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.

TOP 10 OF 2016

This may have been the toughest year to compose a list of ten rather exceptional films. It has been a frustrating year in terms of not being able to catch as many of the year-end awards contenders as I'd like including Martin Scorsese's Silence, Peter Berg's Patriots Day, Mike Mills' 20th Century Women (which I'm seeing this week) and Ben Affleck's Live By Night (though I hear Affleck's latest doesn't fulfill that potential), Even in terms of available time to see movies such as Eye in the Sky, Denial, and Indignation as they either never opened in theaters around me or opened for no longer than a week where I didn't have time within those specific seven days to make room for another movie outside the wide releases. 2016 also marked the first full year a fellow filmmaking alum and friend, Charles Browder, started a video review show on YouTube called Initial Reaction. This allowed for me to typically see a number of movies on Thursday nights given theaters are now screening new weekend releases starting at 7 p.m. and sometimes even 5 p.m. the night before. Of course, given the theater we are allowed to shoot in doesn't typically get smaller releases I'd have to make time for smaller scale or limited releases during the week or cram them in on the weekend which can be difficult when you're doing this as a side gig with a wife and now two year-old. All of that said, I feel as if I've been able to see a fair amount of movies this year (193 as of this writing) and have been able to come up with a solid list of ten features that I either thoroughly enjoyed and/or moved me this year and will re-visit multiple times over the next few years. I, of course, would have liked to have seen more-The Light Between Oceans and Don't Think Twice are two I'm sorry I haven't caught up with as well as O.J.: Made in America which I have seen included on a number of lists and now own and will be viewing shortly-but I feel confident that my current top ten will withstand the next two weeks as I inevitably catch up with the majority of those I haven't yet seen, but have listed here. In a year fueled by 80's nostalgia let us begin with one of the best exercises in that nostalgia as my number ten pick is...

LA LA LAND Review

What is worth more? Where does ambition measure when compared to reflection? Or...how does one know when to quit? When that ambition outweighs or cannot be met by the pure skill or natural talent possessed? La La Land is a movie about Hollywood and the Hollywood system and how it all flows in and out of making and breaking stars, but La La Land is also a movie about dreams and the ugly side of those dreams no one likes to talk about when they tell you to chase them-compromise. Compromise is what must be obtained if one is hoping to have their cake and eat it too. There is compromise in life no matter what professional or personal route one may choose to take, but when dreams are big enough to take you around the world and on extended stays in places away from home that require long or odd hours such as, say, when someone is a musician or film actor-compromises are unavoidable and typically made by the half of the relationship not actively participating in such a career. With La La Land director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) follows up his Academy Award-nominated feature debut with an out and out musical in the vein of those golden age Hollywood musicals from the forties and early fifties that personified stardom, celebrity, and a certain type of lifestyle most could only hope to obtain. This goes well with the plight of the story as we follow two young aspiring artists-the girl an actress and the guy a jazz pianist-as they navigate modern Los Angeles in hopes of achieving their dreams even if the odds seem stacked against them and despite their closest friends and family not exactly holding out hope for success to find them. The standard structure of boy meets girl combined with that of a few song and dance numbers that pay homage to those aforementioned golden days of Hollywood aren't enough for Chazelle though. The writer/director isn't simply looking to recreate images and feelings afforded him during his youth as he watched Gene Kelly dance across the screen, but more he is interested in exploring the consequences of having such aspirations; the dark side of fame that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with addiction or other harmful habit forming activities, but more with the decisions such individuals have to make without knowing the answer as to what they'll regret more twenty years down the road. Can I be the person I want with the person I want? Is it worth more to make a life as I so desire or with the one I desire? La La Land doesn't prescribe to know the answers to these heavy questions, but its musings on the subject are infectious and reaffirming in that they capture the struggle one in a handful experiencing the film will have come face to face with at some point in their past.

PATERSON Review

Observations that are insightful and honest don't automatically render them entertaining. And maybe entertainment isn't exactly what writer/director Jim Jarmusch is shooting for in his latest endeavor, Paterson, but it can't help but to seem that boredom outweighs any merit born from the introspection on display. More than anything it seems Paterson might be the auteur pushing his limits to their breaking points-seeing just how far people will follow him down the poet hole without promising them much in return. In Paterson, Jarmusch coerces a group of individuals and their routines into a "week in the life" structure that sees the titular Paterson (Adam Driver) going about his business, observing others, and ultimately leaving little impression of his own. Some may argue that the quiet charm of Paterson comes from the way in which he doesn't necessarily participate in life, but how he observes and interprets it as communicated by his writings that are sprawled across the screen. One might say Paterson's appeal comes from the small truths that are highlighted in his relationships with those he encounters on a daily basis whether that be with his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), his boss, Donny (Rizwan Manji), or the bartender (Barry Shabaka Henley) at his favorite spot that he visits each night not necessarily to shoot the breeze himself, but rather to hear others vent about their own lives. The one aspect in which I could see such a point is in the dynamic Jarmusch allows to play out between Paterson and his dog Marvin. Marvin is a posh little English bulldog who clearly sees himself as the protector of Laura and with whom he shares something of an equal disdain with Paterson. Watching the two eye one another and the contemptuous nature of the relationship go back and forth makes for some of the films biggest laughs and unfortunately for some of the only entertaining moments in an otherwise routine film about routine. In essence, Paterson is a film not without its charms, but its paper thin premise proves unable to support its two hour runtime with the intention to uncover how a very structured and sobering existence might still prove to be surprising only revealing as much to be just as ordinary as one may expect.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 27, 2016

http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2016/12/on-dvd-blu-ray-december-27-2016.html

A MONSTER CALLS Review

Cancer movies suck. Let's go ahead and put it out there-having to deal with a movie, a piece of entertainment, that reminds us of just how debilitating and ruthless a disease cancer can be not to mention the lack of control we are able to extend over it is not exactly something we like to be reminded of in our attempts at escapism. Putting a plot in your film that concerns the disease dealing in abnormal cells can be cruel and if nothing else seem a blatant attempt to play on the real life emotions so many viewers will recognize from dealing with cancer themselves or through that of a loved one. It's a bastard of a disease and despite the fact it gets no different a representation in A Monster Calls, the latest from director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible), it remains the focus of this sorrowful fairy tale serving as the catalyst for all that our young protagonist experiences. What is most fascinating about how A Monster Calls deals with this potentially tired trope of a disease though, is that it never allows the disease to take center stage. This is not a story about the person suffering from cancer and it isn't a movie about how cancer will define the lives of those it will leave in its wake, but more it is about confronting the disease, dealing with it in an honest fashion, and having the gall to stare it down. What I have always found disheartening about Bayona's films is that they consistently tell powerful and affecting stories that are executed in glorious visual fashion, but never tend to stay with the viewer in any real impactful manner. Rather, Bayona is a director who calculates in order to elicit emotion as his pieces are all in their place and his aesthetic is of just as much value as the way in which he conveys his necessary themes, but no emotion from his films ever seems to grow inherently out of these carefully considered factors that are coming together to tell this particular story. Maybe it's that he considers such elements too long to the point there is no opportunity for organic emotion to grow in between, but with A Monster Calls there are serious strides made. More than any other feature the director has led prior A Monster Calls latches onto its themes and is able to convey with conviction this truth that is hard for our protagonist to swallow as well as the agony and adventure he must go through in order to finally admit that truth to himself.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - PASSENGERS

http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2016/12/initial-reaction-video-review-passengers.html
It's been a busy past couple of weeks attempting to see as many of 2016's movies as possible before the end of the year. Of course, the barrage of films the studios decide to release in December alone doesn't help and while I'm doubtful Assassin's Creed, Why Him?, or Sing stand a chance of ending up on my Top 10 of the year I'd still like to catch up with them for peace of mind if nothing else. Speaking of my Top 10 of the year-I'll have it posted this weekend after I see La La Land at some point this week, but it looks as if that will be the last movie I'll be able to see before the new year that will seemingly play any role in awards season. I would have like to have caught Patriots Day, Live By Night, and of course Silence before the end of the year, but it seems I won't catch those until their nationwide release dates in January. January is certainly a better time of year for smaller markets as we're finally getting Oscar contenders that debuted in New York, Los Angeles and other larger markets this month. All of that said, we talked Passengers this week as it stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence and expected it to perform well due to these factors, the holiday weekend, and the general appeal of blockbuster science fiction films, but it seems the star power of our two faces on the poster was only enough to garner the film a $30.4 million Wednesday to Sunday debut. The $110m-budgeted Sony Pictures release earned $7.5 million on Christmas day for a $14.5 million weekend total. This isn't a total bust as Christmas numbers are always a bit jumbled out of the gate, but that should all even out this week as things begin to calm. It of course doesn't help that there is another huge sci-fi film out at the moment (Rogue One dropped 58% from its debut weekend for a $64.4 million second weekend) as well as having the most competition with fellow new release, the family friendly Sing, which easily won the weekend with a $35 million weekend cume and an estimated $77 million Wed-Mon debut. As always, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week!

First Trailer for ALIEN: COVENANT Starring Michael Fassbender

http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2016/12/first-trailer-for-alien-covenant.html
I am among those of the mind that consider Prometheus an astonishing achievement. A careful consideration of some very big questions that is as self-serious as could be, but with valid reasoning. Also, those visuals. The look of Prometheus is one that has stayed with me and has been hard to compete with even in the four plus years since its debut. And so, while I'm somewhat disheartened by the fact director Ridley Scott decided to go more with a direct prequel to his beloved 1979 film, Alien, rather than more of a sequel to that aforementioned 2012 hit with the follow-up I assume I'll get over it. With Alien: Covenant Scott seems to be more interested in reprogramming that film that started all of this rather than the continuing adventures of Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth and Michael Fassbender’s David, but given Covenant finds Fassbender reprising his role as the android and the script comes from John Logan who adapted Hugo and had a hand in writing Skyfall and The Last Samurai I am optimistic that there could be enough story here to sustain this new chapter in the franchise. All of that said, I can't say that I'm overly excited for what this first look trailer promises. Sure, it looks like it might be more in the horror genre than that of the pure science fiction one, but while that may reassure most I preferred the direction Prometheus was going rather than the isolated story Alien presented. As far as story is concerned though, it seems we encounter David who is now the sole inhabitant of an “uncharted paradise” which is visited by the crew of the colony ship Covenant. Of course, once the crew arrives on this supposed "uncharted paradise" I'm sure it doesn't take long before things begin to go wrong and the (remaining) crew have to find daring ways in which they might escape. I'm not saying this can't be accomplished in an exciting manner, but I am saying this trailer doesn't do much for me by way of getting me excited for the film. Alien: Covenant also stars Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollet, Amy Seimetz, James Franco, Danny McBride, and opens on May 19th, 2017. 

FENCES Review

Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) really just wants to matter. He wants to hold influence in an area that means something to him-that matters to him-and as he feels cheated out of such significance when it comes to professional baseball it seems his only way to relieve this need is to fence in all that is his domain and rule over it with an iron fist. Of course, what Troy doesn't realize or simply doesn't care to acknowledge is that he is poisoning that of which he draws his biggest sources of admiration. Whether it be in Rose (Viola Davis), his loyal wife, or their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) who only aspires to impress and be like his father, but whom Troy cannot help but to hold back. Troy is a deeply flawed man; one who epitomizes passing the sins of the father to those of the following generations. What Troy experiences are more the effects of the sins of the father-some of which Troy couldn't help, original sin if you will, as he is simply a victim of circumstance who can't forgive the world for as much. One might say it was just as much Troy's choices within these circumstances that set him on the path in which he ends up, but there is certainly a right to some of his anger and resentment. It's where he unfolds that anger and resentment that we see his flaws. It is in the unraveling of who Maxson is and how the dynamics of his relationships with each member of his family inform this portrait of black culture in the 1950's that takes up much of the substance in Washington's third directorial effort. Adapted from a stage play by August Wilson, who also wrote the screenplay before his death in 2005, in which both Washington and co-star Davis starred in a revival of not five years ago Fences, the movie, in many ways feels like something of a safe bet for Washington to try his hand at next. It certainly meets the credentials of an awards contender and the material alone has already proven critic-proof and so what is there to do with such a property that might inspire new audiences to discover? Turns out Washington doesn't seem to feel the need to change or adapt too much at all as this feature version of Wilson's most popular play still very much feels like a play. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it’s the fact Washington's directing still feels timid more so than it doesn't serve the material well. The dialogue can certainly stand on its own and when it has actors such as our two aforementioned leads delivering it it's hard to go wrong, but just because something is obviously of a high quality doesn't also automatically render it infinitely effective either.

Teaser Trailer for THE LOST CITY OF Z

http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2016/12/teaser-trailer-for-lost-city-of-z.html
I can understand why Mark Wahlberg may not be in writer/director James Gray's latest given he's been a little pre-occuppied with the likes of Peter Berg and Michael Bay, but it seems curious Joaquin Phoenix isn't anywhere to be seen in this first look at the filmmakers latest effort. I wondered if he may have just had time for a smaller role and so I checked the cast list in iMDB, but nothing. It seems Gray has traded in his usual collaborators for younger, more "of the moment" talent as The Lost City of Z not only stars Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, King Arthur), but also Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Series, Rover) as well as our latest Spider-Man actor in Tom Holland. So, what is it that attracted such talent one might ask? Well, apparently the story is based on a true tale of a British military man, Percy Fawcett, (Hunnam) who becomes an explorer in search of a lost city in the Amazon. The facts of the case are that Fawcett, along with his eldest son, disappeared under unknown circumstances in 1925 during an expedition to find "Z" – the name he gave to an ancient lost city, which he and others believed to be El Dorado. The story is certainly engaging and the more interesting facet is that Gray, as a writer, could essentially invent his preferred ending as there is no concrete evidence supporting any one theory about what actually happened to Fawcett and the two men traveling with him. What direction Gray will choose to go will be one of great interest leading up to the films Spring release date, but if the story of Fawcett isn't exactly stated in this "first-look" teaser it at least sets a very specific tone and mood for what we'll be getting. Regardless of whether Gray decides to take a more realistic approach or indulge the mythos of Fawcett with what we might all hope he actually encountered should ultimately be besides the point as what will be more fascinating to see is how Hunnam handles a descent into madness. The Lost City of Z also stars Sienna Miller, Angus Macfadyen, Daniel Huttlestone, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Edward Ashleym, and opens on April 21st 2017.   

PASSENGERS Review

Passengers is a movie of ideas that doesn't necessarily know how to expand on those ideas and so it ends up devolving into and relying on conventional blockbuster factors. Passengers is a movie where the third act requires some amount of action and thus the reason for the inciting incident gets a pass while the personal turmoil this movie could have zeroed in on gets passed over. As viewers conditioned to the standard three act structures of most modern screenplays it is easy to see where things are headed for Passengers as soon as the  McGuffin at the beginning of the film becomes the central focus rather than the conflict between what are essentially our only two characters in the film. The movie, and the script, try to justify this decision by having the resolution of that McGuffin allow a certain character to come around to what had previously caused them great strain and shock. In essence, Passengers takes the easy way out and we all know taking the easy way out more times than not is also the least rewarding route. By choosing to travel the path of least resistance screenwriter John Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange) sentences the second half of his film to that of just another in a long line of big budget Hollywood blockbusters that favors spectacle over substance. I realize that such a complaint might sound as rote as I'm describing the last act of this movie to be, but when the main idea of your film turns out to be little more than, "Don't get hung up on where you'd rather be, but make the most of where you are," and that idea is ultimately conveyed as cheesily as it sounds there's a serious issue with Hollywood's aversion to risk. One can feel the board room manipulating what might have been a more interesting or at least more complex character piece dealing in intense moral conflict being turned into an action set piece that is never really clear on the mechanics of what all it is trying to accomplish as far as making sense to the audience, but at the very least communicating that our main protagonist wasn't totally wrong in doing what he did and therefore giving him no reason to feel as bad or as conflicted as he might have would the film have not given him the best possible outcome considering the scenario. Passengers had potential, it surely did, and there is still much to admire here, but when Hollywood takes the safer route over the more challenging one it gives audiences no option but to be lazy and not the least bit surprised.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 20, 2016

http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2016/12/on-dvd-blu-ray-december-20-2016.html

MISS SLOANE Review

Miss Sloane comes from first time screenwriter Jonathan Perera and promotes the idea that to get ahead in the vicious game of D.C. lobbying one has to know their subject. Perera obviously knows his subject. How Perera, who was living in Asia at the time he wrote the screenplay and who only optioned his work to literary agents over the internet before securing a production deal knows so much about the inside dealings of those hired to persuade legislators to support particular businesses or causes is a mystery, but he seems to have done a fair amount of research. Either that or what he feeds us in Miss Sloane is a huge pile of eloquently written BS. Like an Aaron Sorkin script (I haven't seen The Newsroom, but I imagine this might feel very similar) where dialogue is almost more important than emotion Miss Sloane fast tracks the audience through a deluge of day to day activities that a lobbyist at the top of their game such as the titular Sloane played with vicious velocity by the one and only Jessica Chastain might engage in. We are given little time to keep up and even less to really gauge what Sloane and her team are working on as the focus is not meant to highlight what kind of case our titular lobbyist and her team are working on, but more how keenly they are framing it to their client's advantage. While the objective for a lobbyist is the end-game it is the getting there, the journey if you will, that requires the creativity of someone in Sloane's position and the more creative one is the better the reputation they garner in their professional circles despite undoubtedly garnering a worse one among friends. Of course, this is why it is also made clear Sloane has no family or friends to speak of or to. It is a vicious circle of sorts and Perera makes that evident by reiterating the importance of how information is framed by framing his own film with that aforementioned end-game. In Miss Sloane the end-game is a hearing on Capitol Hill in Caucus Room 4 of the U.S. Senate. What is she doing here? What has brought her to this point? What accusation is being thrown around and what does it have to do with her abilities and/or the moral ambiguities of her techniques? Each are questions begged as small increments of information are fed the viewer within the epilogue of the film, but once the main narrative takes over it is easy to forget that framing device and simply go along for the ride which is exactly what Perera would prefer you do as he finds trouble in both sticking the ending and making it credible enough that we don't question how well he really does know his subject.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2016/12/initial-reaction-video-review-rogue-one.html
As expected, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dominated the weekend leaving little room in the news cycle for anyone else. With an estimated $155 million domestically from 4,157 theaters, Rogue One is off to a good start in line with studio expectations as it is already the 15th highest grossing release of 2016 after just three days. With that opening the film also currently holds the status of the fourth largest December three-day weekend ever, the third largest opening of 2016, the twelfth largest opening of all-time, and only the second December opener to debut over $100 million behind only The Force Awakens ($247 million) last year. To say that Rogue One only opened to $6 million more than The Force Awakens did in its second weekend is somewhat unfair, but it gives a slight indication of just how different these caveat-type films will do when compared to the straight anthology movies. What has been more interesting than anything is the vast array of reactions the film has garnered. It truly does seem to be as if the reactions are across the board on this thing as the film itself was very much a hot topic of conversation everywhere you went this weekend (especially if people know you love movies). Personally, and you can read this in my written review, I found the film to be a mixed bag of spectacular visuals and solid action set pieces while lacking somewhat in the plotting and majorly in the character development. My biggest issue with the film being that I never was able to invest in this new cast of characters as much as I was in even Rey or Fin from last years Star Wars film. The Force Awakens might have been a safer, more by the numbers piece of the Star Wars universe, but while Rogue One takes on the mentality of a full-on war epic mixed with a heist film it is the aesthetic of such films applied to the Star Wars universe that proves to be the most appealing aspect of director Gareth Edwards' effort. Well, that and Alan Tudyk's K-2SO. Regardless, be sure to check out our thoughts on the film via our video review after the jump and as always, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week!  

COLLATERAL BEAUTY Review

Will Smith is the people's actor. He is a presence that radiates the kind of everyman persona that the actual everyman would like to envision themselves as. It's nearly impossible not to find the presence of Smith in any film he chooses to participate anything other than a force of genuine charisma, but not here. In director David Frankel's (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me) Collateral Beauty Smith is relegated to looking as depressed as possible for the limited amount of time he actually appears on screen despite being touted as the lead of this ensemble piece. It's true-the films wackadaisical plot hinges on the actions of Smith's Howard Inlet, but it doesn't ultimately pay that much attention to him. Still, given it is Smith we care about this human being who is clearly and rightfully dealing with a tragedy on his own terms. Reeling from this great tragedy of losing a child we come to sympathize with Howard mostly thanks to the pain Smith conveys in his eyes that are constantly attempting to fight back both pain and tears. Still, we never become as invested in the character as it seems Frankel or screenwriter Allan Loeb (The Switch, Here Comes the Boom) imagined we might. Moreover, we are too shocked by what actually plays out in Loeb's screenplay as opposed to what type of movie the trailers sold this one to be. Going into Collateral Beauty there was a line of thinking that, being it was the holiday season, Loeb and the studio had intentionally written the story to take place at Christmas and released it around Christmas due to the similarities it seemingly shared with Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol. While Smith's Howard is certainly no Scrooge it seemed Loeb had more or less reverse engineered the situation and played things out as if Bob Cratchit were the boss of his own ad agency and whom he moves forward enough that Tiny Tim does in fact pass away only to have the three ghosts that are this time incarnated as Love, Death, and Time rather than Past, Present, and Future come visit our protagonist revealing the secrets to happiness long thought to be lost. Loeb certainly could have played with a few different ideas and themes coming at the story from this new perspective, but ultimately Collateral Beauty was never brave enough to try and update and/or re-engineer that Christmas classic, but would rather be as deceptive about what it actually is the same way many of its characters are.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA Review

Manchester by the Sea is a simple film made from a rather simple story. Meaning that the narrative is straight-forward and wholly based in the everyday lives the majority of us tend to lead. While these factors certainly make it more relatable than say, something along the lines of Allied, which is technically based in reality, but from which we are so far removed at this point it almost feels not of this world. All of this is to say that in our current plane of existence, Manchester by the Sea feels personal. It is a movie that creates an authentic environment from the world in which it exists. It feels lived-in and to that point we are not necessarily welcomed as much into this halfhearted existence that comes to be the subject of the film as we are wedged into the ongoing crap show that literally and figuratively seems to make up Lee Chandler's (Casey Affleck) life. I find it best to go into most films without much of an idea as to what exactly one might be getting themselves into and while it may be difficult to do that in terms of major blockbusters when living in a world that offers teasers for teaser trailers it is with movies such as Manchester by the Sea where this practice can be exercised to its full effect. And so, I went in more or less blind to what Manchester by the Sea carried in terms of narrative and with only the buzz it garnered out of its Sundance premiere earlier this year to signify that it was one worth watching. No matter if one knows the basic premise or not though, one thing is for certain: one cannot know the whole of the story the film is telling and it is in how director Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret) sets up the present scenario for our characters to operate in and then how he slowly peels back the layers of each of their pasts helping us to understand not only why and how these people have become who they are, but also giving us a glimpse of how far they can go and what the future might hold for them that makes the experience so simultaneously simple yet equally involving. It's a powerful piece of human drama to say the least with bare bones emotions bleeding through on the face of Affleck and every other actor in any significant portion of the movie. Lonergan, as a writer, is clearly interested in digging into the psyches of those who have dealt in tragedy and analyzing the different ways in which we as human beings deal with such surreal, life-altering events. With Manchester by the Sea the writer/director tackles permanent heartbreak to grandly moving results.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Review

"It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet." It is with these words that the original Star Wars introduced fans to a galaxy far, far away nearly forty years ago; despite the nearly four decades between then and now though, those words couldn't be more relevant today. It is in these two short, but descriptive sentences that one can understand the basis of where Rogue One comes from and its relevance in setting up the dots that will be connected throughout the original trilogy of films. For a Star Wars fan, this is nothing if not incredible-that the smallest of details from within the universe can be fleshed out so as to expand upon the rich layers of the world George Lucas created all those years ago seemingly opens up endless possibilities. For writers Chris Weitz (About a Boy, Cinderella) and Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) though, one could see how this might be more than a little intimidating to take on. As one might be inclined to do in such a situation Weitz and Gilroy have more or less crafted an old school genre film out of a franchise brand that has more or less become a genre of its own. And so, Rogue One is a genre film executed in a film universe that has defined the science fiction blockbuster genre since its inception forty years ago. That may sound inherently disparaging, but it really isn't. Rather, adjusting the Star Wars universe to fit that of a "(wo)man on a mission" template is rather inspiring and director Gareth Edwards (Monsters. Godzilla) has skillfully adapted the rich and textured aesthetic of 1970's sci-fi to this story that takes place just before Princess Leia sent her trusty droids to seek out an old Jedi friend. Though Rogue One may not ultimately break any new barriers and will undoubtedly serve more as the rule than the exception when it comes to this new breed of Star Wars stories we'll be receiving consistently for as far as Disney's bank accounts can go (hint: they go really far) it is still a more than competent action/adventure story that introduces a few new memorable characters, worlds of which we've never seen before, and a narrative that despite every single person in the audience knowing where it's headed still manages to keep us on the edge of our seats.

First Trailer for DESPICABLE ME 3

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The barrage of trailers for 2017's biggest summer releases continues with what will likely be one of if not the biggest movie of the summer next year: Despicable Me 3. While I never expected in the summer of 2010 while watching the genuinely fun and inventive Despicable Me that it would become one of the biggest animated franchises of its day here we will be seven years later and four films in as not only has Gru and his minions received two sequels, but his minions themselves have had their own movie. After the underwhelming sequel though and rather bad Minions spin-off my expectation for anything noteworthy to come out of this franchise has significantly decreased. Sure, there are still a few funny gags in this first look trailer for the third installment in Gru's ever-expanding story and the last bit is an especially inspired piece of physical comedy, but there are more minions to be seen here than Gru's daughters which, if you might recall, were really the heart and soul of that original film. They were what made telling the story of a villain so compelling, conflicting, and ultimately rewarding. While I can understand why Universal and Illumination have picked Trey Parker of South Park fame to fill the role of the baddie here due to the fact the parents who will likely be taking their children to see this were in their adolescence when South Park was in its heyday and the 80's-inspired villain plays perfectly into both Parker's childhood and our current nostalgic fascination with that decade I find it hard to believe that whatever story is to be derived from this showdown of villains will also be derivative of any of the heart and soul that initial film showed so much of. Of course, that doesn't really matter to Universal or Illumination either as they both well know that Despicable 3 is designed to make buckets of money and buckets of money it will make. Despicable Me 3 features the voice talents of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, and opens on June 30, 2017.

Full Trailer for Christopher Nolan's DUNKIRK

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Getting in just before the cutoff for Rogue One's wide theatrical debut tomorrow night we now have a new look at the latest epic from director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar). Shot completely on IMAX 65mm film and 65mm large-format photography Nolan and Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema are clearly intent on creating a World War II film for the ages. While my concern with Dunkirk comes more out of the fact the market for WWII film is rather saturated these days than any worry with Nolan or the story he wants to tell there is a certain familiarity with these types of images that no longer allow them to feel as fresh no matter what scope one is shooting on. That said, what we're given in this first trailer is undoubtedly beautiful. The story concerns the real-life events of the evacuation of Dunkirk, known as Operation Dynamo, during the British military operation that saved 330,000 lives as Allied soldiers were surrounded by German forces. Nolan wrote the screenplay himself without usual collaborator, brother Jonathan, but the picture will reunite the director with longtime collaborator/composer Hans Zimmer. Another interesting caveat drawn from what this new trailer delivers is the fact there is no real hint of who the hero of this story is or if there is one in particular protagonist at all. Rather, the clip is more a collection of shots that feature more than a few recognizable faces, but none of which seem to necessarily be taking charge of the narrative Nolan might be telling. We may learn more about its story if we get a final trailer in a few months, but for now this is more than enough to intrigue this viewer. Of course, I'll see anything Nolan decides to put his time and effort into so that may not exactly be saying much, but nonetheless the idea we're getting a WWII film from the perspective of one of our great modern filmmakers is nothing to be dismissed. Dunkirk stars Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Harry Styles, and opens on July 21, 2017. 

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS Review

Editing. Editing is key in director Tom Ford's follow-up to his 2009 debut A Single Man titled Nocturnal Animals as the narrative begins by introducing Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) as a woman who seemingly has it all together, but whose world it tears to shreds in less than two hours. It accomplishes such a visceral effect on the viewer due largely to the skill in which it is cut. To unravel the neatly wrapped facade of Morrow's life is to cut back and forth between her present timeline, her past detailing how she reunited and fell in love with first husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), as well as the story in which she is reading. The key factor being the story that she is reading comes to her from Sheffield as a novel he wrote that will soon be published, but as it was inspired by Morrow he thought she deserved to read it first. The book, also titled "Nocturnal Animals", is the story of a family on a road trip whose car is hijacked by a band of troublemakers that includes a nearly unrecognizable Aaron Taylor-Johnson where terrible things happen. The representation of this novel as put to screen is what will come to garner the most attention from the viewer as it is high-tension drama filled with moving and effective plot points as well as performances. What makes Nocturnal Animals, the film, more than just a stirring adaptation of the work within the work though, is the foresight it utilizes in the outside stories and how they will influence our reactions to the actions taking place within that most engaging storyline. How is this accomplished though? How are these two outlying narratives so effective in both supporting and drawing from the narrative that undoubtedly holds the weight of the film on its shoulders? Through the editing. The film is cut in such an extraordinarily unpredictable fashion that, as an audience member, when it cuts we are never allowed to know what it might be cutting to. There are even long pauses that fill the screen with darkness designed to make the audience think a certain segment is over only to drop us back into the same story moments later. This unpredictability not only ups the tension in terms of seeing where certain plot strands might go, but in ultimately structuring the story in such a way that when the payoff for everything each of the three individual storylines has been building to finally arrives it hits you. And I mean really hits you. Nocturnal Animals is an exercise in sheer audacity and nearly every one of its risks pays off.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

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This week on Initial Reaction we enjoyed the week before Rogue One hits with the slight if not still enjoyable comedy that is Office Christmas Party. The $45 million ensemble comedy from Paramount was able to muster a decent $17.5 million opening weekend statewide while also garnering an estimated $16.4 million elsewhere in the world for a worldwide total of $33.9 million so far. The film should do well over the next few weeks as it faces slim competition as far as similar genre offerings go (and if early reviews are any indication, you'll be better off seeing this than Why Him?), but with the sheer amount of release over the next two to three weeks it could prove difficult for Office Christmas Party to find the space in theaters to really thrive. With Rogue One and the Will Smith-starrer Collateral Beauty opening this week as well as the expansion of awards season favorites La La Land and Manchester By the Sea as well as two days of new releases the week of Christmas with a total of at least eight new films opening semi-wide to wide it will be interesting to see how the only Holiday-centric movie of the bunch fares. All of that said, Office Christmas Party still didn't debut at No. 1 this week as far as Box Office rankings are concerned as that title belonged to Moana for the third straight week. With an estimated $18.8 million, Moana's domestic cume now comes to $145 million whereas internationally the animated film brought in another $23.5 million as its overseas gross now stands at $93.8 million for a global total of $238.8 million. As we prepare for the full-on Holiday season over the new few weeks go ahead and check out our video review for Office Christmas Party and get ready for Rogue One this weekend. As always, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week! 

First Trailer for THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

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I've talked at length about how strange it is that a franchise born out of pure confusion and desperate measures has come to be one of the biggest if not the most long-running series that performs as consistently as these Fast & Furious films do. One can't help but to wonder if the franchise would feel more in a state of fatigue were it not for the tragic and rather shocking death of Paul Walker in the middle of production on the seventh film, but with the eighth film in the franchise it seems Dominic Toretto and his gang are moving on to different terrain and by that I mean both in terms of physically as well as in story. I guess I somewhat artlessly assumed that the beginning of the "final" trilogy in this ever-expanding brand would more or less follow the beats of those that had come before it meaning Dom and his gang would get roped into an elaborate mission that requires their particular set of skills to stop a new villain of the week, this time played by Charlize Theron. I assumed wrong as from the opening moments of this over three-minute trailer it's clear Vin Diesel's Toretto is no longer the man that holds family above all else. In fact, he goes full rogue here not only betraying those he once called family, but actively dismantling them forcing the remaining members of his crew in Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Roman (Tyrese) to team-up with The Rock's Hobbs and former enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) in order to take him down. This is an interesting way to kick off this new phase in the Fast & Furious story and I look forward to seeing what twist series screenwriter Chris Morgan has come up with to justify Dom's sudden turn. All of that said it should also be noted that new to the franchise director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) has seemed to certainly add his own flavor to the mix as not only are the stunts on par with the stakes the team seems to be facing, but there is an undeniable rhythm to it all that hopefully plays through the entire runtime of the final film. The weirdly titled The Fate of the Furious also stars Kurt Russel, Scott Eastwood, Elsa Pataky, Helen Mirren, and opens on April 14th, 2017.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY Review

What is there to say about a movie that knows exactly what it is and executes itself in competent fashion? Turns out, not too much really-especially when one is talking specifically about something as frivolous as Office Christmas Party. After watching this hour and forty-five minute comedy my friend and co-host at Initial Reaction summed up what we'd just experienced perfectly. Describing the "here for a good time" flick that actually ends up overstaying its welcome as a raunchier version of one of those holiday themed, multi-plotted, department store advertisements as directed by the late Garry Marshall, Office Christmas Party piles on the recognizable names and faces (Hey! There's Jennifer Aniston again!), juggles a handful of plotlines, and ultimately comes off as trying too hard to have some kind of genuine heart when we all know the only reason it actually exists is to cash in on certain weekends of the year when viewers seek reminders for how they should/would like to feel around the holidays. This wouldn't be so bad considering Office Christmas Party has a more than capable cast and isn't nearly as hokey as those aforementioned Marshall pictures, but the film ultimately tries to do too much with very little when it would have been fine had it simply allowed its talented comedic ensemble to feed off one another. While Marshall's films more or less turned a holiday of its choosing into a combination of Crash and any Hallmark movie ever Office Christmas Party at least has a driving plot that keeps the focus on only the characters involved in the central narrative and has each of them chasing and contributing to the same goal. There are no extraneous stories that have to strain to connect all the random characters together, but that doesn't mean every subplot should have been kept either. It is in its inability to restrain from both following one too many superfluous factors as well as devolving into something it clearly had no intention of being until it realized the credits had to roll at some point that Office Christmas Party suffers, but when it is having fun, making jokes, and letting the comedic talent it has enlisted to roam freely it's a consistently hilarious time that delivers on what its promotional campaign promised.

First Trailer for WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

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And the revolving door of trailers continues as 20th Century Fox has thrown their hat in the ring with the first trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes or the the third film in their re-booted Planet of the Apes trilogy that will follow up Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. If nothing else, this week has shown what a stellar year 2017 could be for blockbusters as not only do the two Marvel offerings we've seen so far look genuinely solid, but Transformers always feels like an event, Baywatch looks like The Rock will continue his hot streak and Zac Efron will continue doing what he does best in R-rated comedies, as he also appears in the highly-anticipated eight entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, while any summer with a new Christopher Nolan film is one to be cherished. Sure, The Mummy may end up being a little underwhelming or it could turn out to be fantastic-who knows, but the point is that adding War for the Planet of the Apes to this roster only makes it look that much more impressive. I was genuinely thrilled and surprised when director Rupert Wyatt's Rise  turned out to be one of the best offerings of the summer back in 2011 and thus immediately became more interested in the mythology of the series as all I'd seen prior was the original and Tim Burton re-make. When Matt Reeves took over the series for 2014's Dawn it was easy to tell the direction they were going and how we might eventually connect the dots from one movie to the next, but that didn't make the journey any less thrilling. Though I was somewhat underwhelmed by Reeves' film there was still much to admire about it including the lush visuals and attempts at addressing larger themes (albeit this is a theme throughout the entire series). It seems the director has once again accomplished as much with this third installment as it looks truly epic in both thought and visual scale. War for the Planet of the Apes stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Max Lloyd-Jones, and opens on July 14, 2017.

Teaser Trailer for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

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As happened last year with the release of The Force Awakens every studio and their mothers are releasing trailers for their biggest films of 2017 in hopes of getting them attached to prints of Rogue One which will undoubtedly be seen by more eyeballs than any other movie in theaters this year. One that is something of a given though is that of the first glimpse of our new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) in action as the Sony Pictures/Marvel co-production exists at least partially under the Disney banner. One can bet that Disney will pair their new iteration of the webslinger with as many prints of Rogue One as possible so as to both let those who are unaware we're getting a new Spider-Man movie in 2017 aware of that fact while also giving those who anxiously await that film something to look forward to once the anticipation for Rogue One has passed. It's a win/win all around and this first look at the footage from director John Watts (Cop Car) John Hughes-inspired take on Spidey certainly makes the fact we're getting a new Spider-Man flick just that: a win. In the short tease that was dropped yesterday the fact Holland's Spider-Man would sport the webbed wings that allow him to fly through the air only signaled that Watts and his writers room would be taking their film as retro as we've indeed heard throughout most of the production. From the design of the logo to the very outspoken intent of making this a very young, very inexperienced Peter Parker who enlists Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark as something of a mentor (who designed Spidey's suit as we saw in Civil War and are told in this trailer), but who really just exists as a normal kid with super powers in a world where superheroes are more or less the norm. It will be interesting to see how Homecoming brings the newly minted Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but if this first footage is any indication it seems it will pose no issue at all. Spider-Man: Homecoming also stars Jon Favreau, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei, and opens on July 7th, 2017.

LION Review

Lion is one of those films that is as pure in its intentions as it is obvious in them. There is no hiding the fact that this "based on a true story" Oscar-hopeful adapted from Saroo Brierley's account of his own journey in the book, "A Long Way Home" is meant to be anything less than an inspiring and uplifting experience. The good news is that those intentions are so genuine that one can't help but to be unconsciously or willfully manipulated by the emotions the film plays on. That is to say, if one is willing to submit themselves fully and without any kind of pessimism or outright cynicism then Lion is a treat that will garner your investment first in the life of its protagonist and then in their plight. There aren't many flourishes here and the storytelling is rather straightforward and predictable, but there is something to the way that director Garth Davis moves through these familiar beats that lend them such an authenticity that it never feels as if the movie is attempting to create false emotion where none exists. Rather, it is simply presenting the facts of a story that elicit such natural responses. There is nothing overly exceptional about the film and Davis doesn't exactly place a particular visual or directorial style on the piece, but rather Lion is very much a middle of the road awards contender that appears to be little more than as much based on its story and credentials. It is able to transcend such labels through the process of the otherwise humbling experience it creates. Much of the films heavy lifting is done in the first half where Saroo is portrayed as a child by the infinitely precious Sunny Pawar as opposed to the second half where face on the poster Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) searches for interesting places for the script to take him as his more matured Saroo deduces his place of origin through the help of the then just-launched Google maps. It's not so much that the second half of the film falters, but more that it is never able to keep pace with the more insightful and moving first half. Given we become so invested in Pawar's performance and Saroo's predicament though, we're naturally inclined to be interested in the details of how his story wraps up. It is in this conclusion that Lion shows its greatest strength in that all that has come before truly pays off in the most affecting and sincere of ways.     

Teaser Trailer for TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT

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Well, here we are. Nearly a decade on from the first time Michael Bay graced us with his vision of the eighties cartoon series about two opposing factions of transforming alien robots who engage in a battle that starred Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. Ten years later and both LaBeouf and Fox have long since left the franchise, but Optimus Prime and Bumblebee (and apparently Bay) have little where else to go. In the interim between Transformers flicks Bay has shown some interesting tendencies as a director with the genuinely thrilling, funny, and entertaining Pain & Gain as well as the admirable if not overlong and somewhat indulgent 13 Hours. I've always appreciated Bay's visual style and the mastery he has over it as well as the simple energy he seems to possess in pushing himself and his crew to the limits so as to deliver the biggest kinds of blockbusters he can, but I don't think anyone would debate, including Bay himself, that what he's crafting is little more than junk food. Movies that will appease the masses and afford escapism to those willing to pay for two and a half ours of such, but not much else. There is no substance to the spectacle and unfortunately the same looks as if it can be said for the board room concoction that is Bay's fifth Transformer film, The Last Knight. I'll see Bay's latest foray into maximizing the IMAX experience and I'll no doubt be wowed by the scale of the action set pieces as it is clear from this first look that Bay isn't skimping on the explosions despite the energy level for the franchise seeming to wane. Will I enjoy The Last Knight-only time will tell. Age of Extinction, the previous Transformers film that traded LaBeouf for Mark Wahlberg, was a close tie for the worst in the series with Revenge of the Fallen as it felt like a total slog, a re-boot that didn't know how to re-boot itself. I can only hope that this time around writers Matt Holloway, Art Marcum, and Ken Nolan give the director a more straightforward, lean story, but I won't hold out too much hope just yet. Transformers: The Last Knight sees the return of Wahlberg as well as starring Laura Haddock, Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner, Stanley Tucci, John Goodman, John Turturro, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and opens on June 23rd, 2017.   

Initial Reaction: Video Review - JACKIE

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It was your typical first weekend of December at the box office as the single wide release of the week, a horror flick from the director of San Andreas starring Aaron Eckhart called Incarnate, was only able to muster a $2.6 million opening on a $5 million budget. I'm not entirely sure if this one sat on the shelf for long before High Top Releasing decided to squeeze it into the December schedule, but it sure feels like one of those movies. The only other (semi) wide release of the week was the faith-based Believe in 639 theaters with a result of only $602,519. The major releases over Thanksgiving including Moana, Allied, and Fantastic Beasts continued to dominate the top five while Doctor Strange is still performing well with the biggest holdover news being that Arrival, a quiet and rather subtle adult drama just passed $100 million internationally. Not too shabby. The biggest news as far as new releases was concerned though certainly had to do with Jackie as the Pablo Larrain-directed, Natalie Portman-starrer debuted in five theaters over the weekend where it took in an estimated $275,000 or $55,000 per theater. We were able to secure an early screening of the film and thus the reason we are able to bring you a review of this Oscar hopeful that will appear to open on a very limited platform release over the course of the next month. There is something to be said about these awards-type films that open only in limited release throughout the month of December and how it depends on what critics groups one is a part of that determines what they are or are not able to see early no matter the local release date. I would love to have been able to see Manchester by the Sea (now playing in 156 theaters nationwide) closer to its initial November 18th release date, but will not be able to see it until tonight less than two weeks before it goes wide. The same could be said for Nocturnal Animals which also opened in limited release on November 18th, but which we in Arkansas won't see until this Friday when it opens in a single theater. I guess I should simply count my lucky stars we were able to see and talk Jackie this weekend as it begins its theatrical roll out, so I hope you enjoy. As always, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week!

Full Trailer for THE MUMMY Starring Tom Cruise

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Next year Universal Pictures will begin to expand on the movie universe it somewhat began with 2014's Dracula Untold. Whether or not that Luke Evans dud (at least in terms of quality, though it only made $217 million worldwide on a $70 million budget) will tie into this new incarnation of The Mummy is yet to be seen, but it's clear the studio is placing a much bigger bet on this film hiring big guns like Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in the cast while being explicitly clear in their intention to see this through to a new cinematic universe a la Disney's Marvel films and Warner Bros. DC Comics movies. All of that taken into consideration it doesn't seem to matter what Universal's long term goals might be to the average movie-goer if this first go-around doesn't work for audiences or give them reason to invest or be excited. Should people even be excited for a movie that re-boots a series that saw its last installment be released in theaters not more than a decade ago? Universal seems to hope that by hiring names such as Cruise and Crowe along with a creative team that includes first time feature director Alex Kurtzman who has written major blockbusters in the Transformers, Spider-Man, and Star Trek franchises as well as writers Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Doctor Strange, Passengers) and Cruise's current creative partner Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) that audiences very well might. In doing as much there is certainly something of a more inherent pedigree to the material and thus, hopefully, a more imminent need for audiences to see it and be in on the water cooler conversations that would then take place next summer, but right now it's hard to tell. It's difficult to tell whether The Mummy will even be among the most talked about trailers that will debut over the next two weeks that hope to get out in front of Rogue One. The first full trailer looks fun enough and Cruise is on something of a roll with these big-budget actioners at the moment, so it will be interesting to see how far his star power extends past the Mission Impossible series when paired with a high-profile concept, but as for now this can't help but feel like another of the many fish in the sea. The Mummy also stars Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, and opens on June 9, 2017. 

First Trailer for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

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Director James Gunn released a "sneak peek" trailer for his follow-up to the breakout Marvel success of 2014 in Guardians of the Galaxy just over a month ago although I hesitate to call what we saw only a sneak peek as it ran over two minutes and gave us a look at each of our favorite characters and what they're seemingly up to these days. That said, it was clear this wasn't the last we'd see/hear from the Guardians prior to the end of the year with Disney rolling out Rogue One in less than two weeks. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 kicking off the summer of 2017 in that first weekend of May slot that Marvel has now dominated for the past six years save for 2014 when Winter Soldier opened the first weekend in April (due to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 claiming the opening weekend that year) you can bet Marvel and Kevin Feige are intent on getting the hype started as soon as possible. Given the trailer Gunn and his team have put together one can bet it will do just that. While some of what we see here in the full-length trailer is more or less the same as what we saw in that aforementioned "sneak peek" we get the added reassurance that if nothing else, this sequel will be really funny and feature some great banter between the core members of the team. There is no revealing of any previously unknown story elements and we don't see any footage of new additions Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) or Ego (Kurt Russell) though we do get our first look at Mantis, a former member of the Avengers in the comics, played here by Pom Klementieff. Still, this trailer is as promising as one could have hoped if you enjoyed the tone and humor of the first. Proving more of the same isn't always a bad thing here's to the hope that train of thought is only to ease us into the sequel with the actual movie offering something slightly different from our first experience with the team. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 also stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Zaldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillian, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, and opens on May 5th, 2017. 

MOONLIGHT Review

Moonlight is one of those films that anytime your mind tends to float back to it inevitable feelings of great sympathy and understanding come with it. It is a film that both simply and oh so complexly transcends all barriers of politics and beliefs and presents a bare bones human story that just so happens to deal with being black and being gay. It's always been clear, especially from the outside looking in, that the culture that forms young black men is one of the most high-pressure environments for one to be tough, hard, or essentially show little to no feeling at all. "Toxic masculinity" as it has been labeled in recent writings. There has long existed the stigma that to be hard or worthy of being a man one must be largely indifferent to those things that naturally give us weaknesses in the world. By tackling this idea and how it affects the growth and development of one underprivileged youth is at one time to present exactly what it promises while at another-painting a much broader picture of this toxicity that has been constructed by society for which many young men are led to believe there are certain actions that have to be taken or certain attitudes that must be adopted in order to make them worthy of being a man. This doesn't have to necessarily deal with sexuality, but more this condition is about those stereotypes of men-emotionless, dominant, violent-that society has relayed to determine certain levels of masculinity. That Moonlight addresses such expectations and the baggage, the torture, and the living hell such expectations can carry when not met in the judgmental environments of the projects or of high school or even of one's mother who knows the essence of her son, but isn't strong enough herself to stand up to such stigma's thus leaving that child for the wolves of the world is powerful enough. That Moonlight is able to explore these largely ignored aspects of manhood in such poetic and provocative ways as through the lens of a young man growing up black, poor, and gay only makes these points that much more enlightening and subsequently-that much more powerful. Moonlight is a film that, anytime you think about, are reminded of, or even consider the ground it covers and the essence of what it embodies not only in its ideas and themes, but in its nearly flawless execution inevitable feelings of great sympathy and understanding come as well. More than anything, writer/director Barry Jenkins understands the human element at the core of these issues and by parlaying as much through the single perspective of Chiron at three different stages of his life we are delivered a fleshed out portrait of the true internal tendencies versus the ideals we're taught we should become.  

JACKIE Review

There's a moment that comes forty-five or so minutes into Jackie where the former first lady boldly strides into her husband's quarters for the first time since his death and proceeds to play what she recalls as his favorite number from the musical, "Camelot," while trying on much of her wardrobe, sitting in chairs, smoking, sitting in rooms, and admiring swatches of material she no doubt had glorious plans for; soaking in all that will soon be gone, the tragedy, the full comprehension of what our titular character is going through just washing over Jackie herself-maybe for the first time since her husband's death with the full force of reality. There is a plethora of delicious dialogue in Noah Oppenheim's screenplay, but it is moments such as this-moments that require no words where director Pablo Larraín excels at cutting to the heart of what motivates our titular character, what allows her to push on with life, and most impressively what gives Jackie the ability of allowing the audience to understand an individual's challenging ideas and decisions in the midst of unfair circumstances that are also undoubtedly the worst days of her life. Jackie follows former first lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the week following the assassination of her husband in 1963, but that is what is to be expected from a biographical film concerning Mrs. Kennedy. What one might not necessarily be prepared for, but that Jackie certainly delivers, is a closely compacted study of the balance a woman in her (singular) position must pull off when concerning themselves not only with the here and now, but what people will write about her and her husband for decades to come. The ideas of legacy and of shaping that legacy come easier to viewers who obviously know what the myths around the ever-regal Kennedy clan have come to be, but Jackie opens our eyes to the fact such myths have to be constructed in some form or fashion. People like to believe in fairy tales and, for Jackie, it seems the goal was always to purport this facade that embodied the noble and majestic lifestyle of her husband's favorite musical. While Jackie, the film, looks to more or less deconstruct those myths-revealing the thought process and truths behind the scenes-the film also weirdly works to build up that myth even more albeit with more of an eerie tone than that of the mysterious one Jackie might have preferred. 

Initial Reaction: Video Review - MOANA

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The big news story at the holiday box office this year was certainly the latest from Disney Animation as Moana scored the second largest five-day Thanksgiving opening of all-time and the third largest three-day Thanksgiving opening of all-time. Those numbers are $81.1 million and $55.5 million respectively as the film not only had to fend off other new releases such as Allied and Bad Santa 2, but strong holdovers in the form of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Arrival, and Doctor Strange. Moana comes in behind only Frozen in terms of the largest Thanksgiving debut ever allowing for Disney to now claim nine of the ten spots for the both the best three-day and five-day box office top tens over the Thanksgiving holiday. More than the numbers though, Moana deserved to be number one as it is far and away my favorite animated film of the year (I haven't been able to get it's songs out of my head all weekend) and while it couldn't best Frozen at the box office and likely won't strike the same cultural chord as that film did three years ago Moana is still something to very much be celebrated as it is the better film in my humble opinion. As for those holdovers, the J.K. Rowling-penned Fantastic Beasts pulled in a strong second week with a $45.1 million three-day and a $65.76 million five-day total bringing the film's domestic cume to $156.2 million after only ten days in release with it now standing at $473.7 million globally. Doctor Strange passed $200 million domestically this weekend with an estimated $13.36 million three-day and $18.85 million five-day weekend. And while we had some issues with our video review of Arrival it is still a film worth seeking out while in theaters and seems to be holding strong, finishing its third weekend with a take of $15.6 million over the course of the five-day weekend bringing its domestic total to $62.38 million on a $47 million budget. That's it for now, but as always, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week!

ALLIED Review

There is much to be said for Allied-a film that desperately wants to pay proper respects to its influences of yesteryear, but there is an equal amount with this most prestige of all prestige pictures (at least based on its credentials and story, if not the awards attention it will never receive) that goes unsaid in ways that leave the viewer hoping for more, but receiving very little. The costume drama/wartime romance that is Allied is a film that should, by definition of those involved, be something of a rejuvenation of the genre rather than one that follows the rules of it for mediocre results. With the likes of Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Cast Away, The Polar Express) directing one would expect the film to take the preconceptions of the time period and the genre and apply them to a unique or at least more interesting way of capturing this material, but if anything Zemeckis actually plays things as straight as possible delivering not necessarily a bad movie, but a safe if not masterfully made one. If there is one thing Allied excels at it is letting the viewer know how good looking its two stars are in multiple, era-appropriate fashions while also seeming to overly focus on just how young Brad Pitt is still capable of looking. Granted, there is clearly some type of digital touching up to Pitt's face, but why bother outside of keeping in step with the overall glossy aesthetic of the picture is unclear. Moreover, the dazzling aesthetic, impressive set designs, and elegant costumes would all still be just as appreciated and impressive if not more so if they weren't so much of what the film has going for it. Instead, they are the prime focus of positives as the narrative feels somewhat lacking despite being a genuinely intriguing premise from which certain, very specific tensions can be spurned. In essence, Allied is a missed opportunity to make an old school war drama through the lens of modern filmmaking, but as the key element that is the story doesn't remain consistent in the high stakes of the drama it seems to so thoughtlessly spin Allied never manages to feel substantial in any way, shape, or form thus leaving the viewer with a decent movie-going experience, but certainly not a memorable one. 

MOANA Review

I've been watching a lot of The Little Mermaid lately thanks to my two year-old daughter and like Ariel, Moana faces a father who is something of a control freak and who stands in the way of her and what she feels is her destiny. The difference in the plights of Ariel and Moana come very quickly though as rather than a forbidden romance, Moana simply wants to explore the waters of the sea out past the reef that surrounds her people's island. So, in short, they actually long for the exact opposite of one another, but you get the point. This analogy of sorts works throughout Moana as the latest from Disney Animation plays very much to the strengths and structures of its predecessors while making just enough tweaks to appropriate it for the current cultural landscape. Meaning directors Ron Clements and John Musker, who both not-so-surprisingly wrote and directed not only The Little Mermaid, but Aladdin, Hercules, and The Princess and the Frog among others, know what they're doing, but more are well-aware of the anatomy of a Disney movie and how best to perform such a feat as creating something that is both fun yet familiar. Creating a place audiences can go to find a refreshing bit of nostalgia in the Disney animated musicals of old while witnessing the marvels of today's animation as their children soak it all in for the first time the moral of Moana is that there will always be new generations of audiences who need to be coaxed or have a gateway to those aforementioned Disney hits of the nineties. Moana is very much an amalgamation of all that has come before it while encapsulating all that Disney's brand of animation can be moving forward. Taking cues from those that have come before, acknowledging them in humorous ways, and then going on to execute them in exceptional ways Moana is something of a treasure that never slows down (save for the obligatory bit of self-doubt that must be overcome in the third act) and continues to surprise by not necessarily going in any unexpected directions, but more by being as creative as possible in the approach it takes to those directions. It is difficult to describe exactly how a movie that brings so much joy is capable of doing just that, but I was unable to drop the smile and/or awestruck expression from my face for the entire runtime. For this and for its keen sense of when to borrow and when to innovate Moana is easily my favorite animated film of 2016.

First Trailer for Martin Scorsese's SILENCE

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After it being initially announced that the first trailer for auteur Martin Scorsese's long-gestating film Silence would premiere before showings of Allied on Tuesday night and online this Saturday things quickly snowballed into the trailer not playing before my screening of Allied to walking out of Allied only to find out the trailer had already debuted online. All of that said, the first trailer for Scorsese's passion project has finally debuted and it certainly promises a tale of vast epicness and deep explorations in the biggest, most complex of territories: religion. Based on the 1966 novel by Shusaku Endo and adapted for the screen by Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York) Silence follows two Jesuit priests who go looking for their mentor in 17th Century Japan, a time when outsiders, and especially Christians, were treated with disdain and mistrust. Scorsese is said to have been working on trying to adapt Endo's novel for some twenty-five plus years, but finally was able to move forward with the project at the beginning of last year after Fábrica de Cine and SharpSword Films agreed to produce and provide the financing for the $50 million picture with Paramount distributing the film in the U.S. While anything Scorsese does is naturally going to be of great interest to cinephiles the dierector has proved fairly bankable in his last few endeavors with Paramount releasing Shutter Island, Hugo, and The Wolf of Wall Street each to solid financial success and/or great rewards reception. Not counting Shutter Island, Scorsese's last five films have also scored Best Picture nominations and so the precedent is rather high for his latest, but if this trailer truly is any indication of the three hour opus the filmmaker has constructed we seem to be in for something special if not hugely insightful and maybe even influential. Silence stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, and opens in limited release on December 23rd, 2016. 

BLEED FOR THIS Review

Though the national stage for boxing has only seemed to grow smaller and smaller over the years Hollywood's infatuation with the sport has only grown stronger. Between Southpaw and the generally terrific Creed last year to Hands of Stone and now Bleed for This the question around the story of Vinny Pazienza was always going to be not what made it worth telling-we know what the hook is-but more what makes this film in particular worth watching as the options for such sports dramas are continually growing. One could go on to discuss the committed and rather spectacular performance that Miles Teller gives in the role Pazienza, or the cool aesthetic that matches the time period in small, effective ways, but despite the casts best efforts and writer/director Ben Younger's endeavor to paint more a portrait of a man determined to overcome the odds rather than going through the motions of another redemptive sports tale, Bleed for This unfortunately ends up reducing itself to just that. It's a difficult place to be in as the genre trappings of such a film are so familiar and so easily relied on at this point that it is difficult to conjure up any such alternate as to how to go about telling such a story. Younger clearly has a knack for visual storytelling and each of the performances on display here, with the supporting turns from Aaron Eckhart, Ciarán Hinds, and Katey Sagal standing strongly next to Teller's lead performance, are far more than competent and in fact add heavily to the overall arc these characters experience allowing them to not just remain stock characters. This is key as it's always the characters who are going to allow pieces like this to stand out. Younger and his cast are able to create fully realized human beings who come across not as functions for the purpose of this movie or who are only present to further certain plot strands, but instead as individuals who have found themselves in the circumstances of this dour situation who are each trying to figure out how best to deal with it. Sounds rousing, right? Maybe even inspiring? It certainly could be as Bleed for This has all the right moves to make it a cornerstone boxing movie, but pacing issues and a lack of any heavy emotional impact leave this one stranded in the middle of the ring.