The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

First Trailer for Clint Eastwood's SULLY Starring Tom Hanks

Since hearing there was going to be a film made about the story of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger that would be directed by Clint Eastwood and star Tom Hanks there has been the preconception this would be a film made solely for the purpose of winning awards while getting as close as one can to guaranteeing a hit out of a year-end drama. After seeing the first footage from the film in today's trailer premiere all those things still seem to be true, but there is now an added element of intrigue. For one reason or another there is clearly more substance behind the movie than what I expected to be little more than obvious studio awards bait. While it is probably hard for people such as Eastwood and Hanks to work on a project without really digging their creative juices into it there just seemed something about that project that felt as if it would get by on, and excuse the pun, autopilot. There are certainly many comparisons one could draw between the narrative Sully seems to be following and the Denzel Washington film, Flight, from a few years back, but given Eastwood's film is steeped in true events I can't imagine much of those comparisons not being excused. While I, personally, didn't follow the story of the "Miracle on the Hudson" past more than the initial reports that Sully and his crew had performed something of an unheard of landing on the water after both engines failed all the while rescuing every person on board there was apparently a fairly tense and lengthy investigation that took place afterward. This investigation looks to serve as the meat of the story here more so than the act of the rescue though I'm sure the landing will serve as a genuine set piece. All of that said, this trailer certainly did its job as I'm much more interested in the film than I was even yesterday. Sully also stars Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Sam Huntington, Jerry Ferrara, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Mike O'Malley, and opens on September 9th, 2016.  

THE NEON DEMON Review

Though Nicolas Winding Refn is hardly a household name his films have come to feel like certain kinds of events. It is in the aura he has created around himself and his ambitions that his movies now feel like these mythic, untouchable experiences that take us into a usually weird and demented world that is largely metaphorical for the one the rest of us exist in. With what is his tenth feature film the director has made his first film with a female lead as he's chosen to explore his inner sixteen year-old girl. In his mind, if he were a girl that is, Refn would seem to want to exist in the world of high fashion and be a fashion model as The Neon Demon takes us through the age old tale of the young, pretty southern girl who travels to Los Angeles to make her dreams of becoming a star come true. This is an interesting choice as Refn adopts a rather straightforward narrative for this film while still remaining experimental through the visual design and the way he integrates interesting visual approaches to convey many of the tropes of such a story. Set in this world of supermodels, pretentious designers, and even more pretentious photographers everything about the film feels elitist-the world should belong to the beautiful. The substance matters little if the surface isn't beautiful enough to stop you in the first place. Ruled over by the few chosen gatekeepers of taste we willingly follow our protagonist despite knowing, that in Refn's hands, there is no way this ends well. What Refn is actually attempting to say (if anything) with the film is anyone's guess as it's clear he means for his works to elicit multiple interpretations, but given the more linear structure and straightforward fashion in which the film has been edited it would appear Refn wants us to believe he is discussing one thing while slyly delivering something else. These intentions don't really come forward until the third act though, when the sleight of hand turns into full on spectacle with the film simultaneously becoming less effective as a result. The slow paced, meditative quality of the first two acts that analyzes the ins and outs of the modeling and fashion industries through the innocent eyes of sixteen year-old Jesse (Elle Fanning) is abruptly disposed of in favor of slasher movie conventions thus making the strong build-up and examination of such a world feel short-changed by the abrupt action that concludes the film. Refn somehow still manages slight poignancy, but with not as unique a perception as he initially sets up.

First Trailer for DreamWorks Animation's TROLLS

With Shrek long past his prime, the Madagascar gang more or less in retirement with the Penguins not so successfully backing them up, and neither Po the Ninja Warrior or Hiccup and Toothless producing sequels that exactly lit the world on fire it is time for Dreamworks to officially try something new and it seems they have put all their eggs in the Trolls basket. Is this the right move? Does it have the potential to rank among the films starring the aforementioned characters? To be honest, there is a lot of pessimism here as nothing about this project screams "neat," or "interesting," or even "cool". The best thing this movie seemingly has going for it is the massive summer smash that Justin Timberlake recorded for its soundtrack. Timberlake leading the voice cast also seems like an odd albeit broadly appealing choice. Though this thing has seemed to be hyped for months now we've only now just received our first look at actual footage and it seems to be perfectly in line with what little expectations I held for it. While the voice cast is star-studded and media friendly, the actual story and animation more or less look to be recycled bits and pieces from movies we've seen countless times before. Attempting to capitalize on the brand recognition of those strange Troll dolls that have been around forever, but really picked up steam in the 90's it's confusing who exactly this movie is for. It's as if everything about the film has been manufactured to cater to the nostalgia factor of young parents who grew up collecting these dolls with the hopes that the children of today will discover these cute creatures and find them as appealing as their parents did. Needless to say, this trailer doesn't inspire much confidence in the film especially when stacked against the animation studios stronger works like the How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda films. Trolls also features the voice talents of Anna Kendrick, Russell Brand, James Corden, Kunal Nayyar, Ron Funches, Icona Pop, Gwen Stefani and opens on November 4th, 2016.

First Trailer for Ridley Scott-Produced MORGAN

When your dad is the director of Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and The Martian it probably isn't hard to get a movie made and thus is likely the reason we now have a trailer for what is Luke Scott's, son of Ridley Scott, first feature film. Luke has so far made one episode of a television as well as a short, but he did work on the second unit for his father's sprawling biblical epic, Exodus. From a script by Seth W. Owen, who has an equally impressive list of credits (which isn't much if you're not keen to the sarcasm), the younger Scott has made his feature film debut with a movie that follows Kate Mara as a corporate risk-management consultant who has to decide whether or not to terminate an artificial being's life that was made in a laboratory. While this central conflict is certainly interesting the trailer can't help but to inspire thoughts of the recent onslaught of A.I. inspired material we've received. With the likes of Ex Machina and Lucy turning out to be rather fantastic or at least interesting there is certainly room for Morgan to further explore this territory in fascinating ways. The story also has shades of Mary Shelley's most classic of monster stories in Frankenstein as the titular character is created in a lab with her creators subsequently coming to question whether or not they've made the right choices. While the film looks consistent in style and tone what makes it stand out more than anything is its rather exceptional cast. Hot off her turn in the terrifically reviewed The Witch Anya Taylor-Joy takes the title role and seems to be channeling Saoirse Ronan via Hanna while she gains support from the likes of not only Mara, but Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Paul Giamatti. While I may be somewhat pessimistic given the film comes from a case of nepotism Morgan looks to be a solid enough September film that I'm curious to see if it might rise above the archetypes of its genre. Hit the jump to check out the full trailer.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 28, 2016

Initial Reaction: Video Review - INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

Hoping to capitalize on the massive success of last summer's Jurassic World the sequel to director Roland Emmerich's massive 1996 disaster flick, Independence Day, just didn't have enough of the nostalgia factor to conjure up the same type of anticipation or audience. With a reported budget of over $165 million things are not looking good for this twenty year later sequel as Independence Day: Resurgence couldn't even match the opening weekend of its two decade old predecessor. With an estimated opening of only $41.6 million ID42 is looking at maybe reaching $100-110 million domestically which ironically leaves the box office success of the film to be determined by its global haul. For an uber-patriotic film that takes its name from a holiday that celebrates the commemoration of the U.S.A. as a new nation this could prove a difficult task. On a more positive note, the film did get off to a strong start on those international fronts with an estimated $101.4 million from 57 markets for a global total of $143 million. While I was out of town on vacation last week and therefore unable to catch the film or film a review things were left up to Charles and our good friend Danner who has filled in before to review Midnight Special, which coincidentally came out on DVD & Blu-Ray last week and is a movie you should definitely catch if you haven't already (and let's be honest-you haven't). All of this is to say that while I haven't yet seen Independence Day: Resurgence the guys didn't seem to care for it too much. This coincides with the so-so "B" CinemaScore which typically results in fairly short legs as far as box office is concerned. With the film losing many of its IMAX screens to Steven Spielberg's new film, The BFG, this weekend and with two other wide releases also hitting theaters not to mention the competition that was The Shallows and Free State of Jones this past weekend it can't help but feel that Resurgence will be more of a washout by the time all is said and done. Before that times comes though, be sure to check out Initial Reaction's review of the film and as always be sure to subscribe to our channel as we have a new review (or reviews) each week! Appreciate the support.

First Trailer for MECHANIC: RESURRECTION Starring Jason Statham

Anyone remember the Jason Statham flick from five years ago where he played one of his many hit man characters with the twist that in this flick his character teaches his trade to an apprentice who has a connection to one of his previous victims. No? Well it was called The Mechanic and apparently it made enough money to justify a sequel because we're getting one in a couple of months. The original, produced by CBS films, only made $62 million worldwide on a $40 million budget so it must have done well on home video and with its television rights as $22 million minus the marketing costs doesn't exactly signal that audiences were clamoring for more. With Lionsgate and Summit co-producing this sequel though I imagine they have kept the budget low and with the movie opening in August and the promotional campaign just now kicking into high gear I also imagine they did the same with that marketing budget. Still, there is a sleekness and rather expensive looking quality to the visuals we get in this first trailer as Statham has returned as Arthur Bishop as he tries to put his murderous past behind him, but naturally has to return for one last job when his most formidable foe kidnaps the love of his life. The original film was directed by action veteran Simon West (Con Air) and penned by a two-man writing team that included the original screenwriter from the 1972 Charles Bronson version from which the 2001 version was adapted, but this sequel sees none of that creative team returning. Instead, a few writers with few to no credits have been enlisted as has a director who has little more than what seem to be direct to video offerings in his filmography. These credentials combined with the addition of Jessica Alba don't exactly boost confidence in a Mechanic sequel being any good, but Statham doing his thing and Tommy Lee Jones going all out for the first time in a long time is enough to get me interested. Mechanic: Resurrection also stars Michelle Yeoh, Natalie Burn, Sam Hazeldine, and opens on August 26th, 2016.

Favorite Films of 2016 So Far...

As the last weekend in June is on the horizon so is the official marker for the halfway point of the year. While this mostly means the best is yet to come in terms of movies it also means the summer movie season is in full swing. I'm writing this prior to seeing any of the releases that come out this weekend, but I have a feeling Independence Day: Resurgence won't mess with my list too much (though I'd kind of like it if The Shallows did). All of that said, 2016 has been both a fairly spectacular year so far as well as largely feeling a bit lackluster. When stuff has been good it has been really good, but when it has been fine to good enough it has been really mediocre. With the expected barrage of super heroes and sequels it has been nice to see smaller, more original films like Hail, Caesar!, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and The Nice Guys get a brief moment to shine, but despite the fact I enjoyed each of those films and am happy they exist each possessed a quality that left me feeling like it was missing something (though upon re-watch Hail, Caesar! is incredibly enjoyable and I expect the same to be true for The Nice Guys). And so, while my favorite films of the year so far might be a few you missed while in their theatrical run at least one of them is now available on DVD & Blu-Ray and I suspect two of them will be headed that way soon. They are films you don't have to necessarily see on the big screen, but I would of course suggest you do given I came out of the theater after watching each of these films with a sense that I needed to tell everyone I knew about them that very moment and I have no doubt some of that had to do with the uninterrupted epicness of experiencing each on the big screen. In what I feel like is the only time a group of baseball players from 1981, a young boy with supernatural powers, a faux pop star, a couple of kids from Dublin, and a Jane Austen character will be brought together I now give you my favorite films of the year so far...

First Trailer for KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

Just as with this past weekend's Central Intelligence 20th Century Fox has mined the spy genre and mixed it with comedy and a broad premise that should ultimately deliver something wholly agreeable to be enjoyed by the majority of those who venture out to see it. With a headlining cast of Jon Hamm, Wonder Woman herself Gal Gadot, Zach Galifianakis, and Isla Fisher Keeping Up With the Joneses is destined to be something of a smaller scale hit for the studio that will inevitably find a bigger fan base once it hits home video. The premise is simple: we initially meet a regular suburban couple (Fisher and Galifianakis) who are in something of a rut, but who find things immediately spiced up by the presence of two outrageously attractive and seemingly perfect neighbors in Hamm and Gadot. Of course, the more they get to know their new neighbors the more they learn about them thus revealing the "Joneses" to be exactly how they appear-covert super spies! While the concept is fairly broad and the execution doesn't look to be anything more than acceptable I have hope for the project due to the fact Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) is behind the camera. Mottola is typically able to bring a certain tone and unique charisma to his comedies that allow them to stand out in the sea of studio produced comedies that seem to come off conveyor belts, but while this trailer certainly makes his latest feel like just another product in a long line of similar projects I'm hoping that when we see the actual film we get more of that specific tone and charm we usually see in the director's work. Of course, as the screenplay comes from Michael LeSieur whose biggest credit to date is You, Me, & Dupree this could really go either way. Keeping Up With the Joneses also stars Patton Oswalt, Matt Walsh, Maribeth Monroe, Kevin Dunn, Ming Zhao, and opens on October 21st, 2016.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - FINDING DORY & CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

Disney continues to do big business this year as their annual collaboration with Pixar has dominated the box office this weekend and broke a handful of records in the process. Easily topping the charts this weekend, Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo which opened with $70.2 million that summer. Bringing in an estimated $136.1 million this weekend it's an opening comparable to the 90+% bumps both sequels in the Toy Story franchise saw over their predecessors. Besides this great news for the mouse house is the fact Finding Dory just broke the record for largest opening weekend for an animated feature, the largest single day and opening day for an animated film with its opening day total of $54.9 million, as well as the largest per theater average for a wide opening animated release, topping Shrek the Third's $29,507 average after it opened to a then record of $121.6 million from 4,122 theaters. It can only be imagined that Dory will continue to do big business throughout the summer though it does have a few competitors in the animated market come July with the debut of Illumination and Universal's The Secret Life of Pets on the 8th as well as another Ice Age installment due on the 22nd. Though it is unlikely either of these will do much damage to the business Dory will do over the next three weeks Pets, which also features the voice work of Albert Brooks alongside the like of Louis C.K., Jenny Slate, and Kevin Hart,  certainly has the potential to break out big this year. Speaking of Hart, his comedic collaboration with The Rock, Central Intelligence, didn't do too shabby this weekend either. With an estimated $34.5 million the broad comedy is off to a solid start as it also received an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences that, when combined with its generally positive reviews, could suggest strong legs for the comedy pushing it over $100 million domestically. This is all to say, we have video reviews for both big releases this past weekend and would love for you to hit the jump and give them a look. Be sure to subscribe to our channel as well as we have a new review (or reviews) each week! Appreciate the support.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE Review

When I see that Rawson Marshall Thurber is directing a movie and more specifically, a comedy, I feel I know what to expect. That may sound like something of a criticism, but when what you're expecting is a large scale comedy with broad appeal and a surplus of solid laughs expecting something specific isn't necessarily a bad thing. And so, with the release of his latest, the director of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and We're the Millers has indeed stayed on track with what we've come to expect from him proving he has a formula and by sticking to it he will continue to produce fun if not forgettable comedies that have strong replay value and serve as a launching pad for on the edge talent or, in this case, interesting duos. It is the combination of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart in this particular situation that elevates Central Intelligence from being more than a serviceable comedy to something of a fuller comedic experience than it might have been in lesser hands. With the standard secret agent premise meaning very little, which is something of a disappointment considering We're the Millers was a stellar comedic idea and not to mention the fact Ike Barinholtz was a contributor on the screenplay, the movie sometimes is overly reliant on the chemistry of its two marquee stars, but it never feels as if the film buckles under the strain of these two guys having to pull stuff out of their asses because the story isn't strong enough to hold up, but more the chemistry between the two leads, the dynamic they create, and the downright hysterical and restrained characters they have crafted for themselves so overpowers the weaker narrative that Johnson and Hart more or less render the plot unnecessary. I mean, of course it is necessary considering we need a beginning, a middle, and an end with a source of conflict to drive our characters to a climactic point in which they might both conquer their personal and professional fears and come out all the better for it in the end, but that is to be expected. What can be hit or miss is just how fun the journey can be made to this familiar destination and with the confident comedy hand of Thurber guiding them, the dynamite chemistry blowing up in every scene, and The Rock absolutely giving it his all Central Intelligence easily becomes one of those comedies that will be looked back on fondly as the best kind of comfort food.

FINDING DORY Review

It has been thirteen years since Disney and Pixar released their fifth feature length film together in Finding Nemo, a movie about a timid clownfish who set out across the ocean to try and find his son. With that film, Disney and Pixar achieved the worldwide domination that the Toy Story franchise thus far had suggested and that Monsters Inc. had more or less solidified two years earlier. With Finding Nemo the animation studio proved once and for all they were no fluke and that their originals could be just as compelling and inventive as their sequels. So now, thirteen years later, we finally have a sequel to one of the Pixar films that both could have remained a stellar single film while also (along with The Incredibles) being one of the Pixar films that audiences longed for a sequel to and would have much preferred over another Cars movie. Has the moment passed though? Even Toy Story 3 came in under the thirteen year mark, but it has now legitimately been a full generation (or two) since Finding Nemo debuted in thetaers. Of course, the answer is no as through the power of DVD's, blu-ray's and the ever-improving home theater experience children and viewers who were once children who now have their own children will continue to watch their favorite Disney and Pixar films no matter how much time passes. I will certainly show my child the magic of Finding Nemo once she's emotionally ready for those first ten minutes, but the point is to say that it was never going to be too late for Finding Dory and more than anything most audiences will be happy to know it's finally here. And so, with that said and with all of that to live up to, how is the actual film? In short, it is perfectly capable. It is extremely sweet and cute in all the right ways. The flashbacks to Dory as a baby with her parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) teaching her how to cope with her short term memory loss will absolutely make a puddle out of any viewer with a heart. Finding Dory also succeeds in not being a carbon copy of the original and offers a fair amount of new characters that are also fun, sweet, and cute. As the film draws to its close though, it becomes clear Dory will pack none of the emotional heft that many of the best Pixar films do. While there are certainly moments of great weight and substance in Dory's quest to locate where she came from the overall arc of the film never latches onto a specific idea or theme in a way that through the films execution comes to feel profound. Instead, Finding Dory is a fun, beautifully animated diversion and sometimes that is just good enough.

First Trailer for JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK Starring Tom Cruise

I feel like part of a small community that actually enjoyed Tom Cruise's 2012 adaptation of the Lee Childs' character that has allowed the author to sell some hundred million copies worldwide. Of course, this isn't really true as the film stills sits at a (barely) fresh rating of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes and clearly made enough of a profit ($218 million worldwide on a $60 million budget) to warrant a sequel, but still-when compared to the likes of Mission Impossible, Jack Reacher feels somewhat small. Though there was some controversy over Cruise being cast in the role in the first place it felt like the 5'7' actor (the Reacher of Childs' books is described as being 6'5') more or less pulled it off in writer/director Christopher McQuarrie's original film. With McQuarrie taking the reigns on the fifth Mission Impossible film after having worked with Cruise on Reacher and now hard at work on the sixth installment, Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, Defiance) stepped in to to fill the role of director while the sequel script comes from an early draft by Richard Wenk (The Equalizer) with a re-write by Zwick collaborator Marshall Herskovitz. This time around the story is said to follow Reacher as he returns to the headquarters of his old unit to find out he's been accused of a sixteen year-old homicide. Though this is part of the plot in the Childs' novel it doesn't seem to be the main narrative the trailer is promoting as the inclusion of Cobie Smulders as a new commanding officer in the military police takes precedence. Smulders plays Major Susan Turner who has been arrested and seemingly framed for espionage which more or less sets Reacher on an adventure to prove her innocence. While there isn't much context to these events or hint of the subplot from the novel being included it does seem as if Zwick latched on to the no holds barred style of old school actioners McQuarrie set in the first film. Let's just hope he keeps the action precise and the detective work heavy as this was my favorite aspect of the original in that it separated Reacher from his contemporaries like Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back also stars Robert Knepper, Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany, Patrick Heusinger, Jason Douglas, and opens on October 21st, 2016.

New Trailer, Poster, & Pictures for Disney's PETE'S DRAGON Re-make

Somewhat flying (no pun intended) under the radar this summer, but definitely among one of the films I'm most excited to see this year is director David Lowery's (Ain't Them Bodies Saints) re-make of the beloved 1977 Disney film, Pete's Dragon. Very much mixing animation and live-action the same way the original did, but this time with CGI rather than hand-drawn animation, this re-imagining looks absolutely stunning. As we glimpsed in the teaser trailer earlier this year there is something almost mythic about the tone in which Lowery seems to be implementing. With this new, full trailer that tone is amplified even more as we get our first real look at the titular dragon as well as a better glimpse of the narrative arc the film will take and the antagonist in the form of Karl Urban that will be threatening to capitalize on the fact there is a real-life dragon living in the nearby woods. More than anything though, it is the striking cinematography (Lowery once again teaming with cinematographer Bojan Bazelli) that stands out in this trailer. The look and feel of the film seem to have been firmly understood by the entire production as this looks to be the result of a singular vision. Whether it be the shots of Elliot flying through the magic hour clouds or emerging from a cave in a fog dampened forest-there looks to be magic in every frame. While I'm still somewhat cautious about the fully CGI Elliot there is much to like on display here and I can only hope the final product makes good use of what all this production clearly has going for it. Pete's Dragon stars Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Wes Bentley, Oona Laurence and opens on August 12th, 2016.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 14, 2016

ME BEFORE YOU Review

If you're buying a ticket to Me Before You you know what you're getting yourself into. The movie itself, based on the novel by Jojo Moyes (who also penned the screenplay) and directed by first time feature director Thea Sharrock, knows what it is and has no qualms with embracing the tropes of the romantic drama genre. Its ultimate goal is to have tears flowing from your eyes as you leave the theater and if you are indeed buying a ticket to Me Before You and subsequently crying as the credits roll you are probably happy with said purchase. That is what audiences are looking for from a movie like this and for the most part, Me Before You delivers. What isn't necessarily expected from such a film, but that Me Before You tends to deliver in spades, is an endearing quality of humanity. It isn't anything new to find a relative nature to the characters at the core of the conflict in movies such as this, but with our two leads here Moyes smartly adds another layer to their relationship that takes it beyond being non-traditional and not just based on if issues of the heart will keep them together or draw them apart. Rather, this caveat elevates the story to one that forces us to contemplate the courage needed to redirect a life that has been thrown completely off course. That may sound slightly dramatic in itself given the tone this film initially takes on is quite affable, but when it comes down to it-when the relationship has been developed and the tears inevitably shed there is left a large amount of respect for Me Before You for not only embracing the recurring archetypes of its genre, but for daring to try to improve upon them. Whether this be through the act of stronger characterization in our female lead than typically seen, the sometimes downright dislikable nature of the male lead or the generally high quality of acting on display-there is something pedigreed and understated about the final product that allows skeptical audiences to appreciate its willingness to improve upon acknowledged tropes while pleasing the target audience in a way they may not have known to be possible before. All in all, Me Before You is a tearjerker that earns that title through improving on and adding to the familiar while still hitting every box on the genre checklist.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE CONJURING 2, NOW YOU SEE ME 2, & WARCRAFT

It seemed that last week, after the successive come downs from sequels like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,  X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and TMNT: Out of the Shadows that the only way for sequels to go was down. Several pundits within the industry posted pieces discussing the saturated sequel market and how audiences weren't going to show up to sequels to movies that may have made a decent amount of money, but weren't well received. It's the ole' fool me twice situation and audiences just aren't having it anymore-not when there is so much content to devour (and most of it not being at the local movie theater). And so, it was with something of a surprise that the two new sequels released this weekend fared pretty well when compared to their originals box office. Topping the weekend was James Wan's follow-up to his 2013 smash as The Conjuring 2 pulled in an estimated $40.35 million to nearly match the first film's opening weekend while pulling in more than $90 million worldwide. With an estimated $24.35 million weekend Warcraft came in second and though this would typically be considered something of a massive bomb considering the film's $160 million price tag the film is doing such big business internationally its domestic haul hardly matters. Worldwide, Warcraft has already brought in more than $285 million which includes an estimated $156 million total from China after only five days in release. In third was the second new sequel of the weekend, Now You See Me 2. The original was something of a surprise smash three years ago when it opened with $29.3 million before finishing with over $117 million domestically and over $350 million worldwide. Opening slightly below estimates, NYSM2 scored an estimated $23 million in its opening weekend, but given the budget was a little higher on this one the studio can only hope this "more of the same" sequel can do solid business overseas. With our first attempt at a triple feature this weekend we have reviews for each of the three new releases. Be sure to hit the jump to check out our thoughts as well as subscribe to our channel. We have a new review (or reviews) each week! Appreciate the support.

Teaser Trailer for Disney's MOANA

With the release of not only Finding Dory this weekend, but the next Dwayne Johnson movie it seems the perfect time that we catch our first glimpse of Disney Animation's latest film, Moana. Following up the billion dollar success of Zootopia the non-Pixar division of Disney looks to continue its hot streak with this strikingly beautiful film that is proud to tout it will indeed feature original songs as well as the pairing of mega-star Johnson as demi-god Maui with the unknown Auli’i Cravalho voicing the titular character. Add to this the fact that Disney has recruited well-renowned directing duo Ron Clements and John Musker who were behind the likes of both The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. All things considered, the Mouse House more or less has a guaranteed crowd-pleaser on their hands. Like four out of their last five hits Moana will open on or around Thanksgiving making the likelihood of the film reaching the epic-like proportions of Frozen even greater. As for the trailer itself, this looks pretty fantastic. The colors are bursting and The Rock seems to be having an especially good time as his Maui gets the most to do here in this first sneak peek. The inventiveness is on point as the introduction of the character and subsequent reveal of what Maui will actually look like in the film is rather fantastic. There are no hints of exactly what this odd couple of adventurers will encounter on their journey, but this teaser certainly relays a fair amount of intrigue that will undoubtedly get butts in the seats come this Thanksgiving. Moana also features the voice talents of Alan Tudyk, Phillipa Soo, and opens on November 23rd, 2016.

THE CONJURING 2 Review

One of the things I really appreciated about The Conjuring was that director James Wan (Saw, Insidious, Furious 7) didn't approach the film as if it were a horror film, but more a serious drama about a family in crisis. With this sequel Wan has created a similarly framed film, but this time with more emphasis on the aspect that allows him to continue this franchise without the majority of the principle characters from the original. In being able to utilize Ed and Lorraine Warren (played once again by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) and their vast catalog of paranormal encounters Wan has basically created a formula for which he can produce numerous sequels based on the most interesting case files of these demonologists. As long as Wilson and Farmiga are willing to return there is no reason as to why we won't be witness to several more Conjuring films. This doesn't seem to be the hidden intent of the filmmaker though as he is clearly fully engulfed in the present and in the responsibility of not only respectfully bringing the Warrens' stories to life, but those of the victims involved in these cases. With The Conjuring 2 Wan tackles what is known as the "Enfield poltergeist". Set in 1977, this sequel is loosely based on when the Warrens traveled to north London to help a single mother and her four children escape their house that was plagued by malicious spirits. In classic Wan fashion, The Conjuring 2 is beauty of a horror film. As breathtaking in its visual grandeur as it is frightening in its moments of horrific ecstasy. At a runtime of nearly two hours and fifteen minutes this is an epic of sorts in the horror genre, a full-on deep dive not only into what makes people afraid of the dark, but into the characters, the people that are believed to have experienced such events and how they deal with such trauma in as human and as logical a fashion as can be hoped for. The Conjuring 2 is a slow burn of character development paired with a surplus of seeming proof and doubt as to what is really going on. Plaguing his film with confusion and integrating the Warrens all the more vitally, Wan has created a horror film that, while not necessarily transcending the genre, is certainly the closest thing we've had to a film redefining the genre since its predecessor.

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 Review

2014's Now You See Me was an unexpected hit that made $351 million worldwide on a budget of $75 million and so here we are, two years later, with what is ultimately an unnecessary sequel. There is no need for this movie to exist, there was no reason for these characters to have another similar adventure to that of the one they experienced in the first film and yet, because the dollars dictate it, The Four Horsemen have returned to give us another trip through the secret world of magicians and to point out just how detached from reality they've become if they think they can trick us into believing magicians would ever garner the kind of media attention they do here. I digress, but I can't help but to be a little perturbed by the fact there is a sequel to a film that was a perfectly smart and entertaining one off story that will now forever be tarnished by the existence of this unnecessary successor. In short, NYSM2 is a whole lot of nonsense that doesn't necessarily go anywhere meaningful or comment on anything relevant, but in its defense is something of a crowd-pleaser. It is easy to see the broad appeal of what is at play here as all of the actors are engaging and clearly audiences enjoyed the first one enough to presumably show up and give what is essentially more of the same their money. NYSM2 is a sequel in the tradition of those retreaded sequels that used to be the norm, before the whole expanded universe thing came along, and thus could serve as an example under the definition of guilty pleasure. There is nothing particularly fresh this movie intends to do with the premise and character traits that were defined in the first film, but more NYSM2 desires to expand upon story aspects of the original to the point they no longer make as much sense or hold as much weight as they once did when this was a contained story. There might be new characters played by Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan, but they aren't really new-they're just excuses to tread the same water the first film did with updated facades meant to trick the audience into thinking this sequel has something new and exciting to offer. Don't be fooled. There isn't much to see here. Though the film is more consistently funny than I expected and the rapport between the actors even smoother than before the final product still feels more like a magician blowing hot air at their audience for two hours rather than actually daring to dazzle us.

WARCRAFT Review

Going into the long-awaited feature film adaptation of World of Warcraft I wasn't sure what to think or expect. The closest thing I could equate the experience with was that of Stardust back in 2007 where I assumed that the tropes of wizards, witches, and magical lands would follow a rather standard plot (not knowing it was based on a Neil Gaiman story at the time). Given that adaptation came from the likes of writer Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn that film turned out to be a favorite of mine that I still enjoy to this day. This was the sole reason I had hope for Warcraft. I like Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) and that he came to this project as both a co-writer and director as well as a person who seemingly had an affinity for the source material I was given slight hope in the fact this story, that more or less looked like a second-rate Lord of the Rings, could potentially turn out to be, if not necessarily good, at least mildly entertaining. As it turns out, that is where this feature adaptation of the long-running video game series finds itself. With no point of reference and close to no expectations I went into Jones' Warcraft with the simple hope that it wouldn't be terrible and it's not-by any means. In fact, there is some pretty fun stuff to experience and even some affecting moments that caught me off guard. That isn't to say this movie isn't silly-it is, but that Jones and his team fully embrace the nerdiness of the material and are willing to do a deep (enough) dive into the mythology of this world and the numerous creatures that exist shows they're committed to not only the material, but that there is a certain regard for the story they are telling. All of that said, if you're not into such fantasy worlds or such fantasy stock characters then you will still hate or at least find what is going on here beyond ridiculous. And admittedly, outside of a few combat scenes and those aforementioned surprisingly emotional moments there isn't a whole lot to find appealing for an outsider looking in, but that this final product turned out to be as coherent and, for the most part, as fun as it is counts as a win considering the twelve years' worth of material the makers had to pull from combined with the task of pleasing fans of the games and the uninitiated alike.

MAGGIE'S PLAN Review

Maggie's plan is a little bit of a gimmick and that is to say the plan that our titular character comes up with and not the film itself. Despite the credentials of the cast and creators what we get in this new film from writer/director Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose) is something akin to a Noah Baumbach picture (and therefore, by default, a Woody Allen picture) with more of a plot device to drive the characters rather than that of an engaging premise. The titular plan though, as gimmicky as it can sometimes feel, isn't the star of the movie and thus is what saves Maggie's Plan from completely discrediting itself instead allowing it to turn into the insightful, funny, and rather poignant piece it always seemed destined to be based on those aforementioned credentials. When it comes to smaller, independent features that focus largely on intellectuals and their need to create drama and conflict so as to drive their own creativity most can be pretentious without holding any actual water no matter how compelling or precise the dialogue. Maggie's Plan walks this line skillfully, beginning as a film that would fall squarely into the genre of "artists supposedly making great art based on their own lives that we now find appealing because we're watching a movie about them," but somehow manages to become more about the characters than the thickening plot that is driving them. It's a very "movie-like" set-up for a movie that doesn't feel as artificial as said set-up. That isn't to say Maggie's Plan should be one thing because it seems like it should be (a talkie indie drama), but that it turns out it very much does want to be a certain type of thing (a talkie indie drama) as well as a few other things (a screwball/melodrama) that makes the final product feel forced if not still mostly coherent. As stated earlier though, it is not the plotting or even the sometimes strained dialogue that is the driving force behind the film, but rather the people who begin as archetypal academics and are humanized due largely to their ideas and self-awareness (or lack thereof) to such an extent that by the end of the film it's easy to forgive the bipolar tone their movie carries.

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP Review

From the outset of director Whit Stillman's Jane Austen adaptation, Love & Friendship, it is apparent that this is unlike any Austen adaptation one has seen before and probably unlike any film one has seen set in the Georgian era as well. Joel Coen has said, and the sentiment has been repeated and discussed many times, that directing is more or less about managing tone and it is in this aspect that Stillman more than excels here by giving this distinguished era in British history a tinge of the sardonic. The Georgian era is most prominent for the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Britain and how such changes brought about more tension between the social classes. Love & Friendship more or less capitalizes on such anxiety by putting our protagonist in a transitional stage between losing a wealthy husband and finding another suitor who might allow her to live out the rest of her days in comfort. This protagonist is the titular character of Austen's 1871 novella, Lady Susan, who has a duplicitous personality and a keen understanding of man's nature that makes such a transition all the more entertaining. And this is kind of the crux that allows for Stillman's latest venture to stand out in the way that it does as not only is it unlike any film one has ever seen set in this era or a similar one, but that it deals in its subject matter not as a Pride & Prejudice adaptation would, but rather with a tone that is sometimes screwy and a little eccentric, but always hilarious and maybe even more importantly-frequently impulsive. It can't help but to seem that films set during a time period such as this are met with preconceived notions that carry negative connotations by today's younger audiences, but Downton Abbey (though I haven't seen a single episode) has seemingly bucked that trend to a certain degree and it only seems Stillman has pushed these notions even further by creating a film of Victorian-like structure and style that resonates a certain freshness one would never expect from such material. I cannot emphasize enough how simply delightful Love & Friendship is if not for how surprisingly fun it is, but for the career best performance delivered by Kate Beckinsale.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS & POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING

I'm disappointed. I really am. Not necessarily in the movies themselves, but in the audiences and viewers who didn't at least pay matinee prices to see this weekend's new releases. I was in the camp (though a rather small one, admittedly) who didn't mind the 2014 re-boot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action franchise via Paramount and Nickelodeon Pictures and was happy to see that film break out in what is commonly the last big weekend of summer (the second week of August) with an unexpected $65.5 million opening weekend. Upping the budget by $10 million and ordering a full plate of fan service this sequel is actually a better movie than the original, but it seems those who weren't pleased with that live-action re-boot didn't care to risk spending money on the sequel and thus Out of the Shadows still debuted at No. 1, but with a 46% drop from the previous film for an estimated $35.25 million. This is what most pundits were expecting, but it still feels weird to live in a time where financial expectations for a sequel are that much lower than the original in which the studio was unsure or unaware of their products potential. Call it market saturation as we've received a sequel of sorts every weekend this summer except one, but it definitely feels as if audiences are finding it harder and harder to get excited over sequels when everything seemingly gets one. Just look at this weekend, Warcraft is the sole original property opening and while it's doing big international business I don't expect it to break out in the U.S. The two other major releases are sequels to 2013 films that were never intended to have sequels. More disappointing is that original films like The Lonely Island's mockumentary, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping are making even less money as Popstar could only garner $4.63 million from 2,311 theaters despite solid reviews and good word of mouth. My fingers are crossed this one will break out on home video and in syndication, but who knows. Anyways, without further ado-hit the jump to see our full video reviews as well as subscribe to our channel for a new review (or reviews) each week!

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS Review

From the opening cityscape shot of New York City accompanied by Steve Jablonsky's pulsing score new director Dave Green (Earth to Echo) establishes a fresh, but familiar tone with this sequel to 2014's "surprisingly" successful reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle live action series. With Michael Bay producing, a hired hand director, and a string of production issues it is something of a wonder that first film came off as well as it did. In more or less accomplishing what it intended to be for the audience it intended to target Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles qualified as a success. And if that opinion is to be shared it is also highly likely one would agree with the fact this sequel, subtitled Out of the Shadows, is even more successful in its end goals as the story is more coherent, the characters more in tune with their distinctive personalities, and the whole affair in general being a lot more fun. That isn't to say Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is a great film as it certainly has no aspirations to be groundbreaking and seems to only hope to fall in line with the rules rather than to be an exception, but in doing little more than fully embracing its source material in the most cartoony and goofy of ways it gets so many things right it parlays itself into a pleasantly entertaining time at the movies. It would be easy to pick apart a film such as this for the gaps in logic, the idea that Megan Fox's April O'Neil could so easily break into as high profile a lab as Dr. Baxter Stockman's (Tyler Perry), or that Hollywood should be ashamed of itself for wasting the talent of actors like Laura Linney in this type of disposable entertainment, but what would be the point? TMNT has been around long enough at this point that there is some respect due to the series for being as endearing as it has continued to be. The fact that it centers around four genetically mutated reptiles who listen to a giant rat and have a sexy news reporter and a guy with a hockey mask on their team is easy ammo if one cares to criticize such openly ridiculous material, but that Green and screenwriters Josh Appelbaum and André Nemec choose to embrace such absurdities rather than attempt to play them down (ahem...Fantastic Four) makes it easier for the audience to do the same.

POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING Review

There is a definitive climactic feel to everything about the latest venture from The Lonely Island, as if a culmination of everything the trio has been working towards since "Lazy Sunday" debuted over ten years ago. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer have always had a knack for writing these catchy, hilarious spoofs of trending musical styles by taking timely and/or brutally honest perspectives and applying them to legit beats created by credible producers. The trick is they convey their sometimes cutting commentary and other times all out ridiculousness with the mentality of the pop culture machine in that it all feels superfluous and can be enjoyed for its surface level pleasures, but if one cares to look-there is more there. The Lonely Island have applied that same approach and ideology to their latest feature film project as this is very much a mockumentary that is lampooning the trend of pop stars producing their own "behind the scenes" documentaries in order to both appeal further to their established fan base while hopefully converting a few of the uninitiated as well. Out of the big, sprawling narrative we call life the managing teams around the likes of Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and One Direction have crafted three-act narratives around their phenomenon's in order to give some sense of structure to lives that likely have very little of it. The Lonely Island have taken the idea of this type of branding and selling and picked out every aspect in which they can make fun of thus creating the perfect vessel of sorts for them to both create their own music and release it simultaneously while adding the all-important visual element to those songs in the form of a feature film. As a longtime fan of The Lonely Island and pretty much all they stand for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping feels like that aforementioned culmination due to the fact this format provides the perfect stage for the type of comedy and social commentary The Lonely Island has always been good at, but have now been afforded the chance to do so on a much bigger scale. Are there issues with the film as a whole? Sure, a few, but to pick out the minor quibbles would be to detract from how much fun it is to watch this deconstruction of not only the music industry, but pop culture in general and the near perfect execution with which it pulls off the task it sets out to accomplish.

A BIGGER SPLASH Review

A Bigger Splash is one of those sun-soaked independent dramas from a foreign director working with well-known Hollywood actors who wish to explore their creative desires outside the realm of the studio system. It is a perfect summation of indie values and studio aspirations as filmmaker Luca Guadagnino seemingly creates something a little more strange and a little more riskier than he could ever get away with were he operating within the system that values the dollar over artistic integrity, but doesn't mind using a few of its assets. Still, the film isn't strange or interesting enough to warrant the time and resources these people have clearly invested. Instead, A Bigger Splash is a melodrama that resorts to the formula of putting four people in a house and letting their emotions as well as the inherent human nature of the situation take hold. Given there are some interesting dynamics between the four individuals and that they are each portrayed by talented, credible actors there will be plenty of material to use to mount a good defense of the film, but just because Ralph Fiennes is clearly having the time of his life with this role doesn't mean we're having the time of our life watching his film, or even a slightly compelling time-which would have been fine enough. Rather, A Bigger Splash wades through two decades of emotions and mounting tensions for an hour and a half before becoming something even worse than the meandering character study that it is concealed as in-depth psychoanalysis which is that of being predictable. It is clear from the moment Belgium actor Matthias Schoenaerts sets his eyes on Fiennes' Harry Hawkes that there is an unresolved sense of anxiety between the two lending to an overarching sense of dread despite Harry's general exuberant attitude and the gorgeous backdrop that is the island of Pantelleria. In short, A Bigger Splash seemingly yearns to be more than it is and in presenting this facade of a laid-back European beach film where there's nothing to do but create your own drama Guadagnino's movie ultimately wants to be of huge emotional resonance, but that the characters bring as much upon themselves because they have nothing better to do creates little sympathy from viewers not of such privilege therefore leaving little care as to the outcome.

First Trailer for MONSTER TRUCKS

Though this film was likely in development if not production before last year's live-action Goosebumps was released it seems Paramount is taking notes for the Columbia-produced kids movie as they are now ramping-up the promotional campaign for Monster Trucks, a movie about a literal monster taking over a truck to create the titular entity. Starring Lucas Till as a high school senior (who may have just seen playing a mid-forty year-old in X-Men Apocalypse) the film tells the story of Till's Tripp who is looking for any way he can to get away from the life and town he was born into. On this search he builds a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. Naturally, after some sort of accident Till comes in contact with a strange subterranean creature who has a taste and talent for speed. This silly set-up looks as if it will lead to an even sillier buddy comedy of sorts as this subterranean creature will inevitably become Till's wingman and help him score the girl of his dreams (played here by Jane Levy). All of that said, Monster Trucks could prove to be an endearing children's film as this first trailer makes the film look just goofy enough to be rather delightful. The movie clearly knows its audience and Paramount is clearing aiming for the same demographic that ate up its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles re-boot two years ago (especially since I'm presuming this trailer is being released today because it will play in front of TMNT this weekend), but much like Goosebumps the success and longevity of its success at the box office will largely ride on the overall quality of the film. Monster Trucks also stars Holt McCallany, Barry Pepper, Tucker Albrizzi, Danny Glover, Amy Ryan, Rob Lowe, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and opens on January 13th, 2017.