it is more of a concentrated effort than the seemingly haphazard way in which Black picked projects prior.

HOT PURSUIT Review

You know those movies that are easily relegated to comfort food? You know, the ones where things that in the real world would be deathly serious (sometimes literally) and in a movie intended to be nothing more than fluff are dismissed without a second thought? I tend to like these movies more than I should. I enjoy them in a way that I get to turn a blind eye to the real issues of the world or even to thinking critically for a while, but when a movie that is made to make you feel this way can't help but make you constantly think about how awful it is it must be really bad. I mean, no one expects much nutrition from comfort food, but at least it goes down easy. There is neither anything fulfilling or fun about Hot Pursuit, a buddy/road trip comedy that was clearly created in the vein of The Heat from a few summers past by putting two female actors in the lead roles and hoping for the same results. While this was no doubt meant to be the watered down version with Reese Witherspoon playing up the naive, but dedicated cop routine that Sandy Bullock perfected while they flipped the script on the major comic relief of the piece by making her both a criminal rather than a veteran police officer as well as enlisting an actor known more for her looks than anything else. While Melissa McCarthy gets a fair amount of attention for her appearance Sofia Vergara gets that same attention for completely opposite reasons. With Hot Pursuit, Witherspoon's production company, Pacific Standard, is looking to sneak into the summer movie season on the typically quiet second weekend and provide a bit of alternative programming for those not interested in super hero team-ups, but even those who aren't fans of super heroes or comic book movies in general would have more fun at Avengers than they would at a screening of Hot Pursuit. I've never watched Mike & Molly, but I feel like that would be the more apt comparison to a McCarthy project as Hot Pursuit is more akin to watching a punishing half hour comedic sitcom that has been stretched as far as it can possibly go without the laugh track instructing us on when things are "supposed" to be funny.

MAGGIE Review

At first glance it would seem Maggie is an attempt to cash in on the zombie craze that has been spearheaded by the likes of serious-minded interpretation such as The Walking Dead. That a small, independent way of going about this story would be an interesting, more dramatic choice that would allow a sliver of the story The Walking Dead is telling might be something fascinating, compelling even. Now, I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of the The Walking Dead, but I can see what attracts people to it. They can pick up on the large metaphors at play or simply delve into the action and brutality that is presented week after week. Either way, tough choices have to be made. Emotions overtake logic and the repercussions of ones inability to put a bullet in the head of a loved one even when they are at your throat trying to rip through it says something about our mentality, our humanity and ultimately about the love and connection we sometimes feel that outweighs our own existence. What is life worth if not filled with the people you love? It's a valid question, a depressing thought, but these are the kinds of notions and ideas that the characters in Maggie must take into serious consideration. All of that said, one might be wondering what someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing in a movie like this. A zombie apocalypse film, sure, but a somber, meditative zombie apocalypse film where the focus is not on surviving, but more on the relationship between the father and daughter? Strange, right? With the father facing the inevitability of losing his little girl and that little girl coming to terms with her own death Maggie isn't necessarily what you expect and for those reasons along with first-time feature director Henry Hobson having a clear vision of how to bring this story to life Maggie is something of an effective take on a genre that I presumed to be played out.

First Red-Band Trailer for VACATION Reboot

It's hard for me to admit, but I haven't seen any of the Chevy Chase Vacation films sans Christmas Vacation as the in-laws enjoy watching that every couple of years or so when Christmas in fact rolls around. I've seen bits and pieces of the original as well as parts of Vegas Vacation on TBS or TNT at some point in the past, but never have I sat down with the intention of watching any of these straight through. That looks as if it will change this year as Warner Bros. has decided to not necessarily reboot or re-make what you would typically label as a sequel, but kind of is, as it continues the story of the Griswolds, but more by treating us to the next generation of the family that started it all. Given I don't have as much of a history with this series I likely don't get some of the references or jokes that play in this trailer, but as it states outright this is a Vacation that will stand on its own and I can only hope it proves itself right. Ed Helms is playing the grown-up Rusty Griswold who is intent on picking his family up out of its current slump by recreating his childhood vacation to Walley World. Christina Applegate is playing his wife with Leslie Mann filling the role of sister Audrey. Both Chase and Beverly D'Angelo return as Clark and Ellen for what I assume are glorified cameos while Horrible Bosses and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 scribes John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein take on their first directing gig. Vacation also stars Chris Hemsworth, Steele Stebbins, Skyler Gisondo, Nick Kroll, Charlie Day, Kaitlin Olson, Regina Hall, Keegan-Michael Key and opens on July 31st.

First Trailer for RICKI AND THE FLASH Starring Meryl Streep

I always enjoy when Meryl Streep has a late August offering that somehow doesn't fit into the overall scheme that she is actively trying to be nominated for an Oscar every year. After Mama Mia, Julie & Julia and Hope Springs (of which the latter two I really enjoyed) I was hoping we might get another one soon as it's been three years since her last excursion into somewhat lighter territory. While she enjoyed a fair amount of success both critically and commercially with Into the Woods last award season it seems she is going in a completely different direction this year as far as movies concerned with music go. In her latest, titled Ricki and the Flash, Streep plays a musician who gave up everything for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom only to return home years later, looking to make things right with her family. The interesting aspect of this film is the combination of talent it has driving it. Not only does it have Streep as the star, but it has Diablio Cody (Juno, Young Adult) penning the screenplay and Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) behind the camera. Demme hasn't really directed an out and out commercial feature like this since (maybe) 2008's Rachel Getting Married and so, even if this first trailer looks a little hokey and manipulative, I am interested in seeing what these three talents pull together. The other interesting aspect for me was that Streep's character and her band (the Flash) aren't singing original songs written for the film, but rather past hits by Bruce Springstein, Tom Petty and Lady Gaga among those also featured in the trailer. Will this be an alternate universe where those songs belong to Ricki or did she get famous by simply being a cover band? I guess we'll find out August 7th when Ricki and the Flash opens. The film also stars Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield and Streep's real-life daughter Mamie Gummer.

LITTLE ROCK FILM FESTIVAL Preview

The ninth annual Little Rock Film Festival (LRFF) kicks off on Monday, May 11th and for the first time in the history of this site I will be attending and reporting on as much of it as I can. The downside to this is that May is probably the busiest month of the year for me without including attending and writing about the films I see, but because it is the month of graduations, weddings, numerous other city festivals and many other kinds of events not to mention the global movie releases that continue to ramp up in volume due to the summer movie season officially kicking off last weekend. All of that said, I will be attempting to see as many films, Q&A's and other interesting presentations at the LRFF this year as well as bringing write-ups of each to this site as promptly as possible. Given Little Rock is generally regarded as something of a smaller market and doesn't always get the chance to see many of the smaller, indie releases until much later in their staggered release dates and sometimes not even at all it will be a genuine treat to have the opportunity to see some truly independent films on the big screen, the way they were intended to be seen rather than having to catch them months down the road at home or on a computer screen. You can check out the full schedule of events by clicking here as well as my tentative schedule after the jump.

New Trailer for MAGIC MIKE XXL

Well, here we are again. In what feels like one of the more crowded summers over the last few years it will be interesting to see how this sequel to Magic Mike plays out. The first film opened three years ago at what was arguably the climax (pun intended) of Tatum's rise to fame. It had been a slow build until 2012 when he hit audiences with a three-way (pun intended) blitz of The Vow, 21 Jump Street and then Magic Mike in the summer. He was not only competing against a summer with another Avengers and Ted (which opened against Magic Mike then and will open a week before the sequel this year), but it opened a mere week before The Amazing Spider-Man and just less than a month before The Dark Knight Rises. Granted, it didn't have much competition throughout July besides the two aforementioned tentpoles, but Magic Mike thrived because it spoke to a different audience, a female audience. In the end, Tatum's take on the average working man cloaked in stripper routines debuted to a healthy $39 million and went on to claim $167 million globally. Coupled with the fact the first film was made for $7 million this really shows the power of star plus concept. Tatum has only become a bigger star since and arguably a more credible one which I only assume will boost this sequels prospects given it looks more in line with what women wanted from the first film anyway. With Warner Bros. placing Magic Mike XXL on the coveted fourth of July weekend with its only competition that weekend being the Terminator reboot it seems XXL will again fill the alternate programming slot all the way through to at least the 17th when Judd Apatow's Trainwreck opens. Beside Tatum, 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.

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON Review

Organized chaos. Organized chaos is what best describes the sequel to the third biggest movie of all time. How does one top the first culmination of the first cinematic universe? Sure, bigger is always better (and Age of Ultron certainly feels bigger), but more it is the combination of broadening the scale with that of keeping the characters compelling and their story moving forward. As always, whether it be trying to manage the multiple characters or the overarching storyline that the Marvel Cinematic Universe intends to execute some things get lost in the shuffle. This is to be expected, moreso with the characters than the storyline as Marvel and head honcho Kevin Feige seem to have a pretty clear picture of where things are ultimately going if not allowing each director their own wiggle room to implement their own ideas and ambitions. Within this wiggle room we are given the titular baddie of this second Avengers film in Ultron. While Thanos has been making minuscule appearances since he first showed up in that mid-credits stinger on The Avengers and would seemingly be Marvel's biggest bad of them all, Ultron seems to be the deviation that Whedon wanted to explore and thus proved a solid enough distraction to carry the Avengers through this soggy middle ground and onto the third act of this cinematic universe they've been constructing. While Ultron is a compelling piece of artificial intelligence as far as characters go with James Spader providing a maniacally dark humored mentality to the intimidating "murder bot" the evil robots motivations are always a bit muddled. Covered up by flowery speeches and philosophical mumbo jumbo about the only way to peace being true extinction Ultron is given no motivation for his actions beyond being programmed in such a way. A program that is too smart for its own good who hijacks any physical form he can in order to execute his plan. This is all well enough reason to give earths mightiest heroes someone to fight, but it's the weakest link in an otherwise sprawling production that is everything we want it to be. Everything we've been waiting for.