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.

BAD MOMS Review

Being a male I may not be the target audience for a movie about moms cutting loose and attempting to let go of the pressures and stress they are under not to mention the inherent guilt all mothers seem to feel when everyone around them isn't happy and settled, but still...I try to observe. In that I like to think of myself as somewhat perceptive I can see how a movie with these core ideas might be appealing to its target demographic. The thing with Bad Moms though is that right from the get-go the circumstances of this world are exaggerated in such a drastic fashion that it's not so much funny as it is distracting-and that it's executed poorly-makes it distractingly bad. While I haven't been around many Jr. High PTA meetings lately it's hard to imagine a woman in the vein of Christina Applegate's Stepford-ish Gwendolyn having as much control over the going-ons of a public school as this woman does, much less that someone of her mentality would even care. I mean, wouldn't her kids be in some private school where she is a dime a dozen? Petty complaints aside-Bad Moms is simply trying too hard to be what it doesn't need to be in order to be funny. There is ample opportunity for not only exploring the interesting facets of the psyche of mothers and how they're supposed to come off as if they have everything under control at all times, but rather than explore the small truths in the absurdity of that mentality Bad Moms resorts to F-bombs as its main source of punchlines as it isn't inspired enough to reach for more. That isn't to say exaggeration is wrong-comedies can thrive on that particular brand of ridiculousness, but given the circumstances and type of story writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (21 & Over) are attempting to convey such over-the-top shenanigans would have been better saved for scenarios such as the PTA meetings rather than leaning on it consistently when something a little more subtle or observational might have worked in the films favor. More examples containing small truths that hit the mark of the "funny because it's so true" flavor rather than the "yelling makes it funnier" train of thought would have provided for more substance to both the story and these characters-letting the audience know they really do understand the struggle, but what do I know? Mothers all the way from their late-twenties to early-sixties might love this thing and there's nothing wrong with that necessarily-I just think they might have enjoyed a more adept approach to the same material a little more. I think they deserve it.

Teaser Trailer for THE GREAT WALL Starring Matt Damon

With Jason Bourne opening this weekend it only made sense that Universal would also release the trailer for their next Matt Damon-led tentpole in The Great Wall. If it seems like you've been hearing or reading about this movie for some time that is likely because you have. At least five years ago there were talks of Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) directing the film and a number of other actors (inlcuding Henry Cavill) starring in the lead role. As it has finally come to fruition though Universal has cast Damon in the lead and partnered with Legendary who are more or less a standalone entertainment company based in Hong Kong that have positioned themselves to produce films that are as commercially viable in China as they are worldwide (think Warcraft). In partnering with Legendary the studios have also brought in Hero and House of Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou to helm the project and as far as visuals go this thing looks to be quite impressive. Though it is striking to see as white and as American a male as Matt Damon walking through hordes of Chinese soldiers in his Asian-inspired armor, one has to be curious exactly what the story is here especially given the plot summary only states that it is a mystery centered around the construction of the Great Wall of China. What we see in this first teaser though divulges the film will not necessarily be a strict drama that highlights one characters personal story concerning the construction of the wall as that's what I assumed it might be given it starred Damon and was originally set to be released this fall. Instead, we see that the great wall was built not only to keep out nomadic groups from the Chinese Empire, but apparently gigantic monsters as well. While the jury will be out on the story until after the movie comes out the visuals alone are enough to get me in a theater to experience this thing on the big screen. The Great Wall also stars Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Hanyu Zhang, Eddie Peng, Lu Han, Kenny Lin, Junkai Wang, Zheng Kai, Cheney Chen, Xuan Huang, Andy Lau, and will now open on February 17, 2017.

JASON BOURNE Review

After nearly a decade in seclusion and having resorted to bare knuckle brawling for petty cash Jason Bourne resurfaces with the simply titled Jason Bourne, but was there really a need for him to? Given the pristine state of the original trilogy (I didn't mind The Bourne Legacy as much as some, but don't mind forgetting it either) there was hesitance on my part to come to terms with the fact director Paul Greengrass (Supremacy and Ultimatum) and star Matt Damon could potentially ruin what didn't necessarily need another chapter. Of course, I really enjoy the Bourne films and the prospect of another was naturally enticing, so...double-edged sword. That said, the biggest obstacle this new film was going to have to overcome was that it has in fact been nine years since Bourne was on the big screen and given time goes on there would have to be something almost cataclysmic happening if Bourne had somehow managed to stay out of the spotlight this long and then suddenly be pulled back in. This was the code Greengrass and co-writer Christopher Rouse (who has served as the editor on all of the Bourne films) were going to need to crack if they were going to have fans of the series buy into the fact Bourne was indeed back and it is here that the cracks instead begin to show in their lack of inspiration rather than the other way around. Essentially giving Julia Stiles' character, Nicky Parsons, the task of delivering exposition before telling Bourne that she has somewhat involuntarily pulled him back into this world he has been working so hard to evade things already smell funky. Without going too far into spoiler territory is to simply say that the biggest hurdle this film was going to have to overcome is basically dismissed with a single line of dialogue and then not really taken into account again due to the fact it seems Greengrass and Rouse know they don't have the best justification for the films existence. Still, once we do get past this initial hurdle in the first act of the film Jason Bourne becomes what we know and recognize from the previous films and if that is what you're looking for then you'll no doubt come out more pleased than pissed. As a Bourne fan, I had a fine time with the film and enjoyed several of the story elements, but that it did feel so familiar was disappointing. The story of Jason Bourne is one of the rare instances where it became more intriguing with each additional film, going in different directions than expected and adding new layers to the titular characters past, but while Jason Bourne once again discovers more of his past here the film fails to go anywhere new with its narrative.

First Trailer for Mel Gibson's HACKSAW RIDGE Starring Andrew Garfield

Mel Gibson's first directorial effort in ten years has finally received a trailer and I couldn't be more excited to see what this feature has in store for us. Set to have its premiere at the Venice Film Festival next month and then be released in early November of this year it seems as if Lionsgate will be putting a lot of stock into this potential Oscar contender while at the same time doing their best to skirt the fact this is indeed a Mel Gibson movie. Though the trailer proclaims that Hacksaw Ridge comes from the Academy Award-winning director of Braveheart there is no mention of Gibson's name at all. Instead, what we are treated to is a nice summation of the true story concerning Desmond Doss, a conscientious collaborator and Army medic who refused to bear arms during World War II, but ended up saving 75 men during the bloodiest battle of the war without firing a single bullet. To go along with this inspiring tale is the pairing of some pretty spectacular visuals as Gibson has teamed with cinematographer Simon Duggan who has worked on films such as I, Robot and The Great Gatsby. The real highlight of the trailer though is the focus on Andrew Garfield's performance and given he has this as well as Martin Scorsese's Silence coming out this year it could be a huge awards season for the guy. Though the British actor puts on something of an exaggerated southern accent here it doesn't sound terrible, but rather is made to be endearing by the end of the clip which I assume is what the actor was going for given his plight could certainly be seen one of two ways depending on the audience member. The story is ripe for the feature film treatment and Gibson along with co-screenwriter Andrew Knight have hopefully tapped into the complexities such a story can provide rather than delivering more of a generic war film. Based on the trailer it seems Gibson intends to become known more for his art rather than his antics again, but of course only time will tell. Hacksaw Ridge also stars Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn, and opens on November 4th, 2016.

NERVE Review

If the trailer spoiling the entire movie wasn't enough and you still decide Nerve is worth a trip to the cinema you'll likely be pleasantly surprised that it still proves to be (mostly) compelling. Despite ultimately knowing every beat this film is going to hit even if you've only seen a single trailer there is still something in the editing and overall emotional effect and where this wave of neon takes you in terms of a single experience that makes the film worth watching at least once. What that essentially means is that Nerve is not solely about getting from point A to point B and making sure the plot works which, considering the density of the details needed to understand the game is impressive enough, but more than that it focuses on the small moments in between those plot points allowing it to remain both compelling and more affecting than one might initially expect. One wouldn't think a film made by the guys behind Catfish (as well as a few Paranormal Activity flicks) would transfer so well to full on feature-length narrative storytelling, but with a script by Jessica Sharzer adapted from Jeanne Ryan's novel the filmmakers are able to tap into more than just the timely and relevant premise, but more the timeless relationships between high school students and the conditions of those relationships that being at that stage in life typically dictate. More than just another love story of sorts where the innocent/meek school girl takes the leap out of her comfort zone only to find a guy who she would have imagined was light years out of her league actually likes her for her-Nerve wraps its world in the dynamics between not only the young adults who are attracted to one another at the center of the story, but extends it to their circle of friends that tend to influence their decisions as much as their own minds. The fact the movie is about an online game with a countless number of viewers offering their "Likes" and comments only reinforces this mentality on a whole other (timely) level. By fleshing out not just the main protagonists and the game at its core, but rather by immersing viewers in this single night in New York City where neon can only mean more fun, exciting things Nerve overcomes its predictability and familiar story structure by giving us characters we care about.

First Trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's SPLIT

Unfortunately, a new trailer for an M. Night Shyamalan movie doesn't carry as much excitement as most thought it might in the early years of the new millennium. Fortunately, Shyamalan seems to be finding his footing more recently as last years fairly underrated The Visit was a pleasant surprise from a director who'd taken a detour from what his predetermined course seemed to be. The Visit, which I didn't get the opportunity to review last year, was a clever little play on the handheld camera horror genre where it was still up to the characters to capture the necessary elements of the story, but at the same time retaining the elements and mystique of a classic Shyamalan script. That the writer/director has again come to operate in something of a larger genre while seemingly still applying his own twisted mentality to the situation is promising. As I watched the trailer I couldn't help but be reminded of this years 10 Cloverfield Lane, but with the added element of knowing what was wrong with our captor from the get-go rather than that mystery remaining the backbone of the movie. This hopefully indicates the film has more to it and can deliver in its third act. Besides the engaging premise that sees a man with twenty-three personalities living inside of him kidnapping three young girls and holding them hostage in his cellar the film looks to feature a show-stopping performance from James McAvoy. McAvoy, beyond his most prominent role as Charles Xavier in the new wave of X-Men films, is an interesting performer that chooses some diverse projects to participate in and it seems that the actor has found a formidable collaborator in Shyamalan who supports pushing the envelope. The film also stars The Witch star Anya Taylor-Joy, The Edge of Seventeen's Haley Lu Richardson, and Jessica Sula as the three young girls McAvoy's Kevin kidnaps with Jason Blum again producing and the director teaming up with cinematographer Mike Gioulakis (It Follows) for the first time. Split opens on January 20th, 2017.

BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE Review

As a young man growing up in the nineties it was next to impossible to not be infatuated with Batman: The Animated Series. Whether you'd seen any of the Adam West series or not there was something immediately intriguing about Batman and his alter-ego, billionaire Bruce Wayne. While the animated series that ran from 1992-1995 would more or less become the definitive Batman of my generation little did I know that at the same time I was celebrating my first birthday author Alan Moore and illustrator Brian Bolland were releasing what would become something of a seminal piece of work in the bat universe that would forever influence the tone and depiction of Jerry Robinson's creation. I am of course referring to the 1988 graphic novel, The Killing Joke, which has now been adapted into a DC original animated movie. While I consider myself a pretty big Batman fan that fandom is more in regards to the cinematic incarnations of the character rather than his origins in comic books which I, unfortunately, don't tend to read much. To say that is to say that despite being aware of the Moore story I didn't really know the specifics of it and for some reason had not corrected that lack of knowledge even when in 2008 there were rumors Heath Ledger's version of the Joker in The Dark Knight would draw heavily on the Moore/Bolland interpretations. Having finally caught up with The Killing Joke I was anxious to see what an animated feature of the story might be able to offer or bring to the table what the comic couldn't. In other words, it would be tough-comics and books alike allow readers their own time with the material and their own time to consider the full ramifications of the actions that take place whereas movies are more prone to tell you how you should feel. Given the typically well-respected and regarded Warner Bros. Animation was at the helm of this long-awaited adaptation though, there was great hope in seeing justice done to this iconic story being brought to the screen. Unfortunately, there simply isn't enough in Moore and Bolland's comic to justify a feature length film and by adding a forty-minute prologue that concerns Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (Tara Strong) doesn't help in this case. It doesn't help that the animation feels cheap and rushed either with the only redeeming quality being that fans of that animated nineties series will once again be able to hear Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy reprise their iconic roles as The Joker and the Caped Crusader.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - STAR TREK BEYOND

This week Charles and I sat down in IMAX 3D for the third entry in the rebooted Star Trek series as director Justin Lin took over for J.J. Abrams and delivered what may be one of the most enjoyable popcorn flicks of the summer. With Star Trek Beyond following the divisive Star Trek Into Darkness it was always going to be interesting to see how fans responded to the follow-up, but Paramount was clearly feeling confident as they already announced plans for a fourth film ahead of Beyond's debut this past weekend. With a price tag of $185 million though, it is unclear after the first weekend what course of action Paramount might take given Beyond debuted to an estimated $59.6 million which is a 15% drop from the $70.1 million opening for Star Trek Into Darkness. While the nearly $60 million opening was good enough to take the number one spot over the weekend it seems Beyond will be relying heavily on its international performance to garner any profit as its domestic run will likely end somewhere in the realm of its budget. This result would mean that Beyond is on the downward trend of Star Trek's box office success as Into Darkness came in below 2009's Star Trek reboot domestically, but outperformed the 2009 film internationally by $110 million. The previous films had worldwide totals of $385 million and $467 million and while Beyond opened strong in many other territories this weekend it does have a few key openings remaining that will certainly factor into the fate of this franchise and likely determine whether or not we'll actually see that fourth film featuring Chris Hemsworth. This downturn in box office is something of a bummer given the pure entertainment value of the film and the fact it deserves to be seen on the big screen, but when you're coming out at the end of July and have been overshadowed by a handful of other tentpoles in almost every weekend prior it is hard to appeal to why folks should show up and spend money on your movie instead of Marvel's latest or the upcoming Suicide Squad. As always, hit the jump to watch this week's review and be sure to subscribe to our channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week! Appreciate the support.

New Trailer for DOCTOR STRANGE Starring Benedict Cumberbatch

I don't know much about Doctor Strange, but I'm beginning to feel like the only one who is kind of "meh" on the whole thing. Having not read many comics much less those of Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme 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. Say what you will, but that's how that tag joke struck me-cheesier than anything else. Do I actually think Doctor Strange will be the movie that sinks the Marvel ship? Absolutely not-this company is a juggernaut with no end in sight, but do I feel like Strange will make a cultural impact the way the Guardians did or that Benedict Cumberbatch will completely own the titular role the way that say, Chris Hemsworth or Robert Downey Jr. do? No, not really. That feels crazy to say given the incredible cast this thing has assembled and being a fan of Derickson's previous work in the horror genre I'm optimistic about what he might do in the realm of the astral plane, but something just feels lacking in the footage we've seen so far. More interesting though is that it seems Derickson and his team haven't had to adhere to as many story points as Thor's first outing which gives hope that we might really be allowed to dig in and get to know this character without having to worry about extraneous plot strands. While this full-length trailer didn't do much for me I'm still 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, as well as 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.

New Trailer for THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

With Comic-Con going strong and Warner Bros. dropping no less than five big trailers today it was inevitable that we'd also get a look at the spin-off of 2014's massive hit The Lego Movie that stars one of Comic-Con's brightest: Batman. While we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of what Ben Affleck's Dark Knight might be up to in Zack Snyder's Justice League film with The Lego Batman Movie Will Arnett reprises his role as the caped crusader in the form of interlocking plastic blocks to give audiences a lighter side of the iconic character. Directed by Chris McKay who was an assistant director on The Lego Movie and has worked on several animated series in the past (including Robot Chicken) the guy clearly has a handle on the tone and style that Phil Lord and Chris Miller established in the original Lego film. In this extended look at the film McKay and writer Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) offer their take on Batman as a parent and their version on how the young, what I'm assuming is still Dick Grayson, comes to be the Boy Wonder himself, Robin (voiced by Michael Cera). We also get a first look at Zach Galifianakis playing The Joker which I'm probably more excited about than I should be with the film also looking to beat Zack Snyder's team-up movie to the punch as we get a glimpse of a hero shot with Batman leading the charge surrounded by super friends Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Green Arrow. All of that said the most important part of the trailer is that it is consistently funny and seems to be keeping up quite nicely with the irreverent tone The Lego Movie so effortlessly pulled off. The LEGO Batman Movie also stars Rosario Dawson as Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Mariah Carey as the Mayor of Gotham, and opens on February 10th, 2017.

Comic-Con Trailer for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Director David Yates is a busy man. Not only did he direct one of the more surprising and solid blockbusters of the summer in The Legend of Tarzan, but he also has seemingly just completed both his and 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. With the film now only four months away from release it makes sense that WB would not only premiere a full length trailer at Comic-Con, but that they'd also be game to show off more of the completed money shots that likely haven't been available for very long. With this latest (and hopefully final) look at the film we are given a more immersive look into this new era of the wizarding world that this installment seems to be leaning on as a means to justify its existence. 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 I like that Yates is here to secure a continuity of tone if there can't be much of it elsewhere. While part of me gets more nervous the closer we get to this thing I can't help but to be excited given how big a part of my childhood Harry Potter and his wizarding world was. Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them stars Eddie Redmayne, 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.

First Trailer for KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD Starring Charlie Hunnam

Does there need to be another movie about King Arthur and his Knights of the round table? No. Do I mind that there is another King Arthur movie coming out that stars Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) and is directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, RockNRolla, Sherlock Holmes)? Not at all. In fact, it is for this reason that I am excited to see what this new iteration of the classic character holds. It is clear from this first look trailer that this is undoubtedly a Guy Ritchie movie as the grittiness and the obviousness of the editing is front and center. Though there is little given about what quest or adventure this particular story might tell the trailer does a good job of highlighting the familiar beats of the legend we've all heard and seen versions of before while at the same time making the more modern tone and approach to the material very apparent. More than anything else it seems like the cast is having a grand time playing on these tropes for which their characters have been recognized by for years and both upending them as well as elaborating on them. This looks to be especially true of Jude law's Vortigern AKA the guy who killed the titular characters father and brother. As with Kong: Skull Island it seems as if something like an epic King Arthur film should debut in the midst of the summer movie season, but with an early March release the third month of 2017 is shaping up to be a fairly major one. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword also stars Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Eric Bana, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, and opens on March 24th, 2017.

First Trailer for KONG: SKULL ISLAND Starring Tom Hiddleston

Well, Warner Bros. is certainly knocking it out of the park today in terms of quantity as not only have we seen trailers for their upcoming DC slate, but now they have released the first look at their re-imagining of the King Kong myth that they intend to make a part of another extended universe by pairing the King of the Apes up with the Godzilla from the 2014 film. While it has been just over a decade since Peter Jackson's three-hour epic that brought Kong back to the big screen WB has now pulled in Kings of Summer director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (in the tradition of Marc Webb, Colin Trevorrow, and Gareth Edwards) to once again launch a franchise of sorts by hopefully bringing some of his independent mentality to large scale blockbuster filmmaking. While it feels odd that something as big as this trailer makes the film look will be opening in March rather than the middle of summer that is also something of a compliment in that the film looks like a full throttle action/popcorn flick that will be easy to enjoy and difficult to dislike. With this first trailer for the film largely being a sizzle reel of sorts (it's absolutely stunning by the way) we get very little indication of what the story will be other than the standard "team of explorers ventures deep into uncharted territory," and that we get little to no dialogue from any of the principal cast gives very little sense of what types of characters we'll be dealing with as well, though Samuel L. Jackson certainly seems to once again be enjoying himself by hamming it up in another (see Tarzan) action tentpole that ironically feels like something from a bygone era. Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly, Tian Jing, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, John Ortiz, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, Toby Kebbell, and Eugene Cordero join Jackson for the ride as Kong: Skull Island opens on March 10th, 2017.

Comic-Con Trailer for JUSTICE LEAGUE

With Suicide Squad opening in just over a week and anticipation higher than ever I certainly expected Warner Bros. to drop a Wonder Woman trailer at this years San Diego Comic-Con, but never did I expect a full trailer for next November's Justice League. Sure, Wonder Woman doesn't hit theaters until next June, but would the studio really miss the opportunity of putting the trailer for their next DC film in front of the one that is tracking to make more than a $125 million opening weekend? Of course not. All of this to say that not only were we given a wonderfully fitting Wonder Woman trailer, but director Zack Snyder also flew in to deliver some footage from his upcoming Justice League movie that has been officially released online by WB. There is something to be said for the course of action the WB is taking as they began releasing trailers online almost immediately after premiering them at Comic-Con last year, but that is for another time. What we have right now is a first look at footage from a movie that is currently still in production and doesn't come out for over a year. It is the first look at a movie that was planned and being prepared for long before the backlash to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and it is a film that has clearly had a new light shined on it due to those reactions. If you read any of the set visits from a month or so ago where Snyder and the studio invited several online journalists to the set of Justice League to check out their process so far you undoubtedly noticed that both Snyder and the studio were on a mission to not only convince those that disliked BvS that they were fixing a lot of their complaints in Justice League, but to also get a more positive narrative going around the DC cinematic universe as early as possible. With the release of this first look at Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne assembling his team including Jason Momoa's Aquaman, Ezra Miller's Flash, and Ray Fisher's Cyborg as well as the already established Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) it only stands to reinforce that Snyder and the studio are now moving on to change the narrative with the fans as well and this tease couldn't do a better job of getting me excited as its clear that while the film might have more of a spunkier tone it will still look like an epic Snyder film which is what these heroes and gods deserve. Though Henry Cavill's Superman is absent from the trailer the newly released image of the Justice League (see below) indeed confirms (as if there were any doubt) that Superman will be back in some capacity for Justice Laague Part 1 which hits theaters on November 17th, 2017. J.K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe, and Amber Heard also star.

First Trailer for WONDER WOMAN Starring Gal Gadot

At its panel today Warner Bros. not only gathered its directors for all future DC films that are currently in development (including Ben Affleck, James Wan, and Rick Famuyiwa), but it also unveiled the very first trailer for Wonder Woman during at Comic-Con 2016. Directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster), the film sees Gal Gadot reprising her role as the titular warrior that first debuted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While that aforementioned film wasn't a unanimous winner most agreed that Gadot's Wonder Woman was one of the highlights. In her first solo feature ever Jenkins has been paired with writers Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, with a story by Heinberg and Zack Snyder, and to be completely honest this first look at the film is gorgeous and looks to balance the tone of darkness inherent to the DC universe with plenty of fun asides and fun characters-including American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). This film, which is set before the events of BvS, tells the origin story of Diana Prince. Set in the midst of World War I, Prince’s sheltered island paradise life is upended when Pine's Trevor crash lands and tells of the conflict happening in the outside world, spurning Diana into action. With what we see in the trailer it is easy to take away that the film will look gorgeous thanks to Matthew Jensen's cinematography while the actions scenes look exhilerating and intense while the chemistry between Gadot and Pine seems to be on point with Pine providing a fine and funny foil for the out of her element Wonder Woman. It's a tall order for both Jenkis and Gadot to fill in that this is the characters first solo feature on the big screen, but if what we've seen today is any indication there seems no reason to worry. Wonder Woman also stars Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, and opens on June 2nd, 2017.

STAR TREK BEYOND Review

Having never been a Star Trek fan it is difficult to gauge where the new series of films lands when it comes to understanding how much it draws on what made the original series and other features so endearing and loved by so many. With Star Trek Beyond, the third film in the re-booted series and the first not directed by J.J. Abrams, it finally feels like (to an outsider, at least) that this new set of films has found its footing. While I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous two Abrams films they have very much been in the vein of attempting to re-establish the brand and telling the origin of what became the legendary crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the Gene Roddenberry series that ran for eighty episodes beginning in 1966. This was all necessary, of course, though Into Darkness certainly could have come more into its own rather than once again feeling like an assembling of parts, but as an introduction to this world and these characters the 2009 version is almost flawless save for some third act story elements that cause the film to trip at the finish line. In saying that this third film has found its footing is to say that it finally feels these characters know who they are and are more assured in their roles (both in the actors playing them and the characters themselves). Much of this has come from being almost three years into a five year mission thus giving us our first glimpse of this newly assembled band of actors in these iconic roles in the midst of actually exploring uncharted areas of the galaxy. It seems, at least from my non-seasoned perspective, that Star Trek Beyond is the film Star Trek fans have likely been waiting on since the credits rolled on that 2009 re-introduction. Written by Simon Pegg and his writing partner Doug Jung (who has at the same time both a minor and major role in the film) and directed by Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift all the way through Fast & Furious 6) Star Trek Beyond is full throttle entertainment from beginning to end, packing in a contained and straightforward action narrative into an evenly paced two hours with interesting character dynamics abounding and even some slight philosophical meanderings to wonder about in the process. In essence, Star Trek Beyond does an exemplary job of compiling every facet a movie such as this should contain and executes them without question or hesitation-the only downfall to this being there isn't anything necessarily unexpected about what we receive. It's hard to fault a film for accomplishing the job it sets out to do and Beyond fills its sci-fi action/adventure quota with ease, but this lack of anything fresh or unique to make it stand apart or on its own is also what keeps it from being anything more than your solid summer blockbuster.

Teaser Trailer for xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE Starring Vin Diesel

Confession time: I've never seen 2005's xXx: State of the Union. Do I need to? Because I really don't care to and yet, part of me is excited to see Vin Diesel return to the role he originated in 2002 in the wake of the original The Fast and the Furious' success. Diesel was all kinds of set to be the next big action star after he completely dominated that 2001 street racing Rob Cohen movie and no doubt secured the paycheck for Chronicles of Riddick soon after, but was also the guy who would churn out another Rob Cohen picture before deciding not to return for 2 Fast 2 Furious in '03. While we may have been upset with Mr. Diesel at the time for letting his new found BFF Brian go off to Miami alone and reunite with Tyrese it would all work out in the end. Deciding to make xXx rather than a second Fast & Furious film is certainly proving helpful now as the actor is having his cake and eating it too. Not only is he secured by at least three more F&F films, but he is now bringing back those one-off's that he also didn't commit to sequels to (see the aforementioned State of the Union) in order to fill in the paycheck gaps between F&F films. I don't want to sound too negative as the actor is part of the insanely solid cast of the much anticipated Ang Lee film, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, that will surely be an Oscar contender this fall, but was there really any need for another entry into what will be a fifteen year old property by the time this new movie arrives in theaters? No, but like I said-I'm not as opposed as I might have been once upon a time. The original xXx was a fine enough action flick that capitalized on the cheesy guilty pleasures of the genre at that point in time and while I don't remember much of the movie something in me hopes this new film will play in that same tone of not being overly self-aware or serious, but rather just a good time in the moment that we won't remember a few hours later. xXx: Return of Xander Cage also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Deepika Padukone, Rory McCann, and opens on January 20th, 2017.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - GHOSTBUSTERS

This week Charles and I are back on the summer blockbuster trail as the much anticipated/much denounced reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise hit theaters. Of course, the big "controversy" that surrounded the film was that director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, SPY) swapped the genders of the four main characters and made them women. Why this is an issue is kind of beyond common sense comprehension, but apparently it still is in 2016. All of that said, the 2016 Ghostbusters isn't going to break the mold, but it is far from being offensively bad enough to ruin anyone's childhood. Ghostbusters is fun and the all-new, all-female cast and the chemistry that exists between them is one of the best things about the film. Of course, with all of that aforementioned "controversy" surrounding the film it kind of inadvertently made this new movie something of a cultural event, but how would this contribute to its box office success or failure? Well, it seems Ghostbusters will be just fine as far as worldwide gross is concerned, but the $144 million price tag is really going to hurt the good news that the film opened with an estimated $46 million. This is the largest domestic opening for both director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy, but it is also their most expensive...by a long shot. Bridesmaids cost $32.5, The Heat came in at $43, and SPY continued the upward trend with a $65 million budget, but each of those films went on to make over $200 million worldwide. If Ghostbusters hits this same mark it will be nowhere near as big a victory given the budget, but as of right now it seems as if Ghostbusters will probably make its budget back in the states while counting on its overseas performance for profit. The movie made $19.1 million from three international territories this past weekend with key releases in Russia, Italy, Germany, France, Mexico, Spain, and Japan still to come. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and how strong the legs are on this one given the amount of hate it has received while also factoring in the "A-" CinemaScore for the under 25 crowd with an overall score of a "B+". As always, hit the jump to watch this week's review and be sure to subscribe to our channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week! Appreciate the support.

GHOSTBUSTERS Review

I'd like to think there's not as much ignorance in the world as the internet tells me there is, but the small corner of the World Wide Web known as IMDb and more specifically the user reviews for 2016's reboot of Ghostbusters would suggest everything I've hoped to be true about this world is in fact wrong. Given the film has been out in wide release for less than 24 hours at the time of this writing it's astonishing how many harsh and outlandish tirades have been hurled at this film. Of course, we're not here to discuss the inability of what are likely now forty year-old men to share in the wealth of their childhoods, childhoods that provided such pleasures at the original 1984 film, and extend those same feelings of excitement and pure joy to the kids of today and moreover the young girls and women of today who have undoubtedly always looked to the portrayal of their gender in Hollywood and wondered why they were always so restrained. As far as I'm concerned and as far as I can tell (I was born in 1987 so I don't exactly "get" the hoopla that surrounds the original) despite how much the original Ghostbusters was a huge success and universally praised at the time of its release I've never understood the level of infatuation with it. Sure, it's a perfectly enjoyable comedy with a charismatic cast and unique premise, but in the thirty plus years since its release I can't help but think the film has lost some of its charm otherwise I wouldn't feel as out of the loop. With this new, all-female version director Paul Feig has both paid homage to the original film while creating a world and characters all his own. Written by Feig with the help of The Heat screenwriter Kate Dippold this new Ghostbusters universe doesn't capitalize wholly on the gimmick of the gender swap, but more it uses this basis of an idea to explore a familiar world from a new perspective. While no matter how good the film might have turned out to be there would undoubtedly still be people decrying the fact it exists at all, but that it is a lot of fun if not necessarily an exceptional comedy will surely only anger them more. To remain focused on those who take away from the unadulterated fun that Ghostbusters can provide though is to be reminded of the disappointment this world can be whereas to simply take the new Ghostbusters on its own terms can make you believe good does in fact exist among us. In short, it's a delight.

THE INFILTRATOR Review

The Infiltrator opens with a nice little tracking shot through a 1985 bowling alley as Rush plays on the soundtrack and arcade games make up the lighting. We're informed we're in Tampa yet we're following a man with hair so black it can't be natural and who is wearing a jacket in what is no doubt an insanely hot summer. Something feels off. When the camera finally pans around from the back of the figures head to reveal Bryan Cranston's face and all the stories it tells with its many cracks and crevices, but still ruggedly handsome and definitive features most will know the set-up we've been dropped into. Given the context clues provided not only by the title of the film, but by what we see in the opening seconds it is clear Cranston is undercover and is preparing for a moment of some sort. He's effortless in his adaptation of the customs and dialect in which the men he's now keeping company with do business. From here we are given a brief and subtle glimpse of how adept Cranston's character, who we come to learn is U.S. Customs and Drug Enforcement Agent Robert Mazur, actually is at modifying his persona and adjusting to whatever the situation might call for which will naturally inform moments later in the film to be filled with even more tension once we become invested in the characters. In all honesty, you've seen this movie before. It is easy to pick up on the beats of the story and understand where things are headed even if the real life events this film depicts are likely much more complicated than we're led to believe. By containing this story to what are more or less genre trappings though, director Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) doesn't limit the power of the story or the tension that unfolds from these moments, but rather gives what is undoubtedly a sprawling epic guidelines by which the highlights and necessary information of Mazur's story can be communicated to a mass audience in a clear and effective way. The Infiltrator may feel somewhat familiar in its execution, but the exceptional cast led by Cranston and by virtue of the unique details that make up the familiar plot there is much to be taken from the film if one is looking for a white-knuckle crime drama worthy of that descriptor.

EQUALS Review

Note: This is a reprint of my review for Equals, which originally ran on September 15, 2015 after seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival. I am publishing it again today as it hits select theaters this weekend.

Man, that Nicholas Hoult really likes himself some Romeo & Juliet stories, doesn't he? If you recall, he made a little subversion of the zombie genre back in 2013 that also borrowed from Shakespeare's doomed story of young lovers. While Warm Bodies at least had the sense to have a sense of humor about itself Equals is not that kind of movie, but instead plays it completely straight allowing it to end up completely boring. From the outset of the film it all feels familiar. One can see where this thing is going from a mile away and I'm not even sure how anyone read Nathan Parker's (Moon) script and thought it was a good idea to make this movie again. Again you ask? Yeah, do you recall a little 2005 Michael Bay film by the name of The Island? Remember how that film was accused of ripping off another movie? Well, I'm sure the makers of the 1979 film, Parts: The Clonus Horror, found inspiration from another source (George Lucas?) and their source before that (George Orwell?). This happens all the time. I'm not saying Equals has done anything wrong as far as copyright infringement goes, but I am saying it feels like they took out the clone aspect of The Island, added in some aspects of The Giver and threw in a third act R & J twist and called it a day. Director Drake Doremus made a nice little examination of young love with his breakout hit in 2011, Like Crazy, but this utopian set version of that story yields nothing fresh or interesting.

Teaser Trailer for LA LA LAND Starring Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone

It's a little ironic that we've received the first trailer for director Damien Chazelle's follow-up to Whiplash on the week it was originally scheduled to open. La La Land was and still is my most anticipated film of the year so it only hurt when distributor Summit Entertainment pushed it from the middle of summer to a more awards friendly December release date, but at least they finally gave us something. For me, Chazelle directed what might be one of the best movies of the past fifteen years with his 2014 feature debut and whatever it was the thirty-one year old director chose to do next there was sure to be a great amount of anticipation around it. Working again from an original screenplay that he penned La La Land tells the simple story of a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles-the catch is that Chazelle and stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone will be conveying this love story via musical. Taken from a screenplay Chazelle wrote before writing and directing Whiplash, this first trailer for his sophomore effort very much elicits the magic and music of old Hollywood that feels both inherent to the story and supremely executed. While it was originally planned for Miles Teller to reunite with his Whiplash director, that the lead male role eventually went to Gosling seems more of a perfect fit as Gosling is already a singer and musician on his own terms and that Chazelle and Summit have chosen to set the first footage audiences will see to a song sung by the actor can only suggest they made the change for the better. It doesn't hurt that Gosling and Stone have magnetic chemistry together as has been displayed in their two previous films together (Crazy Stupid Love, Gangster Squad). I was in from the get-go and after seeing how lush the visuals are and how keenly Chazelle has seemed to capture what I can only imagine he was going for I'm only all the more excited for Oscar season to arrive. La La Land also stars J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Tom Everett Scott, Josh Pence, and will have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on August 31st before opening in NY and LA on December 2nd, in limited release on December 9th, and wide on December 16th.

First Trailer for Director Jeff Nichols' LOVING

A few weeks back I saw the trailer for Loving, the latest from auteur Jeff Nichols, in front of the screening I attended of The Neon Demon, but if you've seen that film you'll understand why I forgot to comment on the Loving trailer. While I was certainly happy to see the unexpected preview given I'd heard very little about the film since its Cannes debut earlier this year I wondered when it might be making its way to masses via the internet and it seems that day is today-almost two weeks after I saw it playing in theaters. While I won't go into how nice it was to be surprised by a trailer I hadn't seen before playing in front of a movie I was watching in theaters I will say that rush is certainly one of the things I miss about the pre-YouTube days. We're here to discuss the latest from director Jeff Nichols though and the trailer in question marks the directors second feature film this year. Early word out of Cannes declared the film as a strong Academy Award contender and after Focus Features picked up the film and set an early November release date it seems that is certainly the plan. The film tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, the Virginia couple who were arrested in 1959 for violating that state's anti-miscegenation law. They pleaded guilty to the charge, but later challenged it in court with the case eventually reaching the Supreme Court as Loving v. Virginia. It is interesting to see Nichols take on a pure love story as most of his films have dealt more with love of the less romantic kind-namely that of the love between parents and children, of the love that creates legacy, and in his other film this year, the fantastic Midnight Special, that of a love between a father and his gifted child. While most of Nichols' films have premiered in the spring only to be forgotten by the Academy by the time awards season rolls around if Loving is indeed as good as the early reviews suggest it will be nice to see Nichols finally get some recognition on a bigger scale. Loving stars Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, Bill Camp, Terri Abney, Alano Miller, David Jenson, Jon Bass, Christopher Mann, and opens on November 4th, 2016.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 12, 2016

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS

In what feels like the first genuine break-out movie of the summer we finally have a non-sequel, wholly original property that didn't even operate on brand recognition and was still able to manage a debut of over $100 million. With The Secret Life of Pets Illumination Animation delivered their sixth film in six years and with the simple idea of doing for pets what Toy Story did for toys the film had an engaging enough premise and funny enough trailer to entice even those who only go to the movies two or three times a year. With Charles out on vacation this week I thought there was no better time than to make my wife face her fear of being on camera to deliver a parents perspective on the latest animated family film (I may be biased, but I thought she did pretty dang good). While we of course thought of numerous things to discuss after the camera stopped rolling the big story here is that The Secret Life of Pets absolutely blew the door off all pre-release expectations with a $103.17 million weekend which was enough to not only be the sixth animated film to ever open with more than $100 million, but also enough to surpass last years Inside Out to be the largest opening for an original, animated property. While The Secret Life of Pets did big business the other animated juggernaut of the summer, Finding Dory, saw its reign atop the box office finally come to an end as it was knocked down to third place with a $20.3 million fourth weekend. Pixar can't complain though, as that total pushes Dory's domestic cume to $422.5 million, making it the highest grossing domestic release of 2016 and the third highest grossing animated release of all-time. The other new weekend release, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, starring Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine, and Aubrey Plaza also scored a higher than expected opening weekend with a solid $16.6 million, fourth place debut. As always, hit the jump to watch this week's review and be sure to subscribe to our channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week! Appreciate the support.

MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES Review

One might call Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates director Jake Szymanski's feature debut and to a degree I guess that's correct as this is his first film getting a wide theatrical release (and his first that runs over an hour), but Szymanski is no stranger to comedy or the space in which it occupies in Hollywood. In fact, Szymanski turned Andy Samberg's rather thin idea for a 30 for 30 parody, 7 Days in Hell, into a rather entertaining forty-five minutes last summer. All of this doesn't necessarily mean that Mike and Dave is anything more than one might expect it to be (it's not) and despite sounding like one of those straight to VHS American Pie knock-offs where you might find Tara Reid and the chubby kid from The Sandlot working not-so hard to earn a paycheck, Mike and Dave actually delivers on the promises and premise that have been set up in its marketing. Though it might seem obvious that 20th Century Fox would like to make something of a comedic brand out of Mike and Dave (Mike & Dave Go to London, Mike and Dave Take the World) it somewhat feels as if Szymanski and writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien feel the opposite. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is very much a contained story that gives our main cast of characters defined arcs that take them from one clear point in their lives to the next. What is nice about what both the writers and Szymanski do though is that they don't allow this transformative period to completely define these characters. The titular siblings are still very much who they were in the beginning of the movie at the end of the movie save for the fact they've learned a few lessons and earned some perspective. What I'm saying is that Mike and Dave doesn't turn into a fable of some kind where the intent of the film is to teach its characters and audience a lesson, but rather is more about the challenges and obstacles presented in a certain situation and how a specific type of person deals in the messes they've made. This is undoubtedly the films strongest trait in that it doesn't become wholly what we expect though it is mostly the obtrusive and familiar raunchy comedy you hoped it would be if you bought a ticket in the first place. That said, Mike and Dave delivers some modest pleasures for, despite largely adhering to the beats of the genre, it excels in hitting those beats through a likable and appealing cast.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS Review

One should not approach the latest from Illumination Entertainment with the lofty expectations of the emotional devastation and weight brought on by the Pixar films, but rather set their sights and mood in a different general direction all together. Of course, with the kind of impactful and more substantial stories that Pixar tells they are intending to make something of a lasting impression on viewers, but the folks at Illumination-the same ones who created the Despicable Me and Minions movies-aren't really up for that-at least not yet. Rather, their latest original offering, The Secret Life of Pets, is a complete farce of sorts-a straightforward comedy that has no intent of connecting on some deep, emotional level with the audience, but instead simply hopes to skate by on its absurdity and slapstick. This can only result in good things as far as comedy goes and by virtue of that mentality it is the comedy that is the best thing The Secret Life of Pets has going for it. To push the Pixar comparison further I went in expecting something akin to Toy Story, but with animals. Given the tone and perceived concept that was conveyed in that first, rather stellar trailer it seemed that was what we were getting. Like Toy Story, the idea of what your pets might do all day while you're at work could be a fascinating world to explore (and maybe they'll stick to this premise in the inevitable sequel), but this movie deviates from that idea rather quickly and becomes more an "animals on an adventure" type movie in the vein of something like Homeward Bound, but with much more ludicrously improbable situations. And that's fine. Really, it is. Not every animated movie has to shoot for the stars and bring about a narrative that is designed to capitalize on momentous moments that forever influence the course of our lives and The Secret Life of Pets is a completely acceptable animated family movie that displays the different types of animated family movies that can be made without trying to hue as close to the Pixar brand as possible. I rather enjoyed the entertaining diversion that is The Secret Life of Pets and I laughed: a lot. Granted, the lack of any emotional investment will lead to that subsequent lack of any lasting impression, but somehow that doesn't seem to matter when what's in front of you is as fun as this is.  

First Trailer for TABLE 19 Starring Anna Kendrick

While Fox Searchlight as a studio has become more broad in its releases since the early days of its inception it is still nice to see the logo pop up in front of smaller fare that one hopes will be good based on its promising premise and cast. This could all be true of director Jeffrey Blitz's dramedy, but that January release date sure doesn't help much. Given we are getting the trailer in the midst of summer I was hoping we might see the film release a little earlier, say late September/early October, but while I can't seem to find any reason not to be excited for the film there will always be that release date during what is Hollywood's typical dumping ground month that will hang over its head until I inevitably see the film late in the first month of 2017. Only adding more to the optimistic side of this news though is the fact Table 19 was written by the Duplass brothers who, if you aren't familiar with the name, have been producing quality independent work for the better part of a decade now. The basic premise is catchy: a group of people who barely know the bride and groom find themselves assembled together at what amounts to the reject table at a wedding. Led by the charismatic Anna Kendrick who once dated the brides brother who is now the best man this ensemble comedy looks as if it will tap into some of the small caveats of the wedding ceremony that serve to expose how ridiculous the larger spectacle of such a day can be overblown and ridiculous-especially when you're nowhere near the level of bliss the bride and groom are. That Blitz has helmed episodes of Parks and Recreation, The Office, and the well-reviewed, but quickly cancelled Review is encouraging and only adds to my hope that this could be a truly funny comedy that just happened upon the misfortune of a release date typically occupied by trash. Table 19 also stars June Squibb, Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow, Stephen Merchant, Amanda Crew, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell, and opens on January 20th, 2017. 

FREE STATE OF JONES Review

It is difficult to know where to begin when discussing the new Matthew McConaughey film, Free State of Jones. The film encompasses such a large canvas spanning nearly fifteen years from the heart of the Civil War in 1862 up until 1876 illustrating how, despite the war being over, many people-especially freed black men and women-were still fighting battles every day. If Free State of Jones is anything it is an admirable piece of work, a beautiful disaster in some ways, but more than anything Free State of Jones doesn't seem to know what to do with or how best to convey all that it so strongly desires to say. Writer/director Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and the first Hunger Games film) has created a two and a half hour epic of sorts, but in the end it still feels as if the movie has more to say. This isn't a good thing and it certainly doesn't do the audience, who have already sat through that extensive run time, much consolation if not some satisfaction. In many ways, Free State of Jones should have been an HBO or FX miniseries that simultaneously chronicled the life of Newton Knight and how he seemingly lived for others as well as his family tree that came about after having children with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an African-American who was once a slave. That the feature film version of this story even attempts to go back and forth between the actions of Knight himself as well as eighty-five years into the future where one of his great grandchildren stands trial for being a small percentage African-American and is thus charged with breaking the law for marrying a Caucasian woman is nuts. Sure, the parallels between what Knight was fighting for in 1875 and what his descendants were still dealing with in the 1950's is effective and certainly makes a strong statement about how little has changed despite a considerable amount of time passing-making the main idea of the movie more relevant than ever today-there just isn't room for it here. Going from the midst of the Civil War to our protagonist hiding out in a swamp, to him building a community that forms the basis of his rebellion and eventual secession from the Confederacy, and then going even further into the continued struggles during the Reconstruction period Free State of Jones leaves itself no room to breathe. That said, because there is so much there is a lot of stuff to find interesting as well. It is almost the opposite of that mantra that goes, "It's not what's being said, but how it's said," as Free State of Jones is more focused on what's being said given how it's being said is something of a mess.

First Trailer for IMPERIUM Starring Daniel Radcliffe

After seeing Daniel Radcliffe last week in Swiss Army Man it was difficult to imagine the actor going further out on a limb to distance himself from the role that will always define him and yet now we have a trailer for Radcliffe's next film and while it certainly might not be initially as strange as playing a farting corpse it could definitely prove as challenging. In director Daniel Ragussis' new film, Imperium, Radcliffe plays a neo-Nazi. Before you get too concerned, Radcliffe is actually playing Nate Foster, a young, idealistic FBI agent who goes undercover to take down the radical right-wing terrorist group, but nonetheless-most of what you see in the trailer is skinhead Radcliffe. All of that said, while some aspects look rather generic, the film looks like it has a fair amount of intensity to it and could be a fairly exciting drama if not exactly the type of entertainment one necessarily likes to use to escape. With director Ragussis not having much of a filmography and only this first look trailer to gauge exactly what we'll be getting I can only hope and assume that the film not only tackles the obvious conflicts one would have with going undercover as a white supremacist, but having to deal with the psychology of those who truly believe in and live their lives by what they believe in even if it is as crazy as their own race being superior to another. There are definitely a few moments in the trailer to make us believe this is the case and that much of the film might deal in the contacts Radcliffe's character makes and how the nurturing of these types of individuals only continues to breed ignorant mindsets, but we'll have to wait and see if Ragussis is more of a layered and thoughtful filmmaker or if he is here purely for the action such characters can provide. Imperium also stars Toni Collette, Tracy Letts, Nestor Carbonell, Burn Gorman, Sam Trammell, and opens on August 19th, 2016.

THE SHALLOWS Review

The Shallows is just about what one would expect from a film about a pretty girl getting stranded on a rock as she is threatened by the ominous presence of a great white shark. The film is both a contained bit of biting tension while at the same time relaying little more than schlocky fun. What allows the film to transcend its rather simple and sometimes inferior qualities when compared to the big budget fare it faces during the summer months and become more of what a horror or action auteur might have produced in their early, limited budget days is the combination of both Blake Lively's performance and the sharp, concise direction of Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, Run All Night). Sure, The Shallows is ultimately a forgettable movie that will stand to leave no lasting impression and may even be disappointing to those who walk in expecting more action and less mood, but considering what the film clearly sets out to accomplish from the get-go it fulfills its goals pretty effortlessly in that Collet-Serra uses the stripped down screenplay from Anthony Jaswinski (Vanishing on 7th Street) as a way to find interesting ways to convey the story. The outline is familiar and the beats we hit are expected, but it is the way Collet-Serra slyly introduces the context of our protagonist's situation and her background that might allow some of the more necessary things that need to be done when under attack by a shark get accomplished. It is the way in which the parts we know are going to happen are so seamlessly set-up that allow us to, despite knowing what is coming, still be surprised when those moments do in fact occur. All of this is to say that while on its most basic of principles The Shallows should be nothing more than a B-movie in the vein of something that goes direct to DVD it is by virtue of the talent involved that it has become more than that: a thoroughly entertaining thrill ride made credible by Lively's presence and made to look like that of a higher class of story by Collet-Serra's inherent ability to add real tension and stakes in an otherwise throwaway narrative.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 5, 2016

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE Review

There is a bit of trivia on the IMDB page for Independence Day: Resurgence that talks about how, after the success of the first film, 20th Century Fox paid screenwriter Dean Devlin a large sum of money to write a script for a sequel. The story goes though, that after completing the script for what would have been the original sequel to 1996's Independence Day Devlin decided not to turn it in and instead gave the money back to the studio. The trivia goes on to state that Devlin did this because he felt the story didn't live up to the first film. As we are now twenty years removed from that original film and have now seen what an Independence Day sequel looks like this course of action only seems to beg one question: how bad must that original sequel script have been? Could it really have retreaded the beats of the first film as much as Resurgence does? The only thing that differentiates the first film from this new one is the passage of time and how that has changed earth's technologies and defense systems while having what cast returns look a little older. The IMDB page goes on to say that it was only fifteen years later, when Devlin met up with director Roland Emmerich to try again, that they felt they had finally "cracked" a story for a sequel. Though it is difficult to be downright negative towards a film story and character development certainly aren't Resurgence's strong suits and may even be the most laughable aspects of a movie that tries really hard to be funny. One can't help but feel that, in this scenario, "cracking" the story only meant they were offered a lot more money than before. If Resurgence does indeed deliver the story that Emmerich and Devlin thought more justified the existence of a sequel to their 1996 feature it can only now be concluded that they were only going to repeat themselves more with the scrapped screenplay. While Resurgence certainly finds moments of dumb fun and some rather spectacular action sequences given special effects have improved greatly in the last two decades it is more or less a retread of what we saw in that original movie in terms of ensemble cast and humans versus aliens. Granted, the question easily posed in response to that statement is, "what did you expect it to be?" and the answer to that is that they at least try to find a new way into that same old story.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

This weekend there were three new major wide releases, but none were able to claim the top spot as Disney and Pixar's Finding Dory continued to dominate. In its third weekend the thirteen year later sequel managed an estimated $41.9 million three-day weekend and is tracking toward a four day around $51 million. As of now the film's domestic cume stands at just over $372 million with its global total just over $538 million. Of the three new wide releases this weekend we were originally going to see and review the latest from Steven Spielberg, but it's a good thing we didn't as The BFG could only muster an estimated $19.58 million over the three-day and is expected to finish right around $23-24 million for the four-day weekend. Though this is slightly disappointing considering the $140 million price tag Spielberg's films are typically incredibly leggy. Still, it's strange Disney decided to open this unquestionably British film over the Fourth of July weekend when Dory is still making tons of money and next week sees the release of The Secret Life of Pets. This gives The BFG a limited audience as these three films are more or less targeting the same demographic with The BFG being the least anticipated by a large margin. It doesn't help the film is a genuine head-scratcher, but only time will decide the fate of this one and I'm curious to see how things play out. Fortunately, we ended up seeing and reviewing The Legend of Tarzan from director David Yates (the last four Harry Potter movies and this November's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). Surpassing most box office pundits predictions the $180 million summer tentpole brought in an estimated $38.1 million three-day opening with the film targeting a four-day total of around $43+ million. I was genuinely pleased with the film and consider it to be a well-rounded and highly entertaining summer blockbuster and it seemed audiences largely agreed. As always, we saw the film at B&B's Chenal 9 & IMAX in Little Rock and suffice to say, see the film on the biggest screen possible if you can. The third new release was the third Purge film which brought in a $30.8 million three-day, for an estimated $35 million four-day total. With a price tag of only $10 million the film has already tripled its budget. Hit the jump to watch this week's review and as always be sure to subscribe to our channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week! Appreciate the support.

THE BFG Review

The latest from director Steven Spielberg is an odd little film. It is a project that seems all too good to be true. A feature length version of a classic Roald Dahl story, set to the music of John Williams, and directed by one of the greatest living filmmakers. What could possibly go wrong? The truth is, there isn't much wrong with The BFG if you're looking for a charming little think piece to show your children and teach them patience, but as far as the entertainment factor goes you might have the kiddos clawing at your feet five minutes in. Some children will no doubt find this story of a young girl who is kidnapped by an exceptionally nice giant and taken to his home in Giant Country to be completely mesmerizing and there are certainly plenty of reasons to be struck with this reaction, but as the film played out and as it became more and more apparent there was no driving narrative to the piece I became less enchanted with the product as a whole. More, the film is essentially Spielberg creating a handful of the type of drawn-out sequences he seems to have enjoyed crafting more and more in the latter part of his career. Extended scenes of discussions documented by richly creative camera movements with just as much inventiveness being poured into the setting and the performances. While such techniques give The BFG a sense of that Spielbergian touch that has been glimpsed in many a sequences in the auteur's other films there is nothing else to support such scenes here. On one hand, it is admirable that Spielberg and screenwriter Melissa Mathison (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Indian in the Cupboard) have created a film that doesn't care to hue close to the typical conventions of a children's movie or most movies for that matter as much of the first hour of the film is focused on developing the relationship between the titular giant (as played by Bridge of Spies Best Supporting Actor winner Mark Rylance) and Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) as they come to figure out one another in ways that subtly explore their similarities and differences enough that we see how well different types of people, never mind different types of species, can complement each other. At two hours though, there simply isn't enough content to justify the running time. The BFG may have made a truly enchanting short, but as a feature film this feels more like an escape for a specific niche of an audience rather than the broadly appealing summer family film it has been positioned to be.

LEGEND OF TARZAN Review

Say what you want, I certainly would have prior to walking into the new live-action adaptation about the lord of the apes, but The Legend of Tarzan is a welcome surprise in a sea of lackluster, would-be summer blockbusters. Taking keys from Chris Nolan and Sam Mendes in their grand but grounded takes on mythological heroes like Batman and Bond director David Yates (the last four Harry Potter films and this November's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) has created a Tarzan film that is very much in line with the origin stories of these larger than life figures while simultaneously steeping itself in some of the politics of the time all the while remaining self-aware enough through the presence of one Samuel L. Jackson to remind us we shouldn't take things too seriously as we're still talking about a man who was raised by apes and travels by vine. In short, The Legend of Tarzan is kind of everything one could want out of a big-budget summer blockbuster as it features not a re-tread of the same story Disney animation told seventeen years ago, but more a re-structuring of the origin tale through a brand new adventure that lends the action some purpose and includes some unexpected weight in its story. Some will list this new incarnation of Tarzan as empty spectacle, but I'm hard pressed to understand the reasoning as not only does the screenplay by Adam Cozad (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) feature some templates for what Yates orchestrates as pretty impressive action sequences without relying too heavily on visual effects, but it also features scenes of crisp dialogue where what could have easily been stock characters have real, intelligent conversations that not only move the plot forward, but acknowledge the larger world that their actions exist within and will ultimately effect. Maybe it is due to the lack of expectations when walking into the film, but it quickly proved to be more than another summer tentpole to come off the blockbuster conveyor belt. Bringing us into this world and to these characters we thought we knew there are added layers that enthrall. Becoming invested in these familiar names as played by a top notch cast we come to care about the somewhat complicated if not familiar plot that is still able to put just enough of a spin on what was expected that the reality of what we've received is so much more fulfilling than what I could have imagined prior to sitting down in the theater. In all honesty, I'm not sure one could make a better Tarzan movie than what we have here.

SWISS ARMY MAN Review

Swiss Army Man is an odd film. One should know that first and foremost. When seeing the quotes on the posters or other marketing material that claim, "you've never seen a movie like this," you should take that to heart. Sure, I get it, you've probably heard that countless times before, but if you continue to read such quotes you'll get reassurance that such hyperbole is accurate when discussing Swiss Army Man. It is in this wholly unique fashion that the film naturally finds its own identity, but also finds a way to convey what is essentially an existential crisis by our main character, Hank, played by Paul Dano. Of course, when the film opens and we meet Dano's character as he attempts to kill himself by hanging we don't know any of this. We assume, given the writings we glean on pieces of trash floating in the water, that Hank is the lone survivor of some type of sea-faring accident and that he has more or less reached his breaking point. It is as he readies himself to step off a cooler with the noose around his neck that he notices a body has washed ashore. Though this body belongs to Daniel Radcliffe it is clear the soul inside has long since gone on to greener pastures. For Hank though, this body he eventually deems Manny is his saving grace. It becomes apparent almost immediately that directors and screenwriters Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (collectively known as Daniels) enter into Hank's personal reality and are insistent on not letting us out of such a world until they have made a clear statement on each individuals own necessary version of sanity. We all need a different kind of rational to deal with our different set of circumstances. When it comes to Hank we have a very fractured and uncomfortable human being who, as we discover more about him, comes to be this man that doesn't feel he meets the basic standards of normal that society requires. While Swiss Army Man may feel like and project to be an outlandish buddy movie of sorts between a man who at first glance likely belongs in an insane asylum and a corpse the movie certainly has bigger ideas in its head than the fart jokes that have made up much of the conversation around it.