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.

KEANU Review

When Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key began their sketch comedy series in 2012 I wasn't aware of either comic in any large capacity save for a few supporting roles in random comedies. While I never jumped on the bandwagon that was the huge following their Comedy Central show soon amassed I saw enough clips on YouTube to know these guys were smart, insightful comedians who enjoyed commenting on social expectations by upending them in inventive ways. Most of these having to do with race or gender stereotypes, but nevertheless they were smart enough about their approach that many of their sketches quickly became cultural reference points in the same way Chappelle's show had a decade earlier. When Key and Peele's show ended in the fall of last year it was somewhat surprising given their three year run had yielded them great success, numerous opportunities, and it more or less seemed as if the duo were just beginning to really heat up. Talk about going out on top. It seems that with all the free time ending their show opened up for them the comedic duo decided it was time to take their act to the big screen. With the danger of wearing out their welcome by translating what worked for them in a five minute sketch to feature length as well as taking into account the low success rate of sketches turned into feature films the odds were never in their favor, but alas Key and Peele have made their formula work for them more than it doesn't. Again, coming from a position of having seen only a handful of sketches from what I'm sure is a much larger, more illustrious library than I can even imagine I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from Keanu, but due to the fact I largely enjoy broad comedies with outlandish premises that expose those premises for all they're worth Keanu largely succeeds in the goals it sets for itself. Of course, given I'd seen only what is likely the highest highlights from their show I was hoping for more consistent laughter, but there are enough big laughs here to tide one over when the movie intermittently forgets what it's supposed to be in exchange for the authenticity of what it is supposedly lampooning.

THE FAMILY FANG Review

Note: This is a reprint of my review for The Family Fang, which originally ran on September 16, 2015 after seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival. I am publishing it again today as it hits select theaters and VOD this weekend.

I rather enjoyed Jason Bateman's 2014 directorial debut Bad Words. I think I've watched it more times than I initially imagined I would given I thought it was fine, but little more. That said, I was really excited to see what Bateman would do next in the director's chair and boy does he deliver. While I had tempered expectations for The Family Fang it was clear after the films cold open that we were in for something pretty unique. This is in fact the strongest element the film has going for it in that you never quite know where it's going. Eventually, given the circumstances presented, we understand the themes of family and liberation that are being touched upon, but never do we know exactly what will happen next. This is due largely in part to the fact the premise is so different and off the wall. Adapted from a 2011 Kevin Wilson novel by screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Oz the Great and Powerful) The Family Fang is a film that is telling a dysfunctional family story through the conduit of performance art. With this material Bateman has taken advantage of the dark comedic tones the story highlights and is really able to explore not only his growth as a filmmaker (you can feel the more assured hand at work), but a more complex range of emotions. Bad Words was very on the nose for the sarcastic, cynical straight man, but The Family Fang requires more layers and it is layers he has provided as his latest film never stops evolving and the characters only grow out of the demons they're forced to come face to face with.

First Trailer for SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU

Premiering to largely positive reviews at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year Southside with You is writer/director Richard Tanne's chronicling of the summer 1989 afternoon where the future President of the United States, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady on an epic first date across Chicago's South Side. No matter your stance on Obama's presidency it is difficult to deny the charm in this first trailer for the film that shows what our current President was like on the precipice of his thirtieth birthday. There are of course hints as to what lies ahead for the couple, but in knowing that eventually the reluctant Michelle (played here by Tika Sumpter) gives into the charms of Obama (Parker Sawyers) the film doesn't seem to be concentrated on the will they/won't they aspect that most romantic comedies do, but rather the facets of the individuals that make them a good match for one another. In many of the reviews out of Sundance the film drew comparisons to Richard Linklater's romantic Before trilogy that uses the events of a single day to define multiple years of the central couples life. If Tanne's film has any of the insight and honesty present in Linklater's series it will certainly be something to be on the lookout for, not to mention the couple at the center of the film being one of intense public interest. Either way, this trailer has me sold on the film as it certainly has a very particular tone and feel to it that serves to separate it from all of the other summer offerings at the multiplex this year. With a great, natural aesthetic (it was shot on location in Chicago) and the two leads seeming to channel their real life characters without doing silly imitations while also having great chemistry I look forward to getting to know the Obama's a little better. Southside with You also stars Vanessa Bell Calloway, Phillip Edward Van Lear, Deborah Geffner, Taylar Fondren, Preston Tate Jr., Jerod Haynes, Fred Nance Jr., Donald Paul, Tom McElroy, and opens on August 26th, 2016.

THE INVITATION Review

The Invitation is a home invasion movie that remains contained. It is a film about paranoia that keeps each potential threat within each characters field of vision. It is a film of formalities and the edge of such expectations some can be pushed to before destroying such pleasantries in order to cut through one another with the truth. At least, truth from a certain perspective. And that is the key to this largely successful horror/thriller as it operates within the realm of a certain number of perspectives with our lead constantly forcing us to question his particular view and if it is reliable or not. Director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) mounts the film as a dinner party gathering between old friends coming together at the request of a couple they haven't heard from in years. Immediately the circumstances are strange as our protagonist, Will (Logan Marshall-Green of Prometheus), questions the motivations of both Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) as they seemingly have little interest in re-connecting or beginning relationships anew, but rather have brought their once close-knit circle of friends back together for reasons that are both mysterious and ultimately selfish. While The Invitation is certainly a tense and involving film it is also an experiment in how slow one can actually drag out the burn of its mounting anxieties and confusions. There is an interesting and excellent forty-five minutes within what we're treated to here, but dragging the events out to full feature length make long stretches of the film feel more tedious than tense. That said, when the film is on a roll it is indeed on fire and with a very distinct aesthetic, a haunting score from Theodore Shapiro, and truly affecting performances most notably from Marshall-Green and Blanchard, The Invitation proves to be a gathering worth attending.

HIGH-RISE Review

Note: This is a reprint of my review for High-Rise, which originally ran on September 21, 2015 after seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival. I am publishing it again today as it hits select theaters and VOD this weekend.

Where to even begin with director Ben Wheatley's (Kill List) latest, High-Rise, is beyond me. If ever there were a muck of a film that thrived on its look and style alone it would seem to be this one. Not even the charisma of insanely charismatic British actors like Tom Hiddleston and Luke Evans can save the hot mess this is, though they try desperately. From the outset, audiences are presented with a dystopic world of chaos and destruction that seems so disconnected from anything resembling familiarity that there is no urgency to care. Instead, this intended metaphor of social hierarchy is an aimless slog through the explanation of a failing system rather than any kind of examination of how social classes are commonly found in societies that are actually developed. All systems fail eventually, we understand that, but what we see in High-Rise is a society that never develops past the embryonic stages. It's always been something of a rule of thumb that a dominant hierarchy is necessary in order to maintain social order and provide a stable structure, but the folks who have created this luxury tower block seem to all want to live in luxury with no one invested in putting in the dirty work. Naturally, those living on the lower floors are the ones believed to be less worthy of their place in the tower and thus what eventually develops is an all-out dangerous social situation that leads the residents of the high-rise to fragment into violent tribes hell-bent on provoking one another into submitting to the other. While the circumstances of this premise would certainly turn into a rather disorderly situation in any film I didn't expect the film itself to do the same thing.

Full Trailer for Oliver Stone's SNOWDEN

It seems as if we've been talking about Oliver Stone's Edward Snowden film for two years now, but today we finally have the first full trailer after a teaser that debuted last June. I wasn't sure what to expect from the film given it seemed a rushed project to capitalize on current events. It didn't help my optimism that the fascinating documentary, Citizenfour, had already come out and with the involvement of the real Snowden had already shed as insightful a light on the situation as possible. Seeing actors go through similar motions would seemingly only feel like watching people play dress up. This is certainly a concern still given the vocal choices star Joseph Gordon-Levitt has seemed to adopt for his portrayal of Snowden, but this trailer also displays the advantages of having a dramatic narrative around a popular public figure. This aspect comes into play mostly in the early parts of the trailer as we are given highlights of what led Snowden to work for the NSA in the first place. His desire to serve his country and honor its legacy is an admirable quality no matter where one falls in line politically and will undoubtedly set the character up as a likable and endearing individual who audiences will find it hard to turn on once the events he's well-known for begin to happen. The story of Edward Snowden is certainly ripe for an adaptation by a filmmaker who has made his name on interpreting history and historical figures, but only time will tell if this is the Stone that brought us JFK and Born on the Fourth of July or the one who brought us Savages. Snowden also stars Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Nicolas Cage, and opens on September 16th, 2016.

ELVIS & NIXON Review

In December 1970 Elvis Presley apparently wasn't feeling too great about the direction America was headed in. If one wasn't aware, Presley was largely a conservative; a man who feared communists, the general tone around the Vietnam War, and the seeming lack of respect for the office of the President. And so, being the King, he assumed he could take such matters into his own hands and indeed planned on doing as much by taking his concerns straight to the White House. In December 1970 Presley's career was as big as it had ever been. The iconic one-piece jumpsuits debuted earlier in the year and the signature karate moves were now an even bigger part of his stage show. His shows at the Las Vegas International Hotel had sold out, set, and broke records throughout the year, but by the end of 1970 it seemed Presley's head was in a very different place. This brings us to the new film from director Liza Johnson, Elvis & Nixon, which discusses little to nothing about the music career of Elvis Presley, but more offers insight into the man Presley was outside of his well-known (and well-worn) persona. It's an interesting take and the film overall is a slight 86-minute excursion that strictly covers the how and why of this infamous meeting offering little to no commentary on the actual events leaving plenty of room for audience interpretation. This lack of any real angle, but rather pure intent to tell the story of a rather strange and unexpected set of events is admirable given today's highly peremptory society and especially considering the topic, but Johnson seems to care little for her characters actual beliefs or motivations, but simply accepts such feelings as fact and follows them with her camera to where such impulses led these actual men. Does this provide a compelling or complex film? No, not really, but it would have been next to impossible to make a film of this meeting not interesting and at the very least Elvis & Nixon is an interesting and straightforward history lesson if not being as necessarily notable as its main characters.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR

This weekend there was only one new major option in town, but even that option didn't seem attractive to most moviegoers as the prequel/sequel follow-up to 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman only brought in 36% of the opening weekend total of its predecessor. This is not without good reason as The Huntsman: Winter's War is more or less an excuse of a sequel rather than a worthy successor to the re-imagining of the Snow White story that Kristen Stewart's version aspired to be. While Chris Hemsworth obviously returned as the titular Huntsman Charlize Theron fortunately did as well in her role as Ravenna AKA the best part of the first film. Universal also stacked the cast with A-list female talent like Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt to make up for the lack of Snow White in what is still essentially a Snow White movie, but even these women couldn't help the film in its box office debut as Winter's War came in second with an estimated $20 million whereas The Jungle Book remained in first place and far above the runner-up with a $60.8 million haul in its second weekend. That number was not only enough to win the weekend by a large margin, but in dropping only 41.1% the Jon Favreau film scored the fourth smallest second weekend drop for a film that opened over $100 million. With its domestic cume now over $191 million while taking in an additional $96 million internationally this weekend the films global take is now over $528 million or the fifth largest of the year so far. It seems the only thing that can stop Disney's The Jungle Book is Disney/Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, but that still affords the mouse house another weekend to reign before the summer movie season kicks off and with slightly different demographics The Jungle Book certainly has a shot at being extremely leggy. As always, you can hit the jump to see the full video review and be sure to subscribe to our channel for a new review every week!

New Trailer for INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

In light of Earth Day today 20th Century Fox has decided to release a new look at this summer's Independence Day sequel that will inevitably destroy it. This twenty years later sequel that undoubtedly hopes to cash in on some of that nostalgia money Jurassic World was able to make last past summer is throwing all the chips on the table with this latest trailer. Unlike World though, this property has many a returning factors. Director Roland Emmerich has directed what looks to be a real time second chapter to the story of the 1996 alien invasion where the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsh, and Vivica A. Fox are all back to once again defend the planet from incoming invaders. The set-up has a neat little conceit to it as Goldblum's David Levinson has seemingly been leading the charge to ready the Earth for the inevitable by using the alien technology they acquired after the events of the first film to protect them if the aliens were to ever return. Well, it seems as if the time has come. With this new look at what I assume is recently completed footage given the amount of CGI here is seems the director has really outdone himself this time in terms of pure spectacle and scale. The destruction in this thing is almost incomprehensible, but it is truly stunning and should translate on the big screen quite well. The real question is if any of these characters will the same way Smith was able to way back when. At the very least, Emmerich is always a reliable source for big, brainless summer spectacle and I expect nothing short of such entertainment here. Independence Day: Resurgence also stars Liam Hemsworth, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jessie Usher, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, and opens on June 24, 2016.

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR Review

The biggest fight this unnecessary sequel was always going to battle was the one for purpose. In 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman there was much to admire in terms of visually stunning design and creativity for the functionality of much of those designs, but both the story and the characters felt thin, cobbled together from different mythologies, and thrown together in hopes of becoming a new take on an old tale. With The Huntsman: Winter's War the film once again faces something of an identity crisis-wanting to be a number of things, but never focusing on one single aspect enough to actually be about something. As the first film was an attempt to capitalize not only on the idea of turning well-known fairy tales into live-action adventures, but on swinging the Hollywood pendulum towards more female-centric action vehicles the focus is still very much on the ladies. This is all well and good until you realize that once again this Huntsman film is simply pulling from other stories to try and cobble together a legend of its own to no avail-giving extremely talented actresses nothing to work with. While not a direct sequel or even a full prequel, Winter's War is a spin-off of sorts that encapsulates all of the previous film and intends to add a broader scope and depth to the proceedings. In doing this we are offered a take on recent female Disney characters such as Elsa's Ice Queen from Frozen in the form of Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) and Merida from Pixar's Brave in the form of Sara (Jessica Chastain). Done in the hope that telling a darker, more action packed story would appeal not only to the kids who enjoyed those movies, but to the adults who've likely seen them on repeat and might find it interesting to see variations on such characters in live action form it's a fine enough strategy. At the very least this strategy provides some kind of template for the film to build strong female characters upon, but as a final product the film does nothing interesting with the majority of its characters in a story so scattered and with one too many lulls that even the beauty of both the visuals and actors isn't enough to distract from the weariness of it all.

International Trailer for Woody Allen's CAFE SOCIETY

For the last month or so I've been listening to a podcast called You Must Remember This which chronicles the "The secret and/or forgotten history of Hollywood's first century." More specifically I've just completed last fall's series about MGM that gave fifteen episodes worth of stories about the heyday of the most famous studio that more or less created the studio system the golden age of Hollywood is known for. Throughout those episodes there were plenty of insights I wasn't previously aware of and of course facets of the industry that were beyond fascinating, but I bring this up only because it informs how excited I am about the latest film from auteur Woody Allen. Led by the appealing pairing of Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart Café Society follows a young man who arrives in Hollywood during the 1930's with the hope of working in the film industry. Upon arrival, he falls in love and finds himself swept up in the society that defined the spirit of the age. More than anything else about this trailer it is the visual vibrancy that stands out. Allen's films tend to always have a certain small or confined feel to them as if the director is constantly creating within his own, small world, but there is some actual scope to this trailer with the luscious costume design and cinematography only adding to the sense of time and place. I wasn't a huge fan of last years Irrational Man, but I enjoyed Magic in the Moonlight well enough with its period setting and of course Midnight in Paris is one of Allen's best works in his distinguished career and with this looking very much in line with those if not exactly exploring the same ideas I can't wait to see what the full film holds. Café Society also stars Corey Stoll, Steve Carell, Parker Posey, Jeannie Berlin, Blake Lively, Ken Scott, and is set to open the 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival.

First Trailer for THE FOUNDER Starring Michael Keaton

Can Michael Keaton go three years in a row starring in three Best Picture nominees? Potentially even three Best Picture winners? It seems slight with his new film getting an August release, but if this first trailer for The Founder is any indication it looks as if Keaton and his crew are at least ready to compete. Telling the story of McDonald's founder, Ray Kroc, the film was written by Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler, Big Fan) and is directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks) so it certainly has the credentials to go far, but only time will tell given Hancock's last effort seemed a shoo-in for many major awards, but was ultimately looked over. I can't help but feel The Founder is different though, and that the combination of story, social relevance, writer, director, and especially star will push this thing to become something more than another awards season offering, but possibly something of a cultural conversation piece. It is inevitable that the portrayal of Kroc as this charismatic, but sleazy businessman will serve as a commentary on the many alternative and ugly ways one can go about achieving the pureness of the American dream. What pushes this even further into potential awards season glory though, is the dynamite performance Keaton looks to be giving. There is no denying that the actor is in the midst of a very real resurgence with both Birdman and Spotlight winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards the past two years and with future prospects of being the new villain in a Marvel Studios produced Spider-Man film there is no stopping him. I still believe Keaton should have won for Best Actor for Birdman, but maybe this will be his year to claim that honor even if The Founder doesn't take home the big prize. Regardless of awards potential, this looks great and I can't wait to see if it delivers. The Founder also stars Nick Offerman, Linda Cardellini, Laura Dern, BJ Novak, John Caroll Lynch, Patrick Wilson, and opens on August 5th, 2016.

Full Trailer for JASON BOURNE Starring Matt Damon

It has been almost nine years since we last left Jason Bourne swimming into the abyss. Of course, there was that one film about chems that attempted to have Jeremy Renner carry on the series after it seemed Matt Damon was firmly opposed to returning to the character, but alas here we are. For the record, Damon never said he wouldn't return to the world of Bourne, just that he wouldn't do it without the guidance of director Paul Greengrass, but once Greengrass committed himself to return Damon signed on as well. It's been very unclear where this latest chapter in the Bourne saga would take the titular character, but the fact the major creative team (minus Tony Gilroy) from both Supremacy and Ultimatum have returned (the best entries of the series in my opinion) is a hugely promising sign that we're in for what will hopefully be an exceptional spy thriller that will carry on the legacy those aforementioned sequels began rather than tainting it as the Renner spin-off did. Both Damon and Greengrass along with the directors frequent collaborator, Christopher Rouse, have scripted this fourth installment simply titled Jason Bourne. Given their seeming investment in this world and in this character I can only imagine they'd agree to return only if they felt they had a story that was worth telling. It's kind of nuts to think that Damon was only thirty-two when he made The Bourne Identity and will turn forty-six in October, but that doesn't seem to have slowed him down at all as the actor looks in top form in this first, extended look at the film. As it sits now, relying solely on the footage we've seen it looks as if Damon and Greengrass just might bring a whole new meaning to the phrase, "The Bourne Legacy." Jason Bourne also stars Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Ato Essandoh, and opens on July 29, 2016.

First Trailer for THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN Starring Emily Blunt

I've yet to read Paula Hawkins psychological thriller, The Girl on the Train, that was released at the beginning of last year, but based on the teaser trailer for the film adaptation I'll be adding it to my queue immediately. With Emily Blunt in the titular role the story concerns Blunt's divorcee who uses her daily commute to fantasize about the seemingly perfect life of the couple she sees every day when the train stops at a signal. It is when she sees something shocking during the train’s routine stop on an otherwise normal day that she is thrust into a web of intrigue and goes from being a casual observer to an active part of the puzzle. Hawkins' book has naturally been compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl which had its own blockbuster adaptation two years ago, but both novels drew comparisons to the work of Alfred Hitchcock and it's not hard to see why. With Hawkins work being adapted by Secretary screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson and The Help and Get On Up director Tate Taylor helming the project I have no reason to think this project won't fulfill all of its obvious potential. While this is certainly something of a different type of film for Taylor I have enjoyed both of his previous films thoroughly with Get On Up specifically being an interesting and evocative take on the music biopic. If Taylor has any more such innovations in his back pocket I look forward to seeing how he applies them to this suburban mystery/thriller that, in lesser hands, might be something one catches on Lifetime on a Sunday afternoon. That said, the visual aesthetic certainly seems to favor those types of TV movies whereas David Fincher's very particular visual style helped elevate Gone Girl from simply being a conventional genre movie to that of something genuinely cinematic. I can only hope cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen (The Hunt, Far From the Madding Crowd) lends this adaptation a flair of its own as it certainly has the star power and apparently the story to go far. The Girl on the Train also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Edgar Ramirez, Allison Janney, and Lisa Kudrow, Luke Evans, Hayley Bennett, and opens on October 7th, 2016. 

GREEN ROOM Review

Much like with director Jeremy Saulnier's previous film, Blue Ruin, his latest positions itself as something of a straight genre film with bigger ambitions underneath the surface. With Ruin, Saulnier was keen to allow the audience to piece together the story of the protagonist as he pulled back the layers at his own pace, but the real trick was that he kept audiences transfixed the whole time despite the fact we lacked large chunks of context. In his new feature, Green Room, Saulnier once again works from a script solely of his own doing, but instead of teasing out the challenges our main characters face this time around our "heroes" are placed on the front lines against their very visible enemies-Saulnier standing between them ready to let his checkered flag fly at any moment. This choice to not rely so much on mystery seems to come from nothing more than a need to tell a different story in a different way, but the tendency to want to hold back seems natural to the writer/director as the backbone of Green Room's plot (but not all of its tension) relies on the audience knowing the immediate threats of the situation without knowing what originally put these events in motion. It's a keenly crafted screenplay that tends to get slightly redundant near the end despite its already slim running time. That said, the main objective for the multiple protagonists is never unclear and the conspiring reasons they find themselves in the situation along with several other factors that come to be of critical importance are introduced in a sharp fashion. It is not the storytelling that will fascinate here though, but rather the way in which Saulnier and his team are able to balance the downright horrific nature of what unfolds in front of us while keeping the tone that akin to something of an eighties era slasher. There is a heft, an integrity even to a number of characters and events, but there is also a very knowing tone, a sarcastic or rather a very punk attitude to the whole affair that elevates what is essentially a hostage thriller to that of a true rebel among its genre trappings.

Teaser Trailer for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN Starring Denzel Washington

Antoine Fuqua has become something of a reliable, but still very interesting director save for the occasional Olympus Has Fallen, but even that film had its own set of charms. Following Training Day, which put him on the map and on the road to bigger things, Fuqua turned in a few standard genre films and the obligatory brand recognition blockbuster than never took off before returning to the arena that garnered him attention in the first place. The complicated and arguably underrated Brooklyn's Finest let audiences know (or those that saw it) that this was a man with a certain vision and, at the very least, a deep respect for character and story. With Olympus giving the director a little more creative leeway Fuqua teamed up with Denzel Washington once again for the steady and precise Equalizer which turned out better than it had any right to be. While Southpaw wasn't all I'd hoped for it looks as if Fuqua could really be in his element with his new film, a remake of the 1960 classic The Magnificent Seven. Re-teaming once again with Washington and having well-regarded screenwriters John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective) adapt the screenplay from Akira Kurosawa's original Seven Samurai script there is certainly reason to be excited for the potential this remake holds. The IMDB page for Fuqua's film doesn't give William Roberts, who adapted Kurosawa's film for the 1960 film, any credit. And so, what this might mean we're getting in terms of Fuqua's film is anyone's guess, but with this first glimpse it seems Fuqua is staying very much within his own stylistic wheelhouse, but in bringing that to the Western terrain we could be in for something very cool if not exactly unique. The Magnificent Seven also stars Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Peter Sarsgaard, Haley Bennett, Matt Bomer, Cam Gigandet, Vinnie Jones, Sean Bridgers and opens in theaters on September 23rd.

New Trailer for Duncan Jones' WARCRAFT

Man, I really don't know what to make of this World of Warcraft adaptation. I don't play video games. I have no idea what is going on with this world, but the main thing working against it for the uninitiated audience is the fact it looks like little more than a Lord of the Rings rip-off. I of course have my hopes; hopes that somehow this will turn out to be more unique and enthralling than I suspect it to be at this moment despite everything I've seen looking rather generic. The closest thing I can equate this to is Stardust where I assumed that the tropes to follow a rather standard plot (not knowing it was based on a Neil Gaiman story at the time), but of course with the adaptation from Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn and with Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kingsman) in the directors chair Stardust turned out to be a favorite of mine that I still enjoy from time to time. This is the sole reason I have hope for Warcraft. I like Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and that he has both co-written and taken the helm of this adaptation gives me slight hope. The conflict between each species and how they want to handle the situation of their differences for the greater good is appealing and is heavier than what I expected, but I still don't know or care about any of the characters involved. The film certainly isn't shying away from putting on display how grotesquely nerdy the whole affair is, but for those who aren't familiar with the world I was hoping this second trailer would provide an anchor for the film in the form of a stand-out character, but I'm just as bewildered as I was in November when the first trailer premiered. That said, Warcraft stars Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Paula Patton, Rob Kazinsky, Ben Foster, Daniel Wu, Clancy Brown and opens on June 10th, 2016.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 19, 2016

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE JUNGLE BOOK

After two weird weeks where one or both of us were unable to film a review at the designated time both Charles and I have returned to the theater seats to watch and review a new release. It wasn't bad timing either as The Jungle Book more or less blew everything out of the water this weekend. With an estimated $103.5 million, The Jungle Book scored the second largest April opening weekend of all-time behind only last year's Furious 7. Out of all Disney's recent adaptations of their classic animated films The Jungle Book came in behind only 2010's Alice in Wonderland which made a monster $116.1 during March and ended its run with over $334 million domestic which The Jungle Book will most likely be headed towards as well. To get into specifics, 43% of the film's domestic opening came from 3D theaters with 10% coming from 376 IMAX screens. Having seen the film in both IMAX and 3D I can attest to the film being well worth the price of admission for the visual splendor alone as the visual effects are top notch and the environment uses the 3D to make itself as immersive as one can imagine. While I more or less thought the film overall was somewhat standard as far as storytelling and character development goes, the visuals are exceptional and worth experiencing on the big screen. Beyond this, the film does sport an all-star voice cast that sees Bill Murray stealing the show as Baloo and a handful of other well-respected thespians doing their best to make talking animals as impressive and as credible as possible. With the box office numbers this thing is posting be ready to hear about The Jungle Book a lot over the next few weeks, at least until Disney/Marvel deliver the next $100+ million opener of the year in just under three weeks,  As always, you can hit the jump to see the full video review and be sure to subscribe to our channel for a new review every week!

CRIMINAL Review

There was a time when something like Criminal would have reigned supreme at the box office and likely been heralded to some degree as unique in its premise if not necessarily successful in its execution, but in this day and age not only is Criminal not fresh or unique, but it's extremely tried and rote. I don't know that there was a time when Kevin Costner was a box office gold type name on the poster, but there was certainly a time when Costner was considered a surefire movie star that would at least guarantee a certain number of butts in seats. It seems, at least from what I hear of the movie star heyday, that there was a time Costner could have more or less played this same role in the same movie and it would have been a much buzzier film with bigger box office prospects based off his name alone (not to mention co-stars Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones being value add elements). Unfortunately for Costner this is not the world we live in anymore. Instead, we live in a world where the best hope you have of becoming something even resembling a cultural phenomenon is being based off a comic book, young adult literary series, or have any other type of brand recognition/nostalgia factor you can tap into. When it comes to original action dramas like Criminal though, chances are slim of anything greater coming of your efforts unless you have David Fincher behind the camera. All of that said, this is a movie that squanders any potential it might have had at being an exception to the rule by adhering to very little coherence and even less logic. Truth is, I wanted to enjoy Criminal-I wanted to dig into it like the fictionalized Dateline episode I expected/hoped it would be and get wrapped up in the sci-fi tinged mystery that it presented, but instead the film plods along at an unusually clunky pace, never deciding what type of movie it wants to be yet appearing very obviously to be a very specific type of movie from the cast, narrative, and creative team alone. It's not that Criminal is necessarily a terrible movie, though it has some terrible parts, but it is most certainly not a good movie and even worse is it's not even a movie worth watching passively.

First Trailer for Sundance Favorite THE BIRTH OF A NATION

Back in January the big talk of the Sundance Film Festival was actor/director/writer Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation, not only because it received several standing ovations, but largely due to the fact it ended up selling to Fox Searchlight for a record-setting $17.5 million. Searchlight beat out competing bids from The Weinstein Co., Netflix, Paramount and many others with the likes of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon being cited as game changers as far as the typical market at film festivals go. Having written, directed, and starred in the film this could be a potentially huge year for Parker as Searchlight has set the film up with an awards-friendly October release date and no doubt plan on rolling out an awards worthy campaign for the multi-hyphenate. In the film Parker plays Nat Turner, a former slave in America, who leads a liberation movement in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virginia. While it is easy to peg such a film for awards season glory I'm sure this was not the pure motivation for Parker to sink so much of his time, talent, and heart into the film. Rather, he undoubtedly felt it was time for Turner's story to be told and felt not only a responsibility to do so, but at a certain point that he could do the material justice. With an astounding supporting cast and this first trailer that features some haunting and hauntingly beautiful images set to Nina Simone's "Strange Fruit," it seems as if Parker has certainly captured a certain tone and hopefully hit something of an emotional core that, should this become the awards favorite it seems destined to be, won't feel redundant of Steve McQueen's masterpiece from three years ago. The Birth of a Nation also stars Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Penelope Ann Miller, Aunjane Ellis, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Jr, Colman Domingo, Dwight Henry, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith, Gabrielle Union, and opens on October 7th, 2016.

THE JUNGLE BOOK Review

What's the point? That's the question director Jon Favreau and the brass at Disney had to answer if they were going to justify the money and man hours required to bring the visually stunning "live action" version of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book to the big screen some fifty years after the Disney animated version taught generations upon generations of children the bare necessities of life. What would be the point of retelling this story to the current generation in an updated form? What more could they bring to it that children might not elicit from that 1967 original? In short, would there be more of a point to it than simply showing off the technical wizardry of Weta Digital and their visual effects work? The funny thing is, we more than likely remember the 1967 version through nostalgia-filled eyes that cloud our judgment of the actual film. In going back and watching that film-the one I very much enjoyed as a child despite being born in the late eighties-it quickly became apparent there wasn't much substance to the story and that the film was more a collection of little scenes filled with different, but interesting animal personalities that featured catchy songs written by the Sherman brothers and very little more until Shere Khan showed up at the end to create some type of tension. And so, going into this latest version of Kipling's story that would pull from both that source material while being heavily inspired by the '67 film the biggest improvement they could make would be in the story department by crafting a narrative that held a driving force with serious forward momentum and a throughline plot that, at the very least, would add a little more significance and reason to seeing the film in the first place. With screenwriter Justin Marks (whose only prior feature credits include a Street Fighter film and a TV movie) though, we are brought the one thing I couldn't even have imagined to add and that was a cohesion to the thinly connected events of the original animated movie. Giving purpose and connection that take Mowgli (Neel Sethi) from point A to point B lends the film a real ambition making the stunning visuals only more of an achievement.

First Trailers for Nicolas Winding Refn‘s THE NEON DEMON

Nicolas Winding Refn is an interesting filmmaker, he's a guy who doesn't fit into any genre or category and yet he fits perfectly into the niche he's carved for himself. Drive catapulted the guy from general obscurity to the hero of many a film school wannabe's. Though he's made Bronson with an unknown Tom Hardy (you should check it out if you haven't) and Valhalla Rising with Mads Mikkelsen (I should probably check that out) prior, it wasn't until Drive with Ryan Gosling that his name was on the map. Follwing up that wild success with a completely bewildering work like Only God Forgives the director let us all know just how far he was willing to go to capture what he imagined in the purest form possible. I still don't know that I understand what he was going for with that film and I've admittedly had no desire whatsoever to return to it, but the fact he has crafted a new piece of cinema is reason to be excited enough. With The Neon Demon Refn replaces his typical male lead with that of Elle Fanning who plays an aspiring model who moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality eventually devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has. If that sounds right up Refn's alley you'd seemingly be correct as the visuals presented in this quick, 90-second clip compliment that story and world with a very specific tone and style. I'm on the edge of how much I should necessarily anticipate this given my reaction to Only God Forgives, but like I said before, it's a Refn film and for that I will certainly be viewing the movie regardless of its critical/commercial reception. The Neon Demon also stars Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Keanu Reeves, and opens in June.

SING STREET Review

Director John Carney (Once, Begin Again) is forty-four years old. He was born in 1972 making him thirteen or so in 1985. His latest film, Sing Street, about a boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980's who escapes his strained family life by starting a band feels remarkably autobiographical. Not knowing if this was the case or not before seeing the film (doing a little research reveals it in fact is) I could feel this sense of closeness, of passion for not only the time period and the music that is so evident it's contagious, but in the feelings these characters are actually feeling. In other words, it is beyond evident that Carney, who also wrote the screenplay, experienced much of what is on screen here himself. To accompany these feelings Carney is attempting to resurrect from his childhood is the music of that decade as well. With each of these moments we have a song or a lyric that elicits the grander emotion, the nostalgia-tinted adoration for the promise that youth holds and it is in these elements that Sing Street transcends being more than a simple coming of age story. Sure, on the surface the film could be described as a typical coming of age tale that features a boy trying to impress a girl by playing music and there are of course elements of those types of stories present here, but Carney utilizes such tropes in a fashion that they come across as pure magic. Through the eyes of this child of the eighties we are witness to not only his first love and the experience of him learning, picking up information and ideologies from those around him, informing the person he will become, but we also catch glimpses of the weight of adulthood, the realization that our ambitions can be greater than our inherent talent, and that the best parts of life can be those we leave more to mystery than those we come to know too well. Sing Street is a layered and complex film about adolescence and yet you never feel the weight of such themes because you're too busy being wrapped up in the infectious and heart-warming music the characters create from these circumstances.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2016

It's that time of year again, the summer movie season is upon us. As always, this annual commencement of super hero blockbusters and action films galore with high budget comedies and low budget horrors both looking to break out in their respective genres begins with the first weekend in May. As you likely already know with the present media blitz attacking every screen you look at it will be the latest Marvel adventure that will be kicking off summer again this year, but there is a whole lot more to talk about and a whole lot you might not have heard of yet. It was actually pretty difficult to break down the release schedule this year into just ten films that I'm genuinely excited to see. There are several smaller, more non-traditional films including Me Before You, Jodie Foster's Money Monster, The Infiltrator starring Bryan Cranston and Swiss Army Man that I'm interested in, but maybe not necessarily excited for. There are also a few other sequels including Now You See Me 2, The Conjuring 2, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and Finding Dory that in a weaker year might have made the cut. There are of course several other sequels hitting the multiplexes this summer, but while TMNT: Out of the Shadows and Star Trek Beyond seem fun enough they will hardly be revolutionary and I can't seem to muster much of anything for either Independence Day: Resurgence or Alice Through the Looking Glass. Horror pickings are fairly slim this year as outside the James Wan sequel we have Lights Out which he also produced. the third Purge flick, and the Blake Lively-led The Shallows. There will of course be those that look to cash in on brand recognition alone including Warcraft, The Legend of Tarzan, Ben-Hur, and Angry Birds all of which could go either way, but Angry Birds brings us to what is quickly becoming the most interesting discussion of summer 2016: animated movies. Beginning with that game adaptation in May the summer of 2016 will see six animated releases over the course of four months including the previously unmentioned Secret Life of Pets, Ice Age: Collision Course, the R-rated Sausage Party and Laika's latest, Kubo and the Two Strings. Some will be hits, others will go quietly into the dark, but the sheer amount of them along with potential comedy hits this summer make them the most potentially interesting stories this year. Needless to say, there will be plenty to see at the movies this summer and since we're talking about family films let's go ahead and jump into number ten...(segue's are weird)...

THE BOSS Review

Melissa McCarthy is more or less unstoppable. She is a movie star unlike anyone else at the moment and in a few years will likely look back on 2015-2016 as her prime years of output thus the reason we are not only being treated to another McCarthy/Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, SPY) collaboration this year in the Ghostbusters reboot, but also have the second offering from McCarthy and her producing/directing/writing husband, Ben Falcone, in The Boss. Taken simply as a follow-up to their last directorial effort, 2014's Tammy, this is a huge leap forward in terms of quality. It was a strange transition of sorts as Tammy was the first project where McCarthy used her much-earned name above the title to pull some strings and make a project that would seemingly be close to her heart. This could only signal that the comedy and story would be something that was carefully cultivated by the husband/wife team and would certainly come across with more of an edge and better developed characters than most comedies these days, right? One would think so, but for all the optimism I held for Tammy McCarthy and Falcone let me down in the toughest of ways in that not only did it not make me laugh, but the entire affair felt pointless. And so, when I caught wind that McCarthy and Falcone would get the opportunity to make another movie off of Tammy's $100 million worldwide haul on a $20 million budget I didn't expect much. Maybe it was those tempered expectations that led to the more enjoyable experience I had with The Boss, but I have to believe the overall improvements in every aspect had more to do with this than grim assumptions. There is real structure to the story, actual punch lines to (most) of the jokes, and character development that felt due more to the storytelling than the improvisational skills of the actors. In short, The Boss feels like an actual movie. It may feel like a picturesque romantic comedy in its aesthetic with raunchy male anatomy jokes thrown in for good measure, but an actual movie nonetheless.

First Trailer for Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE

I don't know much of Doctor Strange. I've never read any comics much less those of the Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme and more importantly the character never had a 90's animated series for me to latch onto. And so, I come at director Scott Derickson's (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) take on the Marvel hero and his entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe the same way I came at Thor-intrigued, but slightly concerned. This is clearly somewhat new territory for the company given Doctor Strange very much exists in a magical reality. While Thor exists among the Gods and the Guardians of the Galaxy exist among the cosmos it feels as if Doctor Strange has the biggest potential to come off as cheesy and/or slightly corny. I don't actually believe it will be an issue given Marvel has been able to overcome both of those obstacles with the aforementioned properties, but still. With Doctor Strange the credibility is already upped quite a bit given they were able to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Master of the Mystic Arts. With this first look at footage from the film I feel very much the same way I did about Thor after its first trailer in that visually it looks nothing short of impressive and even comes across as confident in its unique charms, but seems to be slightly straining to fit into what has already been molded. Lucky for Derickson and this property in general their movie doesn't seem to be part of a strict plan to lead to an already in motion team-up, though I'd be surprised if Strange didn't show up in Infinity War in some capacity. More, Derickson and his team don't have to adhere to as many story points as Thor giving me even greater hope. No matter what, I'm excited to see what the feature brings to the MCU and have enough faith in Derickson, his long-time collaborator and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill, and Jon Spaihts (Prometheus) to hope for the best. Doctor Strange also stars Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benedict Wong, Scott Adkins, and opens on November 4th, 2016.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 12, 2016

New Trailer for TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS

I feel like one of the few folks in my generation who didn't mind 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I grew up loving the Turtles, but never cared as much about the mythology or technicalities as I did simply enjoying their personalities and having a good time. I mean, should anyone get overly protective about kung-fu fighting turtles? Anyway, that the 2014 film turned out to be something of a surprising box office success and a pleasing film in its own right for the audience it was made for ultimately only meant one thing moving forward: we'd be getting more turtles. Taking away from the film an appreciation for the new character designs, the PG-13 skirting sense of humor, Will Arnett’s dumb performance and the overall look of the product I was anxious to see what future films might do with some of my favorite childhood characters that also inhabited the world of TMNT. In this Dave Green (Earth to Echo) directed sequel we seem to be getting as many homages to the original property as possible. Whether that be in Casey Jones, more Shredder, Bebop and Rocksteady, Krang and the Technodrome, or simply the turtle’s mode of transportation-it's all here. This is a series unafraid to embrace its roots and in a day and age where the cool thing to do is ground as much of your fantastical world in reality one has to appreciate what this franchise is doing for the fan base it needs to serve. This new trailer looks silly as all get out and I can’t imagine it not being as enjoyable as this makes it seem. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows stars Alan Ritchson, Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Laura Linney, William Fichtner, Brian Tee, Will Arnett, Noel Fisher, Tyler Perry, Johnny Knoxville, Jane Wu, Jeremy Howard, Tony Shalhoub, Gary Anthony Williams, Pete Ploszek, Stephen Farrelly, and opens on June 3, 2016.

New Trailer for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Director David Yates is a busy man. Not only is he in post production on his first post-Harry Potter feature, The Legend of Tarzan, but he also just completed production on Warner Bros. return to the wizarding world with the adaptation of J.K. Rowling's 2001 novel Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. The book was published under the pseudonym Newt Scamander and purports to be Harry Potter's copy of the textbook that was on his list of necessary school supplies in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Our protagonist here is Scamander himself  and given the screenplay was the first penned by rowling herself I'm assuming this is an original story that will give audiences insight into how Mr. Scamander came to be experienced enough to pen an entire textbook on magical creatures. Though we received a teaser for the film back in December that was purely to put something in front of Star Wars while this full trailer delivers a more immersive look into this new era of the wizarding world that we will explore. While this new film won't deal with "The Boy Who Lived" exclusively, the idea of being able to return to such a world, and in November no less, is something of pure bliss for my generation in particular. The look of the film is certainly engaging and the presence of both Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell, including his voice over, boasts the already mythical material that much further into the high pedigree range. In short, I can't wait to see what adventure this fresh perspective holds. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them also stars Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo, Jenn Murray, Faith Wood-Blagrove, and opens on November 18, 2016.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - HARDCORE HENRY

This week both myself and my usual cohort were unable to make it to the movies in time to film a review of one of the new releases, but in trying to remain consistent we had a few volunteers step up and fill in for us. To give some background on the way our show works and is filmed one of our long-time friends is a media teacher whose classes consist largely of high school seniors. Every week a few kids from his classes bring the equipment to the theater, set it up, shoot, and edit our show. Given neither of us would be able to make it for our latest episode a few of the students asked if they could give it a go and thus we have our first "Student Edition" of Initial Reaction. The boys chose to see Hardcore Henry, the debut feature from Ilya Naishuller who directed a music video for the band he fronts two years ago that ended up going viral and impressing the right people. That video, like his debut feature film, featured a lot of first-person perspective camerawork. After teaming with producer Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) Naishuller was able to parlay this interesting style into feature length format and the result is this ninety-six minute movie about a cyborg super-soldier tasked with rescuing his wife from a telekinetic psychopath named Akan. To be honest, I didn't have much desire to see the film and am somewhat grateful these guys weathered the storm and delivered a solid first effort. Though the film may not have met even the lowest of expectations at the box office this weekend (coming in fifth place with only $5 million from 3,015 theaters) the opportunity for these guys to get in front of the camera and work out their nerves will certainly help us out next time one or both of us are unable to make it to the movies. As always, you can hit the jump to see the full video review and be sure to subscribe to our channel for a new review every week!

Third Trailer for SUICIDE SQUAD Starring Will Smith

After what will undoubtedly go down in history if not the record books as something of a disappointing run for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice it seems Warner Bros. will not only be "releasing fewer films", but also focusing more on the franchises they already have in motion. The worst thing the studio could do at this point is administer a knee-jerk reaction and completely rethink their DC extended universe plans. So BvS didn't go exactly as they'd hoped critically or commercially-that doesn't mean you scrap your entire slate (which WB would never do, but they might certainly alter it significantly) and it shouldn't mean that you start trying to bend to the whim of every internet comments section, especially when you have something as unique and fantastic seeming as Suicide Squad on the horizon. By the time August comes around BvS will already be on home video outlets everywhere allowing more people to discover the film for the first time and for those who disliked it the first time, a chance to give it another shot and possibly warm up to it more. If Suicide Squad is indeed as good as its trailers have indicated so far Warner Bros. could essentially move the conversation in their favor and have people once again excited for next summer's Wonder Woman and possibly even next November's Justice League Part I. While the issue with director Zack Snyder is one that looms large over the Warner offices, Suicide Squad comes to us courtesy of acclaimed director David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury) so there is no reason to expect less than excellence from what Suicide Squad promises. Only time will tell, but I sincerely hope Warner Bros. doesn't take too much early action a la those "re-shoots" to make the film more "fun" and simply allows their films and the people behind them a little breathing room. Suicide Squad stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Viola Davis, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach, Jay Hernandez, Karen Fukahara, and opens on August 5th, 2016.

DEMOLITION Review

Note: This is a reprint of my review for Demolition, which originally ran on September 11, 2015 after seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival. I am publishing it again today as it hits theaters this weekend.

Demolition is more about deconstruction than it is about necessarily destroying anything. I mean, things are destroyed, obviously, but not for the sake of getting rid of them. Instead, our main character Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a person who finds liberation in his soul-searching through methods of destruction. In the latest from director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) we dive into the deep end right off the bat as we are witness to a man losing his wife in a horrific car accident and not feeling a thing afterward. This kind of wake-up call to the fact he’s been living a meaningless life for the past however many years gives our protagonist the need to demolish everything that constructed that prior existence. This realization is of course tipped off by what is typically a heartbreaking event and yet Davis shows no signs of distress or loss thus giving the film something of an edge while still being able to explore the mundane aspects of life that it seems to find so interesting. If the film is anything it is a showcase for Gyllenhaal to display what has made him one of the more credible leading men in a saturated market and for this Demolition thrives the majority of the time. The rest of the time you can feel screenwriter Bryan Sipe (with his first major screenplay) searching for an ending or a way to bring all of Davis' destruction around to some kind of meaningful epiphany, but it never gels. Unfortunately, this trips up a rather promising beginning that has all the momentum in the world in its first hour.

FCCB Festival: THE FITS Review

The Fits is a brief, seventy minute movie that attaches itself to one aspect of the human psyche and explores it thoroughly. In this specific instance the psyche we're exploring is that of an eleven year-old girl who is approaching the first transitional stage of her life in which she is aware such a transition is taking place. Up until this point in most of our lives we simply accept things as they are, take change as it comes; assuming it is an identical part of life to everyone around us, but on the cusp of puberty we become frightfully aware of just how different each of us can be. That is the type of change that is scary. That is the type of change that can take us in a direction we're unsure of, a direction we're not even sure we want to go. I personally believe we have a lot of say so in our own destiny, at least up to a certain point, given how hard we're willing to work, but The Fits and its writer/director/producer Anna Rose Holmer aren't really talking about destiny here, but more they are discussing the stresses of acceptance and how much that noun can affect the psychology of a young girl on the brink of beginning her passage to becoming a woman. Sounds like a lot for seventy minutes, right? It is and it isn't as the film overall is more of a metaphor than an actual, fully developed story with the exploration of its main themes not given enough time to fill in the holes left by the lack of story. The film ends up trying to find some kind of balance between the two but is only able to sway back and forth between showing us the turmoil of conflict that our main character is dealing with internally and outright exploiting the sudden sickness of characters around her for the sake of getting said metaphor's point across. This undoubtedly sounds puzzling if one is unaware of the context the film provides, so let's back up a bit first...

First Trailer for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

It seems strange now in (very short) retrospect that Disney and Lucasfilm didn't place a "sneak peak" type feature of the next Star Wars story on the Blu-Ray release of The Force Awakens this week. Not that fans needed another reason to go out and buy (or purchase a digital copy) of the film, but this extra incentive of being able to see the first footage from Rogue One certainly would have been a worthwhile bonus. Instead, Disney and Lucasfilm have waited a mere two days after Episode VII's home video release to deliver our first look at director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) first installment in what is expected to be an expanded universe of Star Wars films. If you're not up on what is going on it basically boils down to the fact Disney spent $6 billion dollars on the Star Wars brand and they're intent on milking it for all it's worth meaning we'll be getting some type of Star Wars feature once a year for the foreseeable future. In accomplishing this goal, Disney has put together highly credible teams and casts to tell these stories. Rogue One will take place just prior to A New Hope as it tells the story of the rebels who set out on the mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. Chrs Weitz (About a Boy, Cinderella) penned the screenplay with Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) credited as coming in and overseeing necessary changes. The trailer looks downright fantastic and might even capture the balance of old with a twist of new in a way even The Force Awakens didn't manage. I'm not quite sure yet though, let me go watch it about five hundred more times. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, and Jiang Wen, and opens in theaters on December 16th, 2016.

New Trailer for Steven Spielberg's THE BFG

With Jon Favreau's live action adaptation of The Jungle Book rolling out in just over a week Disney (in association with Amblin entertainment) has released the full trailer for director Steven Spielberg's summer fantasy epic that is itself an adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic of the same name. The BFG will mark Spielberg's first trip into children's entertainment since 2011's Adventures of Tintin, but is his first dealing in live action kid-centric material since 1991's Hook. While the set of credentials and talent involved in this project certainly has the film at the top of my most anticipated list I have to admit to being somewhat underwhelmed by this new trailer. The film still has three months before its release date, but it seems to be leaning heavily on CGI and that CGI doesn't come across as the most convincing in this trailer. Spielberg has always been a director of practicality and creating interesting ways to make spectacular things come to life in convincing ways and I feel assured that he has done the same here, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being afraid his older age might be crippling that drive he once possessed. What saves this clip is our extended look at the titular Big Friendly Giant played by Bridge of Spies stand-out and Oscar winner Mark Rylance. Given his subtle, highly nuanced performance in Spies I've been anxious to see what the actor might do with this type of material and he looks to have created a very sympathetic, loving creature who just happens to look like what children imagine monsters to be. Ruby Barnhill also continues to look perfect as the leading young lady with her great sense of innocence and wonder playing perfectly into the fantastical elements of the story. The BFG also stars Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, Penelope Wilton, Adam Godley and opens on July 1st, 2016.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 5, 2016

FCCB Festival: THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK Review

The Alchemist Cookbook is one of those intensely indie movies that looks to derive the amount of its intrigue from character moments and their psychology in order to avoid other elements that may cost more money than an individual willing to act for cheap because it is their passion. The Alchemist Cookbook actually comes from something of an established director in Joel Potrykus who has two prior features under his belt, but has remained at a certain level for what seems to be the desire to make films his own way. There is likely much I don't know, but it at least feels apparent by Potrykus' third feature length film that he doesn't necessarily care to transcend any major playing field with his particular brand of filmmaking. For this particular viewer this is something of a shame given Potrykus, who also writes each of his films, clearly has a penchant for the writing and developing of a certain mental state as represented in the visual form and with more at his disposal he might be able to create a better film from the material he's crafted than what we've been delivered here. It's easy to see what The Alchemist Cookbook is going for and in certain moments it succeeds, but only ever to certain extents. The sole presence in the film is occupied by Ty Hickson who seems capable of what Potrykus is after, but doesn't exactly strike the difference between acting and experiencing. We can see the performance happening in the actions. In short, The Alchemist Cookbook is a movie of possibilities. A blueprint for a better, higher-functioning film that might better entertain as well as enrapture its audience with its slow descent into madness were it to have more to play with. It feels as if The Alchemist Cookbook is unable to match its own ambitions, but like its protagonist is too scared to venture far enough to know what those truly are.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

It was a slow weekend at the movies this first week of April, but if you were lucky enough to be near one of the fifty-eight theaters that received Jeff Nichols Midnight Special than you should definitely check out this week's show. There were a handful of small releases that began their run this weekend or continued to expand, such as Richard Linklater's Everybody Wants Some!!, the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light, Don Cheadle's Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead, and Alan Rickman's final live action performance in Eye in the Sky, but given we are based out of Little Rock, Arkansas and Nichols is a Little Rock native it only felt right to bring the movie as much attention as possible even if our little show is still finding its footing. It doesn't hurt that we were also invited to a press screening for the film and were able to see the movie a bit earlier than most so it would have felt irresponsible to not post a review. All of that taken into consideration, my usual counterpart was out of town on vacation last week and so our long-time mutual friend and fellow movie lover, Danner, stepped in to help me discuss why we both enjoyed Midnight Special so much. If you think we're bias simply because we're filled with pride about a guy from Arkansas making his big studio debut with such a solid film, just listen to the films score and tell me you're not intrigued (you should listen to the score anyway because it's awesome, but I digress). As far as box office goes the film did fairly well in its continued expansion netting $581,000 for a per theater average of $10,017. It looks as if the film will go even wider this coming weekend and if it comes to a theater near you I highly suggest checking it out on the big screen. As always, you can hit the jump to see our full video review and be sure to subscribe to our channel for a new review every week!

First Trailer for SWISS ARMY MAN Starring Daniel Radcliffe

If there was one film that made the most noise out of Sundance earlier this year for the strangest reason it would definitely have been Swiss Army Man which became a popular topic for featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse. That's right, Harry Potter himself is dead and yet consistently flatulent. Still, there had to be more to the film than this, right? It seemed some thought so while others didn't as Swiss Army Man proved to be one of the more divisive films of the 2016 festival, but that didn't stop A24 from picking up the distribution rights for the film and today the studio has delivered the first look at the film to the rest of the public and I have to say-I'm extremely intrigued. The way in which writer/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have utilized the role of Radcliffe's corpse seems to be a wholly unique take on what I expected after simply hearing bits of the synopsis earlier this year. This utilization looks to make much of the adventure Paul Dano's character is on a largely metaphorical one, but nonetheless the cinematography looks gorgeous as the island aesthetic with the rich blues and greens seems to have been beautifully exploited. Manchester Orchestra also composed the score for the film and we hear bits and pieces of that in this first trailer that also adds a layer of a different and distinctive tone to this comedy/drama. Radcliffe's character even interacts with the soundtrack at one point in the trailer and so I can't wait to see how far the Daniels push things with this peculiar, but completely individual movie. Swiss Army Man also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and opens in what I presume to be limited release on June 17th, 2016.