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.

AMERICAN MADE Review

American Made is one of those "so crazy it must be true" stories that comes to shed light on what was seemingly a mess the U.S. government frantically tried to clean up, but couldn't help only making bigger messes out of. American Made looks to sheds light on an individual who was essentially taken advantage of despite the fact he himself took advantage of every opportunity he was given. Never stopping to question the repercussions of his actions, his own moral compass- never mind the ones of those he was in league with, or considering his ultimate role in the scheme of things Barry Seal was a reckless man who lived fast and loose and thus this movie about his life appropriately does the same thing. From director Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow) American Made is one part Tom Cruise-vehicle, one part biopic, and just a wholly unbelievable adventure tale that asks the audience to go along with it even as the places it goes that it claims to be true are absolutely preposterous. That said, while the film capably chronicles the fast-paced life of one, Barry Seal, it doesn't stop long enough to really meditate on any of the decisions, plans, or ideas that its protagonist might have had or considered when going through with his actions. We get little in the way of motivation other than the fact Seal seems to crave a more wild lifestyle than that of what his life as a commercial airline pilot for TSA was providing. While American Made might not carry as much depth as one would expect when discussing past political decisions, drug cartels, money laundering, and the like Liman directs the film, written by man of few credits Gary Spinelli, as if Seal himself was telling it; the filmmaker even including snippets of Seal talking into a VHS camcorder as he recounts his story periodically throughout the feature. This is Barry Seal's story in the style of Barry Steal-fast and loose. And by imbuing this type of style through to the overall tone of the film it allows for American Made, while not necessarily deep, to feel authentic and naturally revealing. More than anything, American Made is a hell of an entertaining ride and one can't ask for much more than that out of a Tom Cruise blockbuster that isn't an action blockbuster in 2017.

Teaser Trailer for ANNIHILATION Starring Natalie Portman

Writer/director Alex Garland made one of my favorite films of 2015 in Ex Machina, an original film about a young programmer who is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in A.I. created by the reclusive CEO of the company he works for. The film was a story of ideas that was executed with purpose-something that is deceptively difficult to pull off. So, to say I'm excited for Garland's follow-up is something of an understatement. Based on a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation is actually the first in a trilogy of books knows as the "Southern Reach Trilogy" that takes its name from the secret agency that is central to the plot. Specifically, Annihilation covers the story of a biologist (Natalie Portman) who signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don't apply. Though I haven't read the source material I'm somewhat cautious as to whether or not I should immediately dive into doing so or if I should wait and go into the film as cold as possible. Given this doesn't drop in theaters until next year I may try to take down the whole of the book series before then, but as Garland's work tends to be rather cryptic and expertly crafted in terms of teasing out ideas and plot in a fashion we don't much see anymore I'm hesitant to spoil anything about what this film might contain before its release date. Either way, I'm more than intrigued by what this trailer has to offer as the tone and visuals very much hit that ethereal sci-fi vibe I'm a sucker for with much of the content and conversation seemingly dealing in psychological and rather haunting ideas. Not to mention, Garland has rounded up quite the cast to bring this thing to life as noted below, but it will be nice to once again see Portman stretch her wings in a bigger, more fantastical world than we have in quite some time while not seeming to sacrifice the depth she likes to bring to each of her projects. Annihilation also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac, and opens on February 23rd, 2018.

New Trailer for PITCH PERFECT 3 Starring Anna Kendrick

A new trailer for Pitch Perfect 3 has arrived and it is much better than that initial teaser we received back in June. While the hype train seems to have admittedly been a little slow to grow for this one thus far I'm now officially excited to for this conclusion to a series that was never meant to be, but began humbly enough in October 2012 when director Jason Moore delivered a fast-paced, genuinely funny, and inventive teen comedy that capitalized on both the history of the genre itself. With the second installment Elizabeth Banks (who also co-stars in all three films) took over the director's chair and drove the film to an opening weekend that made more than the original film made in its entire theatrical run. The Pitch Perfect series is one that was born on the back of good word of mouth and a timely home video release where teenage and college-aged kids caught the effortlessly fun film over their Christmas break and replayed it again and again in their dorm and living rooms. The point being-it became fun and familiar to hang out with this group of girls and their friends and frenemies and thus any subsequent adventures where audiences could again get some hang time with them would immediately count as a win. With this third film, Step Up All In director Trish Sie has taken the helm with series writer Kay Cannon (New Girl, 30 Rock) still handling script duty. Personally, I'm very much looking forward to what this third installment has to offer as there is always a very distinct shift in tone between the first sequel and the second meaning it can no longer be as much of the same and more about the closing of a certain chapter of life which Pitch Perfect 3 seems to be hitting hard. With third films we like to see real progression in our characters as well as their story so as to be able to accurately guess where these individuals might go from this point as it is likely that, even if we get more Pitch Perfect movies, most of the original players won't be involved or in the same capacity. That said, this new trailer looks much more in line with what I was hoping this movie might turn out to be while at the very least I'm happy seeing the entire gang back together for at least one more go-around. Pitch Perfect 3 stars Anna Kendrick, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Alexis Knapp, Ruby Rose, Hana Mae Lee, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, Ester Dean, John Lithgow, and opens on December 22, 2017.

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE Review

Well, the time has come, but admittedly, it came a little quicker than I thought it might. The LEGO Movie brand has seemingly run out of gas in what is no doubt only its first act. Though it was just in February of this year that it seemed it was the LEGO brand, behind Marvel of course, that was having the most success in carving their own path out of a recognizable brand things have quickly changed with the rise of Wonder Woman and the misstep that is The LEGO Ninjago Movie. After blowing all expectations out of the water with The LEGO Movie directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, 21 & 22 Jump Street) set not only a precedent for any sequels and spin-offs that might come in the wake of their success, but they also set a very specific tone that has now served as the signature trait of that initial film, The LEGO Batman Movie from earlier this year, and now Ninjago as it attempts to be just as irreverent as its predecessors. Ninjago is different though in that, while the first film had the brand as a whole to market and LEGO Batman obviously had Batman as a marketing tool, Ninjago is a specific line of toys from the Lego brand that has made its way into a television show and now a feature film. The point being that, because it has narrowed the brand down into such a specific line of toys it has narrowed the appeal as well. That isn't to say that just because Ninjago isn't as immediately recognizable or notable as the brand's previous outings that it immediately carries less weight, but rather that it has more to prove to more people. The LEGO Movie itself had a lot to prove, but surprised everyone when it was able to balance its great sense of humor with real heart while Ninjago more or less seems to be piggybacking off that style rather than coming up with a unique voice of its own through which to convey its movie. It was always going to be curious how Warner Bros. Animation went forward with the Lego universe in terms of each of the films sharing a similar tone or if they would divert according to the toy line and/or type of story they were telling, but with Batman and now Ninjago it is pretty clear each "LEGO Movie" will follow suit in the self-aware and spoof-like nature of that original outing. While this isn't the worst thing in the world it already feels somewhat tired three films in and though the movie's trio of directors who have plenty of experience between them have done well to follow the precedent set by other Lego pictures they have done little to help Ninjago stand enough apart from them for it to be memorable.

First Trailer for MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE

Man, I really need to see Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, but it's been so long since I missed it and have't heard much about the series since that the whole thing just kind of slipped from my radar. Still, I know that I purchased Scorch Trials because I was out of town at my first Toronto International Film Festival when the film came to theaters and was bummed I never caught back up with it before it was released on home video because I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed the first one. And, of course, this third and final installment in the series was set to come out earlier (and by earlier, I mean February of this year), but was delayed due to production having been halted for over a year as a result of star Dylan O’Brien suffering severe injuries as a result of an on-set accident. Filming resumed nearly a year later, after O’Brien had thankfully recovered and was ready to complete the series. With the series finale of Teen Wolf happening last night, in which O'Brien also starred, I'm assuming that's why we're now getting our first look at this final film, but it seems director Wes Ball (who has been with the franchise since the beginning) and 20th Century Fox weren't completely ready for the launch as the first twenty seconds or so of this trailer are scenes from the first two films while the remainder of the trailer clocks in at less then fifty seconds. Still, what we get here looks to be pretty satisfying in terms of the scope and of the action and the intensity of the story. Granted, having still not seen the middle chapter I'm not sure as to where the characters heads are at or where the plot has since taken them since the reveal at the end of the first film, but this quick teaser makes me want to rectify that as I'm eager to see what the whole of this series will offer as Ball seems to have constructed a worthy finale for a series that has flown just enough under the radar to be a good and smart investment for Fox while maintaining its credibility as a fun YA action/adventure. Maze Runner: The Death Cure also stars Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Walton Goggins, Aidan Gillan, Patricia Clarkson, Rosa Salazar, Nathalie Emmanuel, Will Poulter, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Lofland, Barry Pepper and opens on January 26th, 2018.

STRONGER Review

On the surface, Stronger is a movie that looks as if it is trying desperately to be little more than an awards-contender. True Story? Check. Tragedy? Check. Severe disability? Check. Indie darling director? Check. Jake Gyllenhaal being intense? Check. So yeah, taking the main factors into consideration it's not hard to see why this would seemingly be anything more than an attempt at scoring Gyllenhaal an Oscar and maybe, to some degree, the hope is that might work out in the end, but it's not Stronger's main objective and it certainly isn't where the intent of the film lies as Stronger is easily one of the most genuine movies I've seen all year. Genuine in that it never cops to sensationalizing anything that would be an easy target given the subject matter. No, Stronger is a human story, a story about a relationship more than it is the Boston Marathon bombing and within that the film goes to places where it is able to cut deeper emotionally than it would had the film simply resorted to recreating the horror of that day. Director David Gordon Green, who came to prominence on the back of indies such as George Washington and All the Real Girls only to go on to helm big budget comedies like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, has, in recent years, found a kind of middle ground between these two wide-ranging genres where mid-budgeted, character driven stories featuring big names have become something of the filmmaker's forte. Green only continues to hone this kind of movie-making in Stronger. Combining his knack for naturalistic and improvised moments with that of his major studio experience in staging a recreation of the bombing as well as shooting at both Boston hockey and baseball games Green has, in many ways, culminated all of his past experiences with Stronger and the result is a film that is deceptively simple, deceptively easy to misread and/or label as one thing, but is so much more than it initially appears to be. Stronger is a movie that delves into one man coming to terms with a new way of life, a new status among his peers, and a relationship he isn't sure is destined to work out all while recovering from the most traumatic day of his life. Stronger doesn't resonate due to big, dramatic moments, but more for the ones that aren't; the quite moments where one can't verbalize why they're significant, but feel that they are. Stronger is somehow able to tap into these unspoken moments and is all the more authentic because of that.

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE Review

There is a difficulty to pinning down what exactly it is about Matthew Vaughn's work that makes it stand out if not necessarily resonate, but to date it has been difficult to not at least enjoy, on a surface-level, every single film the director has released including the oft forgotten 2007 Neil Gaiman adaptation, Stardust, that is a genuinely great, very funny, and wickedly entertaining fantasy film told by someone who knows how to manage tone. Maybe this is it. Maybe it is the way in which Vaughn is able to deliver on a particular tone above everything else that makes his personality shine through so much more than other for-hire action directors tend to be able to do. It would be easy enough for studios to craft generic comic book adaptations, X-Men sequels, and James Bond spoofs-everyone is making some variation on one of those today-but to bring a unique perspective and distinct personality to such common proceedings is a gift and there is no denying Vaughn has that gift whether you appreciate where he's coming from or not. It is a tough thing, straddling what is to ultimately be an intangible aspect of one's final film, but Vaughn has always done well to imprint his films point of view throughout the film-thus making for the literal actions of the characters in the climactic scenes to feel all the more successful as they have not only accomplished the proper resolution the plot desired, but have simultaneously satisfied their moral compasses. Having listed many of Vaughn's previous projects it isn't difficult to note the guy has had ample opportunity to make sequels, but that he hasn't and that he did decide to take on the follow-up to his surprise 2014 hit says a lot about how much he is invested in this world and in this material. What then would Vaughn do in his first sequel? What is the direction he would choose to go? Those were the thoughts and questions stewing in my brain as the Kingsman logo on the front of the Kingsman tailor shop is revealed once more in the opening moments of Vaughn's latest, but while Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a bigger sequel and dares to explore the extended universe that exists around this independent agency we were introduced to three years ago it isn't nearly as cheeky or outrageous as we've come to expect the Kingsman or for that matter, Vaughn himself, to be. And so, while the film is serviceable and generally a good time it doesn't touch the bonkers and bawdy tone of the original despite being bigger in every sense a sequel can be.

First Trailer for Wes Anderson's ISLE OF DOGS

As someone who isn't necessarily a fan of the stop-motion aesthetic it is still hard to deny a Wes Anderson movie, whatever the medium he chooses to tell his typically delightful stories in. This is what might be so intriguing about this first trailer for the latest from Anderson though in that, while this is technically an animated film, Anderson is telling a story that is so seemingly odd and unique that it wouldn't be one you would inherently assume might benefit from being an animated feature though, as the clip plays on, is easy to see why Anderson chose to return to stop-motion for the first time since his twice Oscar-nominated 2009 effort Fantastic Mr. Fox. Since Fox, Anderson has made the equally fantastic Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, each of which I've watched more times than I can count with the latter being a required viewing at least once a year. So, while I may not be one to typically flock to stop-motion animated films (with the exception of Laika, I'll give anything they do a shot) I am anxiously awaiting the latest from Wes Anderson simply because it is the latest from Wes Anderson. Speaking of the film itself, it is titled Isle of Dogs, and follows a young boy who ventures to an island in search of his own dog after an outbreak of dog attacks in a near-future Japan forcing all canines to be banished to live on a garbage-filled island hence, the title, the Isle of Dogs. Once on the island, the young boy comes across a pack of Alphas lead by Edward Norton‘s Rex. This will mark Norton's third collaboration with the director, but he isn't the only cast member who is returning to work with Anderson as the rest of the voice cast is made up of frequent collaborators such as Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, and Bob Balaban while also featuring the talents of Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Kunichi Nomura, Harvey Keitel, Akira Ito, Akira Takayama, Koyu Rankin, Yoko Ono, Courtney B. Vance, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, and Liev Schrieber. Isle of Dogs is set to open on March 23, 2018.

New Trailers for JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE Starring Dwayne Johnson

To the surprise of everyone the first trailers for Juamji: Welcome to the Jungle that dropped in June made it seem not terrible, but instead...potentially really fun. Updating from the board game that was used in the 1995 Robin Williams original to that of a 90's-era video game is a great hook and having four Breakfast Club-like archetypes stumble upon it in detention only to be sucked into the game and transform into the avatars they choose is another gem of an idea. While Welcome to the Jungle will no doubt profit from being yet another Dwayne Johnson vehicle, and he looks to be in fine comic form here, what is most exciting about this premise for me is being able to see Jack Black get a showy role that he can really elicit some big laughs from (which you see more of in the international trailer). Black has done well to understand the current phase of his career and with both this and Goosebumps the comedian is establishing himself as the guy who will be fondly remembered by the tweens and younger teens of the current generation for being the funny dude in all of their favorite movies-that is, if this turns out to be as good as it looks. Better even, when they get older, they can go back and discover even more of Black's rather impressive collection of work. Also of note is the inclusion of Kevin Hart who I am happy to see reunite with Johnson on any level after the terrific chemistry they displayed in Central Intelligence and who I look forward to seeing mix it up with Black as well. The wild card of the bunch is Karen Gillan, but these second trailers do well to establish her as one of the more confident members of the team while playing up the riffs on video game tropes. While I still can't get over how much better this looks than I initially imagined I'll hold out any official celebrations until after the movie opens this Christmas. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle also stars Missi Pyle, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Marc Evan Jackson, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, and opens on December 20th, 2017.

First TOMB RAIDER Trailer Starring Alicia Vikander

In this day and age when every budding young actress must have a franchise of their own it kind of makes perfect sense that Alicia Vikander would go on to star in the re-boot of Tomb Raider as Lara Croft, the highly intelligent, athletic, and beautiful English archaeologist-adventurer who ventures into ancient, hazardous tombs and ruins around the world. As someone who doesn't play video games I never knew what the huge fuss around the games or the character was, but of course, as a fourteen year-old male in 2001 I was compelled to see what that fuss was all about when Angelina Jolie (who was twenty-six at the time!) took on the iconic role in what turned out to be a disappointing Simon West actioner in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Though it spawned one sequel, 2003's Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, the franchise sputtered out of existence afterwards as neither film seemed to be able to capitalize on whatever the appeal of the video game might have been. If the Tomb Raider video game series is still around and/or relevant at all I have no idea, but apparently movie studios still believe the character is a viable investment and thus, fifteen years after the last Lara Croft film, we are getting a new Tomb Raider movie that looks to have taken the more grounded and gritty route as opposed to the flirting with every kind of CGI they can get their hands on route that every action movie in the early aughts suffered from. It is understandable, in retrospect, why everyone was so anxious to utilize this new technology, but as the dust has settled there has been found this nice balance of practical and computer effects and it seems director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) has found that balance with his take on the character while the film itself looks to be one of those origin stories that may not give us what we actually came for until the last frame of the film. I'm intrigued by the participation of credible talents such as Vikander and Walton Goggins in the role of the antagonist, but can't say much else about this clip excites me. Still, I look forward to seeing what these actors do with the material and if Uthaug can offer an interesting take on the material. Writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet is also something of a question mark as she has a laundry list of potentially big credits to her name including Captain Marvel, Sherlock Holmes 3, Gotham City Sirens, and a Dungeons & Dragons re-boot, but it seems Tomb Raider will be our first taste of what this new voice has to offer the world of cinema. Tomb Raider also stars Hannah John-Kamen, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Alexandre Willaume, Rowan Polonski, and opens on March 16, 2018.

AMERICAN ASSASSIN Review

When you're one of those people that goes to the cinema a lot it is movies such as American Assassin that seem to become the most stale and the most generic the fastest. Of course, to audiences that only see a few movies in theaters every year American Assassin will be a perfectly acceptable piece of action pulp. American Assassin is a film that will no doubt fulfill expectations for those that felt intrigued enough by the trailers to go out and buy a ticket, but while American Assassin is acceptable in terms of technical prowess, some interesting performance choices, and a rather straightforward if not clichéd plot it fails to really exceed in any way within the narrow parameters it has given itself to operate and exist within. No doubt hoping to piggy back off the success of last September's secret assassin thriller, The Accountant, American Assassin has neither the intrigue nor the style that picture had, but rather with this adaptation of the Vince Flynn airport novel director Michael Cuesta (the criminally overlooked Kill the Messenger) has settled squarely into middle-of-the-road  territory with a story that isn't afraid to go big, with Cuesta (in his first major studio movie) unfortunately deciding it best to stay as safe as possible. This inherent feeling stay as safe as possible is to be understood in many ways for, by making this a competent action/thriller and little more, Cuesta stood more of a chance to please the general public than he did taking risks and appeasing a few critics. With such a consensus comes a solid return and more opportunity and eventually, more power over ones endeavors. Cuesta is playing by the rules in American Assassin. To the movie's credit, it does subvert a handful of expectations within certain scenarios while never being afraid to flaunt its more brutal aspects, but it also never embraces its own genre for the more exciting aspects that such a genre has to offer. Rather, this is a movie that is given ample opportunity by its genre to do some cool things with the story it is telling, but rather than take advantage of them American Assassin seems to consistently waste each and every one of them.

MOTHER! Review

mother! is one of those films where it is easy to appreciate the intent without being able to necessarily enjoy it at all. That is to say, while there is much to discuss in the latest from auteur Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, Black Swan), there isn't much of it that is enjoyable. That isn't to say every movie-going experience has to be enjoyable as mother! still offers an escape in one form or another, but while Aronofsky is very clearly trying to make a statement here it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly he is trying to say. For further proof as to why mother! is simultaneously admirable and bewildering is the fact it is also one of those films where each scene is a puzzle piece the viewer is supposed to put in place to slowly realize the bigger picture. mother! is deliberately confusing in that it wants you to try and figure out what is going on and what the metaphor is that's at work, but while this coyness may at first seem to be both crafty and a product of Aronofsky's knack for crafting visuals to pair with what are otherwise ephemeral concepts it is by the time the film reaches its third act and things begin to fall into place that mother! is neither surprising nor unsettling enough given this buildup. It is also very easy to see how many people will disagree on this point and either find it wholly fascinating and become enamored with discussing the film or not understand what the writer/director was aiming for and thus dismiss it as a symptom of confusion. While I can't say I fall into either of those extreme categories it is almost more disappointing that I don't as what is most evident after walking out of mother! is that Aronofsky was looking to evoke a reaction from his audience-whether it be fascination or disdain. Rather, mother! is a film that gets points for being something different, for taking on the challenge of making this huge metaphor work for what it is, but that it never transcends the correlation between what is being presented and what they represent so as to bring something new and insightful to the table is disappointing. mother! is a film where nothing seems to quite make sense and everyone around the protagonist seems to know what it going on while the main character and audience surrogate is left in the dark. Because of these kinds of set-ups where the audience is unsure of what is happening and why people are acting the way they are the movie becomes increasingly frustrating to the point the third act really needs to deliver on the purpose of having executed the majority of the film in this fashion, but while mother! could be interpreted as many things one thing it is not, but certainly seems to hope it will be, is groundbreaking.

First Trailer for ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

Ridley Scott is pushing 80. He will be 80 come the end of November which means by the time his second film of 2017 lands in theaters he will have hit that milestone of a birthday. That's right. Not only is Scott nearly older than most of your grandparents and making gigantic action/sci-fi movies, but he's making and releasing two big studio pictures a year (not to mention serving as a producer on multiple projects including the Blade Runner sequel). This second film, which looks as prestige as anything the filmmaker has produced since 2013's misfire The Counselor, follows the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to convince his billionaire grandfather (Kevin Spacey) to pay the ransom. When Getty Sr. refuses, Gail attempts to sway him as her son’s captors become increasingly volatile and brutal. With her son’s life in the balance, Gail and Getty’s advisor (Mark Wahlberg) become unlikely allies in the race against time that ultimately reveals the true and lasting value of love over money. The film is based on the true story of the 1973 kidnapping of John Getty III with a screenplay by David Scarpa (2008's The Day the Earth Stood Still). I'm liking all of what I'm seeing here whether it be the fact that Scarpa is the sole screenwriter on the project no matter his previous work, that Scott apparently shot this earlier this year and that it's already ready for release, as well as the fact the cast is rather exceptional with word on the street being Spacey might just give Gary Oldman a run for his money in the Best Actor category as Oldman has been the early favorite for his role as Winston Churchill where he is equally as made-up as Spacey is here. That said, Spacey is hardly the center of attention here, but more the catalyst supporting character as Wahlberg and Williams look to be leading this with solid chemistry to spare. Wahlberg may not be the greatest actor of his generation, but it's hard to argue his versatility based on his output in 2017 alone which will now include this crime thriller, a Transformers movie, and a broad comedy in Daddy's Home 2. Needless to say, I look forward to how this plays and am hoping, as always, for the best. All the Money in the World also stars Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan, Olivia Grant, Teresa Mahoney, Marco Leonardi and opens on on December 8th, 2017.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2017

This fall has come to be something of a strange time in terms of movie-going as I was supposed to be attending the Toronto International Film Festival this week, but due to some unfortunate circumstances I wasn't able to make the trip. And so, in lieu of seeing and reviewing some of the big prestige pictures set to arrive this fall I decided to highlight some of the films I was most excited to see for the remainder of 2017. It's been a fairly dry year thus far with only a handful or so of exceptional films some of which include a rather stand-out year for super-hero films with Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Wonder Woman all doing stellar jobs of sticking with me while Spider-Man: Homecoming was a ton of fun if not necessarily great. Still, I know plenty of people who would disagree with me on that point so I can only hope this spells good things for Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League come November. That said, given I was anticipating going to TIFF this year much of what makes up my most anticipated for the remainder of the year are those that I would have been seeing this week with others that I might have had the chance to see falling by the wayside in the wake of mapping out the final three months of the year, but that I'm still very much excited to see. For example, while titles such as Hostiles, Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and Downsizing are all films I look forward to for one reason or another they didn't make my final cut (though, if the word out of this year's collection of film festivals is to be believed I'll grimly regret leaving Call Me By Your Name out of this list).  Not to be left out, there are certainly other blockbusters that I wasn't able to include on the list either that I'm anxious to lay my eyes upon including Pitch Perfect 3, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, as well as the latest works from the likes of Steven Spielberg (The Post) and Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World). All of that said, let's get into the movies that I am excited to see and see which did and didn't make the cut.

Full Trailer for THE DISASTER ARTIST

I've never seen Tommy Wiseau's 2003 film, The Room, which is famously hailed as one of the worst movies ever made, but I have seen enough clips online to know those who have seen it and have created this kind of cult film status around it aren't exaggerating in their claims. This is all to say that I don't know if I could even manage to make it through the whole movie, but I still may need to try and watch the entirety of Wiseau's film to fully appreciate the latest from director and star of The Disaster Artist, James Franco. With his latest endeavor, Franco has adapted Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's book that documents the behind-the-scenes look at the making of, "the greatest bad movie ever made." There is something of a little bit of what one could call anger or resentment at the moment as the film just debuted as part of the "Midnight Madness" selections at the Toronto International Film Festival last night where I was supposed to be this week, but it's encouraging to hear the film is getting positive to rave reviews out of the festival with A24 dropping this full length trailer this morning to keep the hype train going all day. The fact this latest clip from the film makes me want to see it all the more is both frustrating and encouraging all at the same time, but I really am excited to know this will get a wide release and that it might in fact live up to the strange expectations I'm now holding for it. Franco has loaded the cast down with comedy names that range from his typical troupe of friends to that of recent co-stars like Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally. I'm also eager to see Franco work so closely with his brother, Dave, which I don't know that I've seen before and which looks to be a real highlight of the film if this trailer is any indication. Needless to say, this should really be something special. The Disaster Artist also stars Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Ari Graynor, Jason Mantzoukas, and opens in limited release on December 1st before going wide on December 8th, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 12, 2017

First Trailer for DOWNSIZING Starring Matt Damon

Director Alexander Payne has always been hit or miss for me. I like certain works more than I do others, I find certain premises more appealing than I do some, but this is with most things in life. The difference with Payne is the fact each of his works seem to have this throughline of similar themes to them which mainly consist of men his age, or whatever age he was at the time of writing the screenplay, dealing with certain things men of his age tend to deal with. There is nothing particularly wrong with this-write what you know, after all-but with his latest titled Downsizing it seems the writer and filmmaker was looking for a way of doing something different with the themes he wanted to explore and likely re-visit in some capacity. Payne is the guy who brought us Election and About Schmidt as well as the guy who crafted SidewaysThe Descendants and Nebraska. Point being, he can tell very human tales while also having a knack for exaggerations of certain types. And so, it seems in many ways that Payne is trying to get back to some of the more artistic licenses he took with his characters and their scenarios in his early days rather than telling simple, but grounded tales that are purely true to the human spirit. Payne still hopes to scratch at something human yet intangible, but he also wants to convey this in a fun and interesting way. Enter the premise of Downsizing where a kindly occupational therapist undergoes a new procedure to be shrunken to four inches tall so that he and his wife can help save the planet and afford a nice lifestyle at the same time. It's clear from this first full trailer that Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor (who last worked with Payne on Sideways) have a lot on their minds and much they'd like to discuss and it will be interesting to see how Payne, a typically small-scale filmmaker, handles what looks to easily be his biggest film to date, but more I'm curious to see what point of view Payne and Taylor have come at things from as far as the human race and the environmental and economical imprint we're leaving on this planet. And while reactions out of the festival circuit have been mixed at best I'm anxious to see what this picture ultimately amounts to. Downsizing stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris, James Van Der Beek and opens on December 22nd, 2017.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - IT

After a couple of dire weeks at the movies there was a massive resurgence this weekend with the arrival of the new adaptation of Stephen King's IT. In the build-up to the release of Andy Muschietti's film it seemed it was destined for big things, but no one could have guessed just how big the film was going to climb. Come Sunday afternoon though, reports had the film hitting a monster $117 million (which has since been corrected to an even bigger actual pull of $123 million) opening weekend total. With this the Warner Bros. and New Line title delivered a record-breaking opening, claiming such titles as the largest September opening, largest Fall opening, largest opening for an R-rated horror film, as well as the largest opening weekend for a horror film of any MPAA rating. On top of all of this IT beat the only other new wide release of the week, Open Road's Reese Witherspoon-starrer Home Again, by $114 million as the rom-com could only conjure an estimated $9 million opening which was still good enough for second place. Thus meaning that, overall, IT accounted for more than 75% of the combined gross for the weekend's top twelve movies. IT's debut was the widest opening ever for an R-rated film and as such delivered the second largest opening for an R-rated movie behind last year's Deadpool that garnered $132.4 million. Furthermore, Hotel Transylvania 2 held the previous opening weekend record for September with $48.5 million while Gravity held the previous Fall opening weekend record with $55.7 million, neither of which stood a chance after IT began its run with an estimated $51 million on Friday alone (including $13.5 million from Thursday night previews). The crazy thing is, IT could have potentially been even bigger had hurricane Irma not hit this weekend as the storm was the reason for nearly two hundred theaters closing their doors with Florida typically representing 5.5-6.5% of the domestic gross for a film on a given weekend. Internationally, IT brought in an estimated $62 million from 46 markets for a $179 million global debut. Earning a a "B+" CinemaScore it will be interesting to see just how high IT can fly as horror films are typically pretty front-loaded and the releases only continue to get bigger from here with Jennifer Lawrence's mother! and Michael Keaton's American Assassin opening this weekend and the Kingsman sequel and another LEGO-branded animated movie opening next week. That said, IT seems to be anything but typical. As always, be sure to follow the official Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Teaser Trailer for FIFTY SHADES FREED

I didn't see Fifty Shades of Grey or Fifty Shades Darker. I don't have much of a desire to. My wife didn't read the books and I didn't read the books. My wife had no interest in seeing the movies and I certainly wasn't going into this one by myself and so whatever it is about this series that seems to capture supposedly off-limits sexual subjects and entice so many females will likely forever remain a mystery to me. All of this is to say this trilogy capper that completes the franchise that began in 2015 received a teaser trailer today as the promotional campaign has officially kicked off with a glimpse at the poster available as well after the jump. Fifty Shades Freed chronicles the continuing and presumed developing relationship between Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) as Anastasia must adjust not only to married life but to her new husband's wealthy lifestyle and controlling nature after accepting Christian's proposal in Fifty Shades Darker. While I admittedly don't know much about the story contained in the pages of E.L. James's best-selling series this first look at the sequel certainly seems to keep in step tonally with James Foley's follow-up to Sam-Taylor Johnson's first film. Foley is the sixty-three year old filmmaker who made Glengarry Glen Ross and At Close Range, but whose last feature film prior to this year's Darker was the out and out 2007 bomb Perfect Stranger that starred Bruce Willis and Halle Berry. Add to this the fact writer Niall Leonard, who had done strictly serialized television work prior to working on this series, took over for the more inexperienced Kelly Marcel and has adapted both the second and third novels for film and there might be some interesting layers to look for as the series progresses. Still, it is somewhat uninspiring as Fifty Shades Darker seemed to more or less get the same negative to downright terrible reviews that the first film received and so I don't really see the pace changing for this final installment even if that would seemingly suggest there is a lot more action to be had as the conclusion of all this comes to pass. Fifty Shades Freed also stars Victor Rasuk, Tyler Hoechlin, Arielle Kebbel, Eric Johnson, Max Martini, Dylan Neal, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Fay Masterson, Brant Daugherty, and opens on February 9th, 2018.

IT Review

There is something inherently kind of trashy about horror films. If Oscar bait movies are mansions then horror flicks typically reside in the trailer parks. There is a class system to movies that is even less subjective than the constructs applied to actual society and there is almost no arguing that horror movies are always the ones that get relegated to the, "fun, but not actually good or worthwhile" category while time and time again movies with more grounded subject matter are allowed to be labeled as good without necessarily being exceptional. One could argue that horror would have to duke it out with comedy as to which genre gets the least amount of respect, but to that point one could argue that at least major studios still take more chances on broad comedies than they do mid-budget horror flicks and not to mention that, despite comedy stars largely being reduced to dancing clowns, there is genuine admiration for those who are able to pull off successful comedy as it has been admittedly more difficult to pull off than reliable drama. It's appreciated when horror is approached with clear skill, just look at what James Wan has done for the genre, but no matter how skillfully the job is done there is hardly ever any real merit awarded to what we might call a "scary movie." And so, when a studio or director decide to approach the horror genre with the objective of being more illustrious than usual there is reason to be excited for what the final product might deliver. Add to this the fact the movie this studio and director are setting out to make is a new adaptation of one of the horror maestro himself, Stephen King's, most talked about works and it is almost unavoidable: the anticipation and thus the expectations. This is where it seems society has landed on director Andy Muschietti's (Mama) new take on King's magnum opus of a novel that is IT; there is a want for this kind of horrific escapism. This is not because there isn't enough horror in the real world (no, there's plenty of that these days), but because audiences seek a genuine escape back to a time when things seemed simpler while adding a dose of thrills to that nostalgia kick. This new version of IT has come at an opportune time with the implied legacy being that it will take on the mantle of being one of the most disturbing films in recent memory, finally doing justice to the source material, while hopefully living on as such for years to come. So, how does the actual film line up with everything that has come to be expected of it? Fairly well, considering. By no means is IT a transcendent work of horror fiction, but it provides an ample amount of legitimate scares while at the same time capturing this touching tale of friendship and unbreakable bonds that is so endearing it can't help but to make everything else about the movie that much more unnerving. As with all things, IT will inevitably be grouped into that aforementioned set of hierarchical cinema categories, but I have to imagine Muschietti's film, while not achieving that upper class status it so ambitiously seemed to be chasing, works hard and well enough to escape the lows of thoughtless dismissal earning enough admiration without a solid balance of respect to settle into the most comfortable of middle classes.

Teaser Trailer for Dee Rees' MUDBOUND

The first trailer for writer/director Dee Rees' (Pariah) adaptation of Hillary Jordan's novel, Mudbound, has premiered after receiving rave reviews out of Sundance earlier this year and being acquired by Netflix soon after. While this was another film I was hoping to see at TIFF this year on the big screen given the impression it's already made on the festival circuit, but there is comfort in knowing that with the film being acquired by a streaming service that those of us in smaller markets, such as myself, will in fact actually have the chance to screen it within a relevant amount of time of its release date whereas were this being distributed through a smaller company such as Fox Searchlight or A24 I might not have the chance to see the film until later in December (when everything comes out) or possibly even January. While the idea of not being able to see what has been called a, "sweeping and thrillingly ambitious," piece of work on the biggest screen possible is certainly discouraging I will count my lucky stars that I'll be able to see it at all as the studios release so many films around awards season that, even if Mudbound received theatrical distribution, odds are it would have never opened in my neck of the woods. That's enough about where/when/how the movie will open, but more let us bask in this first glimpse of the film as it paints a harrowing picture around two men who return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after the war. Both Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell have been hailed for their turns as these two former soldiers and while the trailer certainly plays up the bond that seems to inherently form between the two of them what is more breathtaking is the breadth of the scope Rees seems to have captured with her camera. There are certain shots that hint at terrible things, tense situations, and others that suggest where the narrative might go which isn't necessarily to places audiences would like to see it go. In short, this thing looks to be a profound experience and while I'm still hopeful the film may open in a select few theaters near me I'll continue to be thankful I get to see the film as soon as I'm able come its opening day. Mudbound also stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige, and begins streaming on Netflix and playing in select theaters on November 17th, 2017.

INGRID GOES WEST Review

Writer/director Matt Spicer and his feature directorial debut, Ingrid Goes West, nail it. For a long time. For most of the runtime, actually, Spicer and his film nail exactly what he and it are going for. In every detail the script supplies or that drips from Aubrey Plaza's inherently mocking facade into what the actress applies to the titular character Ingrid Goes West is as sharp as it needs to be in order to achieve this kind of sardonic satire it's going for in each of every one of those aforementioned details. That Spicer and co-writer David Branson Smith are able to craft an interesting narrative from the seemingly simple idea of exposing those who live their lives striving to create the appearance of another kind of life on social media is encouraging first and foremost, but that through this they are able to utilize that premise to support and point out all the obvious and sometimes dangerous/creepy aspects most might not consider when posting to Instagram makes the mockery that much funnier due to the fact it's so true. As with many an inspired tales, Ingrid Goes West begins strong by highlighting some of these little truths to what is not necessarily an exaggerated effect, but maybe more frightening is that depictions of Plaza's Ingrid trying to figure out the best phrasing for an Instagram comment are so accurate they need not be exaggerated, but more just held up in front of us in order to realize how trivial and silly it all really seems. Ingrid Goes West understands this semblance of effortless cool is indeed serious business to some though and with that it doesn't so much talk down to the intended audience it desires to simultaneously mock and enlighten, but rather Spicer and Smith's screenplay comes around to the inevitable (yet encouraging) conclusion that to be your own cool is the coolest cool there is. This is exemplified through a particularly hilarious and exceptionally performed character named Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr.) who comes into Ingrid's life at a crucial time and provides the kind of real, tangible, human interaction her life and being so badly craves-even if Ingrid herself doesn't realize this for much of the film. That it takes Ingrid so long to understand the simple epiphany the film eventually has would be rather testing did the majority of the movie not land so precisely on how exhausting it can be to keep up these kinds of fronts that feel obvious in their fraudulence, but are so convincing in their execution they may as well explicitly state that one should feel inferior. That Ingrid Goes West ultimately lands on the non-revelation it does gives this hard and fast social commentary an otherwise disappointing last act.    

First Trailer for INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY

While the subtitle of the latest Insidious film may have the word "final" in it there is seemingly no end in sight for this horror franchise as, while it is not a part of James Wan's ever-expanding Conjuring universe, it is part of his brand and therefore a key component in ushering in this new age of horror that has come about in the post-torture porn era. While that genre will attempt to make something of a comeback this fall with the release of Jigsaw other films such as this week's IT re-make (no doubt the reason this trailer is debuting now) and October's Happy Death Day are set to capitalize on pure terror and (hopefully) some intelligently positioned social satire. Though Insidious: The Last Key may not have a primed for quality release date with that first weekend in January this is a release date that has somewhat become synonymous with cheap, but profitable scary movies over the last few years with the likes of The Devil Inside and The Forest. While I'm hoping The Last Key will prove to be of better quality than those films I like having something in January to look forward to and if this first-look trailer is any indication it seems writer/star Leigh Whannell (who directed the third installment) and new director to the franchise Adam Robitel (a writer on Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) have a real grasp on what they wanted to do with this film in terms of taking the series in a new, bold direction and, if nothing else, that's reason to be excited as I've been a fan of the Insidious series from the beginning despite the last installment feeling like something of a placeholder. While this fourth outing doesn't boast any "names" outside the return of Lin Shaye's Elise Rainer it is Elise that will seemingly take center stage here as she's been the connective tissue throughout much of the previous three films this time taking on her most fearsome and personal haunting yet in her own family home. Insidious: The Last Key also stars Angus Sampson, Josh Stewart, Caitlin Gerard, Kirk Acevedo, Javier Botet, Bruce Davison, Spencer Locke, Tessa Ferrer, Ava Kolker, Marcus Henderson, and opens on January 5th, 2018.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 5, 2017

GOOD TIME Review

I feel like I can make a fair assessment of the movie I'm about to watch simply by the quality and inventiveness of its title card and/or opening credits. Sometimes these factors indicate nothing, but other times they can indicate something wholly crappy or what will be nothing if not an inspired trip to the cinema. There is just something about the way this opportunity can be executed that seems to somehow connect with how far the directors were willing to go to make every ounce of their film thrive. This is all to say that Good Time has a pretty fantastic one and from the moment the title card breaks up the opening sequence to the tune of Oneohtrix Point Never's (otherwise known as Daniel Lopatin) blazing score culminating in a moment of pure cacophony that continues through to a bewildered Robert Pattinson in extreme close-up's that make the tone all the more manic, we're so taken off guard that we're now seemingly prepared for anything. It should also be noted that directors the Safdie brothers (Heaven Knows What) open their film with a shot akin to that of the opening shot of The Dark Knight suggesting a scale of epic proportions even if they might not have the budget to back it up, but still-they have the ambition. Not coincidentally, the post-title card sequence shows Pattinson's Connie Nikas taking his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), and using him to help him rob a bank. The actual robbery is played not for action, but is actually rather subdued to the point it would seem Connie and Nick might actually pull their small-scale heist off, but if that were the case we'd have no movie and so when the cops finally do come to pursue the brothers and capture Nick with Connie barely evading them we are twenty-plus minutes into the flick when the credits begin appearing on the screen; Lopatin's score again throbbing like the pulse of the movie it is. Pattinson's face once again carries an expression of confusion as he makes his way through back alleys and hallways to try and evade the police for as long as necessary. This breaking up and timing of the title card and opening credits is a stylistic choice that is implemented in the fashion that it is in order to both guide the audience through and let them in on the fact that Good Time is going to be one hell of an unpredictable ride. The Safdie brothers delivering an epilogue of sorts that encapsulates everything the rest of the movie will attempt to demonstrate through its actions. In essence, the Safdie's set the stage in such a manner that while it seems the narrative is largely improvised from moment to moment that in reality, Good Time knows exactly what it wants to be and succeeds at being just that.