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.

WHERE'S DADDY? Review

Writer/director Rel Dowdell has made two previous films, both narrative features, each of which tackle relevant social issues that largely pertain to the urban community. With his third feature, Dowdell continues to put an emphasis on relevant social issues, but for the first time the filmmaker is doing so through the format of a documentary feature. In Where's Daddy? Dowdell sets out to investigate and discover the root cause of the child support issue in America-what people's problems are with it, how it is failing at its purpose, and how it can be improved. Furthermore, Dowdell goes one step further and asks the even tougher questions of why the government has intervened in such private affairs at all? Why are single mothers raising multiple children is such an epidemic? Dowdell focuses in on the black community in his hometown of Philadelphia in what he hopes to resemble a piece of the larger problem that is plaguing both the American courts system as well as societal stigmas that need to be reconfigured and altered as often times such stigmas are rendered untrue by the details of each case, but remain labeled or interpreted as such due to the broad rules of said system. As a thirty year-old white male who was raised in Arkansas, who was raised with both parents in the home, and who is now married with a three year-old daughter of my own I have no particular affiliation to or against the child support system. I don't know enough about it to hold a position on either side of the line and so if Where's Daddy? is nothing else it, at the very least, serves as an introductory course to this seeming injustice on many fronts that exists outside of my bubble. Dowdell's film paints a well-rounded portrait that attempts to elicit how many different sets of experiences can be had when it comes to a father not being able to make his court-ordered child support payments so that this notion of the punishment fitting the crime becomes present in this regard and not just the blanket punishment of jail time where it costs more to process these individuals than the total amount many of them are even behind on in their payments.

BLACK PANTHER Review

When your movie opens in Oakland you automatically enlist this inherent cool factor that appeals to this child of the eighties, especially considering I've watched The Defiant Ones, Straight Outta Compton, and Boyz n the Hood in the last week. Opening the film with a brief history of the fictional nation of Wakanda, its origins, and how the Black Panther came to be a symbol for the monarchy that reigned over it and a hero to the people who resided within it director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) then drops us into this unsuspecting setting of Oakland, California in the early nineties where we are served a series of events that establish the basis for what will fulfill the drama that occurs in Marvel Studios' Black Panther. This is a smart move on the parts of both Coogler the director and Coogler the co-writer who, along with Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story), roots the beginning of his film in the zeitgeist of hip-hop; when rap was finding its footing and when the world began to take notice of what was being said within the genre. This is most definitely intentional as Coogler no doubt means to draw the comparison so as to confirm any doubt that Black Panther isn't a movement within itself. Though there have been black super hero movies before (in this analogy Blade would be your Sugarhill Gang) Black Panther is more than a defining moment as there has never been anything this explicitly black in or about a super hero movie before. Black Panther doesn't just star an African-American in the lead role as the titular hero, but it is about black culture, about black heritage, and conveys the highs and lows, the good and bad of this world of which I have no rightful place to really speak and so I will trust that when the many black people I do know who have seen the film say it is a real *moment* for their culture and for society in general I will trust that it indeed is. On the other hand, the question is how does Black Panther rank in terms of being a piece of entertainment despite Coogler inherently making this about more than just entertaining the masses? Well, it's another in a long line of reliable if not completely singular Marvel movies that tend to only break the mold every once in a while. Granted, Marvel has been on something of a hot streak lately mixing up the genres of which inspire their fare (2017 was especially strong) and Black Panther is no different in this regard as it, by default of its source material, feels fresher than anything the genre has had to offer in some time even if the potential of all the positive factors going on within the film never seem to be fully realized.

ANNIHILATION Review

Everything about writer/director Alex Garland's (Ex Machina) latest film, Annihilation, is subtle; it more alludes to everything than it does outright tell you what it wants you to think or what you should believe. This is key as Annihilation still presents a very specific set of circumstances and specific set of details around what is happening within these weird circumstances, but if you're going in for the creature effects and twist endings don't be surprised if you walk out disappointed on both accounts. In fact, as the credits began to roll in my screening last night the first thing I heard from a viewer seated behind me was a disdainful, "...okay?" as if they were more than a little unsatisfied by the conclusion Garland delivered. It's not hard to see why this might be case though, as most viewers and people in general have been set-up and conditioned to expect explicit answers and resolutions from our mainstream entertainment, but it was clear after Garland's 2015 directorial debut that the filmmaker wasn't interested in pleasing the masses, but more in pondering the possibilities. Annihilation, in many ways, is a movie that explores this very phenomenon of what our minds create when prompted and how so often what is imagined is greater than anything the reality of a situation could ever deliver. Each of the leading women who participate in the expedition that takes place in Annihilation have certain ideas of what they might encounter when entering "The Shimmer", but none of them really have a grasp on what they're getting themselves into or what lies ahead prior to their journey; each has no doubt imagined what might lie ahead of course, and it is in these ponderings that the reality of what they encounter comes to be so frightening. There is likely a large metaphor of some kind and/or a deeper meaning to the film at large that my limited mind has yet to comprehend, but after an initial viewing it is clear that what is going on in Garland's latest is more than what can be comprehended in a single viewing. In fact, I almost wanted to re-watch the film again as soon as it finished because I knew what I'd gathered from that first viewing barely scratched the surface. Annihilation, I think, is largely a movie about self-destruction with the catalyst of "The Shimmer" serving to personify whatever type of self-destruction the individual viewer might relate to most, at least that's what I'm going with at the moment.

THE 15:17 TO PARIS Review

The 15:17 to Paris is not a good movie and likely never should have been a movie in the first place. Prior to Gone Girl coming out in 2014 there was an interview with director David Fincher where he stated in regards to the adaptation process that, "The book is many things. You have to choose which aspect you want to make a movie from." This is likely what writer Dorothy Blyskal should have done were she to stand the chance of making a compelling picture out of the lives of the three young men that saved a passenger train full of people from being killed by a terrorist in 2015. There is no disputing what these guys did was heroic and that, if their story was going to be turned into a feature film, that it deserved to be a compelling one, but The 15:17 to Paris is not that movie. No, The 15:17 to Paris isn't really much of a movie at all despite the fact it could be looked at as one of great risk and ambition. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Blyskal's script decides to tell the broad story of the friendship between our three protagonists whom Eastwood decided to cast with the real heroes themselves rather than having actors portray them. Unfortunately, Blyskal not choosing an aspect of these guy's lives to zero in on and make a movie out of essentially separates the picture into two distinct halves: one being the military recruitment ad the first half functions as while the second forty-five minutes may as well be a European travelogue with the event we're all in the theater to see being tacked on in the last twenty or so minutes. This final sequence is the only part of the film that holds any real tension, any real drama, or hint of any real style that resembles that of a film produced by a major studio and made by an Academy Award winning director and actor. Of course, just as The 15:17 to Paris probably never should have been a feature film it was never going to be a feature film in the traditional fashion, but more one that solidified Eastwood is now making statements with his efforts rather than simply pondering and contemplating with his art. For Eastwood, The 15:17 to Paris is the definition of heroism; no qualms, no frills, no debate about it. That's fine and I can appreciate the choice, but defining a certain quality doesn't automatically make that representation of the same quality. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos are heroes, no doubt, but their movie is (unfortunately) pretty terrible.    

Teaser Trailer for SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

We got our first, brief glimpse of proof last night during Super Bowl LII that Solo: A Star Wars Story is an actual movie that exists and that it is in fact coming to theaters on Memorial Day weekend this year (that's just over three months away, mind you). The morning has now brought us the full version of that tease. Outside of the fact this thing looks pretty spectacular from a visual standpoint (it was shot by Arrival cinematographer Bradford Young) there isn't much to go off of as far as how the final product will turn out given the rocky production the film faced. If you haven't heard, don't follow movie news, or have otherwise been living under a rock you may not be privy to the fact that original Solo directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie) were essentially given the boot with less than a month to go in principal photography. Lucasfilm, and more specifically Kathleen Kennedy, then brought in Ron Howard to re-shoot much of the film and complete production. At the very least, Solo will be a film that will keep attentive audiences brimming with curiosity up until the release date as it's worth speculating as to whether or not Disney and Lucasfilm will even drop another trailer prior to the film's release. I'm sure there will be another trailer of some sort-likely an extended "Official Trailer" released just before Infinity War bows in early May, but I'm willing to bet the new footage included will be minimal and the story beats even more so. With this teaser no doubt being attached to prints of Black Panther though, Disney and Lucasfilm seem to be using Solo as a test case for how far they can push the Star Wars brand name with how much they can limit the advertising while still managing to have a sizeable hit on their hands. As a result of this, it will also be interesting to see how fans respond in terms of awareness and excitement for what will undoubtedly become more common in the Star Wars filmscape as these kinds of anthology films are far more easier to develop and make in terms of nailing down stories than the episodic films will be. Where will Lucasfilm and Kennedy take the brand after the current trilogy finishes and Rian Johnson begins work on his own trilogy? Who knows, but films like Solo seem to be the future of Star Wars. Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, and opens on May 25th, 2018.

WINCHESTER Review

Though the directing duo of brothers Michael and Peter Spierig made one of the worst films of 2017 in what was the eighth Saw film it was hard not to hold out hope for what these guys might do outside the IP pool given Jigsaw was likely an opportunity they couldn't (financially) turn down. And so, in what feels like their true follow-up to their highly underrated and underseen 2014 time travel flick, Predestination, the brothers Spierig take on the real life mysteries likely still held within the walls of the winding Winchester mansion that is located in San Jose, California and was constantly under construction by the widowed Sarah Winchester for thirty-eight consecutive years until her death in 1922. Weird, right? Definitely. Couple this unique spin on the haunted house premise with the fact the Spierig's have somehow managed to attract the talents of rather pedigreed actors like Jason Clarke and the indelible Helen Mirren and one has to wonder what the attraction was. The Spierig's also reunite with Predestination star Sarah Snook here, but Snook is unfortunately underutilized as Mrs. Winchester's niece who has recently moved into the ever-growing mansion with her son after the death of her husband. This is all to say that Winchester has plenty of potential and while it never fully capitalizes on the ample opportunity it has to transcend the genre trappings and become something of a more self-conscious and timeless work it is a solid and sometimes even surprising haunted house tale that uses the audiences expectations to its advantage and takes certain elements in directions that feel fertile. The Spierig's screenplay, in collaboration with Tom Vaughan, relies too heavily on jump scares to garner the necessary reactions for being a member of the horror genre, but even still-they serve their purpose more often than not. Resorting to these easy, cheap scares feels a way of accounting for a requirement the Spierig's weren't really interested in though, as Winchester is seemingly more inclined to explore how cruelty, grief, and loss can affect people in different ways and to varying degrees. If the Spierig's had figured out a more inherently haunting way to convey their tone and the actions of those supposedly trapped souls in the rooms of the titular mansion this might have been a more convincing study on such topics, but as it is the film comes and goes with more simplicity than it does depth or scares.

Trailer Roundup: SUPER BOWL LII

With the Super Bowl happening this weekend audiences are guaranteed a look at some of the bigger movies coming out this year, but sans the potential first glimpse at Solo: A Star Wars Story most of what will be glimpsed Sunday night will all be footage that has been seen before. As Forbes writer Scott Mendelson pointed out last year, the appearance of a new Star Wars movie every December has more or less turned the Super Bowl into a rerun exercise when it comes to movie trailers (of course, if we do get a Solo trailer Sunday and Lucasfilm sticks with that May release date next year may be a little different). It's an interesting trend to consider and one that likely won't be going away anytime soon, but the Super Bowl is still the biggest television event of the year drawing between 110 and 115 million people each year. Taken on those terms and considering the current price tag for thirty seconds of airtime is a record high $5 million it makes sense why studios still want to buy up the spots available as many of them mark the first time those who haven't been to the theater since The Last Jedi will see anything from the upcoming 2018 slate that they might be surprised by or excited to see. Per usual, Warner Bros. will likely sit the event out so there will be no new or first looks at Ready Player One, Ocean's 8, Fantastic Beasts 2, or Aquaman, but Disney always plays the field with several of their upcoming releases as we'll no doubt get a few spots for this year's Marvel Cnematic Universe offerings in Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp (the full trailer of which ca be viewed below) as well as likely spots for A Wrinkle in Time and possibly Incredibles 2. Universal will no doubt take the opportunity to earn their Jurassic World sequel some strong word of mouth while Paramount has apparently purchased two slots during the game one of which will most definitely be used to debut our first look at Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the sixth installment in the Tom Cruise action franchise. That second slot might have originally been for the latest Cloverfield film, but with Netflix now in talks to acquire what was once titled God Particle (and may still be? who knows), will we still get our first look at what mega-producer J.J. Abrams and director Julius Onah have up their sleeves? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure in that Amazon Prime will have a spot for their new Jack Ryan series starring John Krasinski as the streaming giant has already released it as can be seen after the jump. Keep checking back as I will continue to update this post with all of the movie trailers that debut before or during the big game.