Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Kick-Off the Summer Movie Season with a Big, Fun, and Funny Action-Packed Adventure that Fully Delivers on its Promises.


Luca Guadagnino Attaches his Latest Exploration of Sexuality, Desire, and Relationship Dynamics to Tennis in this Flashy Zendaya Vehicle.


Alex Garland's Highly-Anticipated Film Upends Mainstream Expectations by Existing more as an Exploration of "Why" than a Blunt Explanation of "How".


Writer/Director/Star Dev Patel Draws From Numerous Sources of Inspiration for his Electric and Exceptionally Executed Debut.


Denis Villeneuve's Grand and Gorgeous Epic is as Insightful about Sincerity and Strategy as it is Engaging on the Broad Levels of a Big-Budget Studio Blockbuster.

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


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

MOANA Review

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

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


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


We all lead complicated lives. This is the simple lesson Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) takes away from her experiences as documented in the directorial debut from Kelly Fremon Craig who also has the sole credit on the screenplay for The Edge of Seventeen. We all lead complicated lives and unfortunately, having problems isn't what makes Nadine special despite the fact she thinks it does. Given Nadine is a junior in high school who has little to no social life outside of her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who doesn't get along with her mother, and who is the younger sister of all-star older brother Darian (Everybody Wants Some!!'s Blake Jenner) there seems valid reason for her amount of self-loathing. Of course, the main idea in Edge of Seventeen is for Nadine to come to the realization her problems aren't singular to her life, but that there are in fact always those who have it worse. That type of hackneyed advice isn't what teenagers want to hear though, and Edge of Seventeen isn't here to serve as a lecture for those who can associate with its protagonist. Moreover, Craig's film feels very much like a personal essay or even more, a love letter to her own formative years that, despite feeling like hell in the moment, she couldn't be more thankful for now. This is a difficult task. Capturing the essence of what you were feeling throughout a certain time in your life without spelling it out in the dialogue is one thing when writing the screenplay, but when actually attempting to do so through execution of that written word it becomes clear how critical tone is and if the tone isn't right, the themes and ideas won't translate and you end up with a final product as foreign a feeling as popularity is to Nadine. To say that Craig excels in overcoming these obstacles would no doubt make the writer/director chuckle as she likely questioned herself and her abilities on a daily basis, but what has come out of what I have to believe was a slew or re-writes and re-calculations to make sure that not only was the essence of her youth captured, but also a character arc that rings true for a number of us is a high school movie for the ages, a close relative to those John Hughes movies that captured all the angst and innocence of adolescence, but with the natural edge of the current culture.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 23, 2016


For what is mostly the first entry in a brand new series Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is also very much a re-boot to the Harry Potter universe that Warner Bros. has surprisingly let remain stagnant for a solid five years. As someone who grew up with the books, who matured as they matured, and grasped the implications of the ideas and themes more as the series went on and explored more complex ideas and themes itself I have to admit to not being too thrilled by the fact Warner Bros. planned on extending the world of Harry Potter to New York City and the 1920's with a film about the guy who...wrote one of Harry and his friends textbooks? Despite the fact J.K. Rowling herself would be penning the screenplay there was still a fair amount of trepidation that whatever this Eddie Redmayne-fronted extension of the magical world might ultimately be it would inevitably be little more than a cash grab. A boardroom mandated blockbuster that would repeat as many of the same beats from the Harry Potter franchise as it could while doubling the amount of merchandise and thus the revenue. And so, here we are-the full swing of the Holiday season in November is in full force and amidst the crowded multiplexes sporting a number of high-profile releases and awards season hopefuls we again find the comfort and ease of knowing that while not exactly Harry, we are once again able to escape to the magical world Rowling has conjured up and that, no matter the protagonist, is something of an unavoidable happiness members of a certain generation can't pass up. For the truth is, after allowing my hesitations to subside and instead becoming excited by the fact Rowling and director David Yates (who made the final four Harry Potter films) reunited for a brand new chapter in the development of the wizarding world and that this chapter of the bigger picture would ultimately add more depth and scope to this world we already believed we knew turns out to be a solidly entertaining thrill ride. Though Fantastic Beasts certainly has its issues and two too many endings it casts a charming enough spell to leave audiences wanting more from the adventures of Mr. Newt Scamander and his inevitable battle with Gellert Grindelwald.

This week on Initial Reaction we talked the much-anticipatedl kick-off to the Harry Potter prequel franchise titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I was unable to make it to the early showing of the film on Thursday night and promised my wife we would see it over the weekend anyway, so as things worked out and I didn't see the film until Saturday, but was lucky enough to have Levi Agee, the Creative Director at CenterRock Advertising here in Little Rock and former programmer for the Little Rock Film Festival, fill in for me and give his thoughts on this new chapter in the Potterverse. As for how Fantastic Beasts fared at the box office, it easily won the weekend with a sound $75 million which is more or less what expectations were for the $180 million film though it's easy to guess that Warner Bros. was hoping for bigger breakout numbers rather than simply what was expected. The studio should chiefly be concerned about the fact only 18% of the opening weekend audience was under the age of 18 while 55% was over the age of 35. This tells us that while Warner Bros. has the support of the legions of Harry Potter fans already out there they haven't necessarily convinced the new generations that didn't grow up with the books or films that this new franchise is one quite worth investing in. With four sequels already planned, Johnny Depp signed on as the big bad, and director David Yates already under contract to direct each of those sequels Warner Bros. is clearly placing a lot of resources and weight in the continuation of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world and they can only hope that with the home video release of this re-boot of sorts that word of mouth continues to build and convinces those that didn't show up to the theaters this past weekend that the many sequels might be worth their time. That's it for now, but as always, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week! 


Not actively terrible, but nowhere near the introspective character study it seemed destined to be Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is an amalgamation of interesting ideas and endearing ambition that went wrong somewhere in the process of its creation. Helmed by auteur Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) the director has, for one reason or another, decided to make his latest endeavor the first film to ever be shot in 120 frames per second and in 4K 3D which is well over the standard 24 fps most movies are shot in. Add to this the fact Lee easily surpasses the last, failed effort of the higher frame rate variety in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and it's a curious decision given the truth of the matter is most audiences who choose to experience Billy Lynn will do so in traditional theater presentations given the set-up for such an advanced display requires much more than most theaters are willing to budget for at the moment. And so, while it is admirable for Lee to want to push the boundaries of cinema and, at the very least, experiment so that later generations may build upon such experiments-watching Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk in a traditional format because there are no resources to take advantage of how it is meant to be seen across the majority of the country only makes these choices made for the sake of the format that much more glaring. Lee is a master filmmaker and one of the most diverse auteurs in the game at the moment and for that it's impossible not to respect his effort. Over the course of just his last three features the director has taken us from Woodstock in the summer of 1969 to being stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to us now joining him and the surviving members of Bravo Squad at the halftime show of a Dallas football game. This track record combined with the inherently deep and somewhat controversial subject matter made me more than eager to see what conclusions and ideas Lee came to with his film, but rather than any ideas, conclusions, or even narrative cohesion Lee seems to have paid more attention to how best his story could enhance his new format rather than the other way around.


Much goes unspoken in Loving, but that shouldn't be a surprise given it comes from director Jeff Nichols who has given us such restrained and meditative pieces as Take Shelter and Mud, not to mention his slight venture into genre territory earlier this year with Midnight Special. Still, Loving is something of a different beast. As with most of Nichols films the multi-hyphenate again deals in its main male character working through a particularly life-altering time in his life. Whether it be a man working through understanding an illness, heartbreak, or a parents love for their child Nichols is clearly attracted to these leading male characters that carry burdens of one type or another-none of which can actually be drawn as distinctly as I've just done. In Loving, this Nichols quality is born in the form of Richard Loving as played by Joel Edgerton who is a simple man who loves a woman just as simply, but is told he can't due to the race laws that plagued the time in which he was born. What separates Loving from Nichols filmography thus far is the fact Nichols has yet to adapt a true story or any other source material for that matter for one of his films. They have all been original concepts and ideas that have allowed the writer/director his own ways/styles of telling his own stories, but with Loving he has crafted a film very much in the vein of his previous works while still seemingly allowing the genuine spirit of those who actually lived this story to come through. Nichols accomplishes this by not making up much of his own dialogue for the real-life people to say. Rather, Nichols allows much of what needs to be said to be said through the performances of Edgerton and his co-lead Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving. In doing so, Loving ends up not as an overly schmaltzy or sentimental love story or even a melodramatic courtroom drama, but instead a subtle study of how simple true love can be despite how complicated our world can make it.

Official Trailer for KONG: SKULL ISLAND
The first glimpse of the latest re-boot/re-make/re-imagining of the King Kong mythos we received this past summer looked visually engaging, but was always going to have deliver that something extra to differentiate itself from being just another in a long line of blockbusters that will now be populating theaters from March until August and now, this new official trailer gives us how exactly it stands to do that: John C. Reilly. In something of an interesting twist I couldn't have seen coming from a mile away (though I admittedly haven't been following this movie or its production too closely) it seems Reilly will serve as both the audience and a large amount of the ensemble casts way "in" to the world that Kong now dominates. He looks to be an explorer of some kind who became stranded on the island Kong inhabits and more or less took up with the indigenous people. That is, until the likes of a new batch of explorers show up (headed by John Goodman and Straight Outta Compton's Corey Hawkins) to mess things up. Again, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer) has delivered a visually pleasing trailer that contains not only a solid amount of action and spectacle, but through Reilly he has also mixed in a fair amount of humor and so I'm even more interested to see what the director has done as I've probably watched his debut feature a handful of times and think his temprement could play will in the blockbuster arena. That said, Vogt-Roberts has already entered the franchise world as Skull Island is seemingly Warner Bros. and Legendary's attempt to bring King King and Godzilla head to head after establishing the latter in director Gareth Edward's 2014 Godzilla film. No matter the future plans though, I'm excited to see what Vogt-Roberts has in store for us in just a few short months. Kong: Skull Island also stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Tian Jing, Jason Mitchell, John Ortiz, Thomas Mann, Shea Whigham, Toby Kebbell, Eugene Cordero, and opens on March 10, 2017.

Full Trailer for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Starring Emma Watson
After glimpsing the teaser trailer for Disney's live-action adaptation of one of if not their most celebrated animated films this past summer it wasn't hard to sense the amount of anticipation for this thing. It's going to be huge. If you thought The Jungle Book was big. Watch out. That said, just in time for the holidays the mouse house has finally released the full-length trailer for director Bill Condon's (Dreamgirls) Beauty and the Beast and based on what we see here I'm still fairly optimistic. Condon, despite his several serviceable credits, gives me caution as he has a few other credits that don't bode so well for this incarnation of the only animated movie to ever get a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, but taking into consideration that Perks of Being a Wallflower writer/director Stephen Chbosky assisted in penning the screenplay (along with Evan Spiliotopoulos who seems to fit the bill of generic Hollywood writer) I have something of a renewed faith. This fact, coupled with the rather unbelievable cast that look and sound great from what we see here is enough to hope that Disney can pull off with Beauty and the Beast what they were able to do with Cinderella and the aforementioned Jungle Book. The visuals are especially stunning here as Watson looks pitch-perfect in both her physical and mental approach to the titular beauty that is Belle. While I still harbor some concern for the amount of CGI that it seems Condon and his team are relying on to bring the other half of the title as well as the remaining inhabitants of the castle to life I can only hope that there is still work to be done and that the representations of the talented casts' voice work will come through as effortlessly as Jon Favreau and his animators were able to make it feel in their Disney adaptation. These live-action remakes of animated classics are certainly turning into big business for the studio, but given we've essentially seen these movies before these new versions have to be both faithful while at the same time bring something new to the table. Based on what we see here one really can't see through the nostalgia of it all to know how good or bad Condon's version might turn out, but darn it if I'm not rooting for this thing to work and for these re-imaginings to keep on comin'. Beauty and the Beast also stars Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and opens on March 17th, 2017.

Full Trailer for GHOST IN THE SHELL Starring Scarlett Johansson
I have no idea what Ghost in the Shell is about or why it has become such a talking point besides the decision to cast an American movie star like Scarlett Johansson instead of an Asian actor despite the character coming from a Japanese media franchise originally published as a seinen manga series. The source material has been around since 1989 and a film adaptation has apparently been in the works for over a decade, but given the brand has little impact outside its country of origin it makes sense why a major studio like Paramount would cast a name like Johansson in a pricey sci-fi flick that has franchise potential: she's a reliable performer and a box office draw. I can understand the accusations of whitewashing from those who have been long-time fans of the material, but this is simply how things work-just be thankful you're getting a big-budget movie adaptation with a credible talent in the lead as things could have no doubt gone much worse. If you've seen any of the Marvel Studios movies featuring her Black Widow or even Lucy one should feel comfortable with Paramount and director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsmen) choice. Speaking of Sanders, while I wasn't a huge fan of his previous film, Huntsmen certainly had an undeniably appealing visual style and it seems the filmmaker has again brought an interesting aesthetic to his adaptation. Having no prior knowledge concerning the story or plot the manga series covered I would see this movie based on the visuals in the trailer alone, but all of that said I'm intrigued by what Ghost in the Shell might have on its mind. The film will apparently follow Johansson as The Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg who leads an elite task force known as Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out advancements in cyber technology. Ghost in the Shell also stars Pilou Asbæk, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Kaori Momoi, Rila Fukushima, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara, Tuwanda Manyimo, and opens on March 31st, 2017.


Arrival is one of those movies where you understand you're waiting for the resolve to see if it justifies the journey we've taken to (pun intended) arrive there. This doesn't mean the one hundred minutes prior aren't fascinating and worthwhile, but it's clear we're ultimately waiting to see what bigger picture these pieces are painting. This can of course be something of a double-edged sword given how the approach effects the re-watchability of a picture, but by the time we come around to the conclusion of Arrival it only seems repeat viewings will do nothing but make it more moving if not add shades and complexities to small nuances we may not have noticed upon that initial viewing. In other words, Arrival is a masterfully told narrative that deals in themes of interpretation and perspective through conveyors such as language and the guise of an alien invasion movie. What's interesting though is, despite the marketing, Arrival is hardly about an alien invasion, but more a film about communication and figuring out one another before jumping to conclusions based on cultural precedent or expectation. Arrival is about that fear of what we don't know and how such a phrase manifests when a genuine situation arises that it can be applied to. In the barrage of CGI summer blockbusters that depict alien invasions more as mass extinctions it's become easy to feel nonchalant about the ramifications of proof of life beyond our earth and solar system legitimately existing and furthermore, showing up in our backyard. In Arrival, director Denis Villeneuve conjures not only a palpable fear and panic that would sweep across nations in light of such events, but more he and specifically Amy Adams in an absolutely stellar performance highlight the sheer incomprehensibility of the situation. Giving insight to the smaller moments, recognizing the first time Jeremy Renner's Ian Donnelly touches the material this alien craft is constructed from as a major moment rather than choosing to ignore its significance speaks volumes. In this way, moments that are actually bigger play as that much more profound. Villeneuve is a master of restraint and the slow burn as he has shown in previous features such as Enemy and Sicario, but Arrival may be his most accomplished work to date as not only is it visually enrapturing, but the larger ideas the film has on its mind are applied to its precise visual sense giving the experience an all-around aura of awe.


EuropaCorp has released the first trailer for director Luc Besson's (The Fifth Element, Lucy) sci-fi epic that looks to be one of the few original offerings next summer. Based on a long-running French comic Valérian and Laureline that was first published in 1967 Besson and his film have apparently "advanced" the material into a contemporary, unique and epic science fiction saga where the titular Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are special operatives for the government of the human territories who are charged with maintaining order throughout the universe. Given the amount of nonsense that may sound like to some this teaser looks especially intriguing on a visual scale as we don't get too many story elements given it is, in fact, a teaser trailer. That said, I'm in for this weird mix of Besson's own Fifth Element (one can sense the similar production design in the cityscapes) and Guardians of the Galaxy. That more recent comparison will likely come to the mind of most movie-goers under the age of twenty-five as the trailer is accompanied by a classic pop song in the form of the Beatles, "Because," with the amount of strange creatures and space battles being more than reminiscent of that Marvel film. Of course, GotG fans will get their cake the first weekend of the summer movie season and with Valerian going head to head with Chis Nolan's Dunkirk opening weekend I'm curious to see how this $180-million epic is able to do. That said, the comparisons to James Gunn's film are likely only valid in terms of marketing as Besson has such a particular set of tendencies it's hard to imagine the final product resembling something as board room mandated as a Marvel movie. No matter the outcome and despite the fact I'll still be more anxious to see Dunkirk opening weekend I look forward to the potential this holds and hold out hope for something more along the lines of what Besson has crafted before rather than a Jupiter Ascending déjà vu. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets also stars Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, and opens on July 21st, 2017.


It's difficult to not feel indifferent about a movie like Trolls. In the end, it's fine. Is it somewhat offensive in terms of originality and cheap covers of gloriously good pop songs? It could certainly be taken that way, but when taking into consideration the target audience for this latest DreamWorks animated adventure it's hard to get too frustrated with the rote story Trolls tolls out or the advantage it takes in remixing recognizable songs into auto-tuned Kidz Bop versions you could have certainly lived without. Of course, Trolls doesn't mean to offend, but rather it simply means to entertain a fairly wide age range of kiddos while at the same time giving over tried and true lessons that deal in being true to one's self to find true happiness. No, Trolls isn't either a good film or a particularly bad one, but more it is simply one that exists to colorfully distract for an hour and a half only to mostly be forgotten the next day. No harm, no foul. Trolls is ultimately something of a mix between DreamWorks own Shrek series as far as character types go while more or less the same story The Smurfs told us as far as being small creatures who live in peace and harmony while having to battle a much larger being who threatens to eat them among other evil things. There wouldn't be anything necessarily wrong with restructuring these archetypes and plotlines were Trolls interested in doing anything fresh or interesting (and when I say interesting I, obviously, mean weirder) with as much as they've given themselves to work with, but by simply slapping a variety of pop covers throughout rather than going full-on musical and ultimately being more harmless than memorable this movie isn't exactly the kind of product a studio wants to put out if they want to retain any type of credibility. Though it really is difficult to say anything downright terrible about Trolls the bottom line is this was a product made to move merchandise and that it actually turned out as competent and sometimes even as fun as it is shouldn't be forgotten. Sure, one could point out the desperate lengths movie studios are now going to in order to cash in on brands given the troll dolls were first popular in the sixties (with a resurgence in the nineties) or one could point to The LEGO Movie as a film based on toys/superfluous junk that actually turned out rather inspired and great, but somewhere in the middle of those truths and thoughts we find Trolls; just happy to have been given enough room to dance and sing and hug.


It has been a decade since Mel Gibson directed his last film. Almost as much time as there was between Braveheart and Passion of the Christ, but in this latest interval Gibson has unfortunately become more discussed for things besides his filmmaking talents. With Hacksaw Ridge, the story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss who refused to kill people as a Conscientious Objector, Gibson is very much back in the playing field he seems comfortable with. That said, Gibson seems to have also taken the time away to pull in other influences for his art as many of the early scenes here in which the director develops and builds the character of Doss with actor Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man) feel as if they were constructed to be a love letter to Hollywood's golden years. This, of course, deeply contrasts the usually stark and brutal tone that Gibson's films take on, but don't fret as those qualities are sure to come still in Hacksaw Ridge. More, Gibson understands that by painting these early, more serene portraits of where his pacifist of a protagonist comes from he by default makes the bloody and downright horrific war sequences that inevitably take place that much more affecting and that much more powerful. Though somewhat working at odds with one another given how realistically and viscerally Gibson paints his scenes of war with a story that more or less condemns such actions these two elements of what we're seeing and what train of thought we're being encouraged to consider come to work in each other's favors. For as quickly as we see how easily a life can be snuffed out and how faithful Doss has to be to trust that he can "run into the hell fire of battle without a weapon to protect his self," and still survive the point is made that the violence of war is senseless and that, after such an experience, most soldiers would likely agree with such a sentiment. Gibson isn't just making a war film to show off how skilled an action director he is or to revel in the gluttony of violence, but more he is using this profusion of blood and gore to align us more with the mentality that Doss brings to the battlefield and why, despite popular opinion, that might not be such a bad thing. The greatest accomplishment of Hacksaw Ridge though, is that it accomplishes relaying such ideas without preaching them, but instead more by standing with its lead character who stands by his principles even in the great circumstances of a world war.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 8, 2016

Initial Reaction: Video Review - DOCTOR STRANGE
After having to skip a review for Inferno last week (which no one seemed to miss given the weak debut numbers and the 58% drop it took this weekend) we are back as Marvel officially kicks off the holiday movie season with Doctor Strange. While ultimately the film more or less falls in line with expectations not daring to be anything more it is still rather entertaining and worth a trip to the theater and the price of an IMAX 3D ticket thanks to some stunning visuals and action sequences. The B&B theater, Chenal 9, where we see and review the movies each week is currently playing it in this format so if you're a local reader be sure to check it out there. As Charles has been out of town the past two weeks for work Jordan once again joined the team to help me talk the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though both of us found the movie rather middle of the road, the box office response would suggest otherwise as Doctor Strange conjured up an impressive $84.9 million followed by strong performances from both Fox and DreamWorks Animation's Trolls and Lionsgate's Hacksaw Ridge. As I started a new job that pays the bills last week I wasn't able to catch either of the other new releases on Thursday or over the weekend, but I plan on catching up with both at some point this week. That said it's good to see people heading to the theater and supporting different kinds of movies. Of course, the biggest news of the weekend was Strange whose $84.9 million was good enough to earn it the second highest origin story opening of the MCU behind only the original Iron Man ($102.1 million in the summer of 2008). Strange has been playing internationally for over a week now though, so adding the U.S. box office numbers to the mix brings the films total to well over $300 million in only 13 days. In short, there is still no stopping the well-oiled machine that is Marvel Studios. That's it for now, but as always, be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel as we have a new review (or reviews) up each week!


From the outset where Marvel Studios shows off its brand new logo that features clips of its heroes in action from previous films rather than clips of art from their older comic books it is clear just how much of a brand this studio and their particular type of super hero films have become. What is more telling though, is just how aware Marvel is of this fact and how boldly they state their accomplishments in this re-branding of their title card. This slight boasting by the company sets up good and bad expectations for the film that proceeds it as Doctor Strange very much operates within the familiar world Marvel has built while at the same time reminding us of just how high Marvel can fly leaving this rule of a movie to be something of a letdown. Of course, that is the one glaring barrier all Marvel movies now have to overcome in how do they not just play as large scale TV episodes, but more singular stories that feel worthy of the big screen treatment. It's not necessarily that Dr. Stephen Strange isn't worthy of such treatment, but more in the pantheon of all Marvel has done before and all it plans to do in the future this initial outing with the soon-to-be Sorcerer Supreme feels as brisk and as superfluous to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as The Incredible Hulk now ranks. Not that Doctor Strange doesn't introduce a whole new dimension of possibilities to the MCU, but were this film to not work out the way Marvel expects it to for some reason they could essentially ignore its existence and move on with the physical dangers the film tells us The Avengers protect our world from. That won't happen, of course, but that's the type of indifferent feeling director Scott Derrickson's (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Sinister) take on a Marvel property unfortunately conjures up. Making this worse is the fact that Doctor Strange features some of the more daring and downright trippy visuals that have been seen in a Marvel movie as well as some of the weirder sequences in the studios filmography that, while visually enchanting, make it even more apparent just how standard the narrative is. Why Marvel and Kevin Feige were willing to go out on something of a risky limb with their visuals as well as just how far Strange can push his powers, but not with the story that brings the titular Doctor into the world of magic and mysticism is a little perplexing, but at the end of the day it's clear this is a board room picture designed to change up Marvel's winning formula just enough so as to appear to be something new and different, but what in reality will rely on the same tricks that have guaranteed consistent hints for eight years now.

New Trailer for WONDER WOMAN Starring Gal Gadot
Given this week has been something of downer for the DC Extended Universe with the announcement that Flash director Rick Famuyiwa would be leaving the project due to 'creative differences' and Marvel having their latest, sure to be blockbuster opening DC and Warner Bros. are still trying to look on the bright side of things by releasing a new trailer for Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman AKA the last great hope for the DCEU. The first trailer for the film that premiered at Comic-Con this past summer couldn't even be overshadowed by the release of Justice League footage as that first look showed off Matthew Jensen's gorgeous cinematography, some exhilarating and intense action sequences, as well as some seemingly solid chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine who looks to provide an opportunity for smaller moments and humor that will take advantage of the out of her element Amazonian princess. This new trailer is essentially more of the same, but when your first one was as good as Wonder Woman's you don't have to do much more to sell your movie. Wonder Woman sees Gal Gadot reprising her role as the titular warrior that first debuted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While that film wasn't a unanimous winner most agreed that Gadot's Wonder Woman was one of the highlights. With this being Wonder Woman's first solo feature film a lot of pressure has no doubt been applied to Jenkins (who directed Charlize Theron in her Oscar-winning role in Monster) and screenwriters Geoff Johns and Allan Heinberg, both of whom have either worked with Zack Snyder on previous DCEU films or, in Johns case, will be overseeing the DCEU from this point on. Wonder Woman, 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 Steve Trevor crash lands and tells of the conflict happening in the outside world, spurning Diana into action. Wonder Woman also stars Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, and opens on June 2nd, 2017.