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.

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Review

Where does one even begin? That is the question the screenwriters of Avengers: Infinity War must have been asking themselves when they sat down to pen what will ultimately come to be a five-plus hour finale to what the world has been witness to the construction of for a decade. There is so much happening and so much seemingly left to happen with Infinity War and whatever the as of yet untitled sequel is sure to include that it's almost incomprehensible anyone in their right mind took this on as a challenging endeavor they'd be willing to try their hand at. And say what you will about Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors of Winter Soldier, Civil War, and now both the third and what will be the fourth Avengers movies, and how they might feel like Marvel's "directors for hire" that bend at any whim studio head Kevin Feige commands, but these guys get the work done and do so in a way that is both dramatically satisfying as well as colossally entertaining. With Infinity War, the Russo brothers along with series screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (all three Captain America films, Thor: The Dark World, as well as Agent Carter) have somehow managed to tackle the unenviable for them, but extremely exciting for audiences in the vein of making eighteen previous movies come together and intertwine in a way that is as natural as possible with clear motivation as to why as much is necessary at this point in time all while keeping it all, as Thanos would put it, "well-balanced." Where to begin in such an endeavor is certainly not a question with an obvious answer, but Markus and McFeely begin in what feels like the most natural of places given the hints that have been being dropped since that post-credits scene in 2012's The Avengers and where we last saw Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) after the destruction of their home world, Asgard. If you haven't been paying attention, the aforementioned post-credits scene delivered a slight smirk by a guy named Thanos (Josh Brolin) AKA a titan who sees fit to invade planets and wipe out half of their population in order to keep balance among the galaxies. This is who Infinity War centers around and in more ways than one this is Thanos' movie. This is a smart decision as this was never going to be able to be one heroes movie more than another's, but by giving this villain who we've been hearing whisperings about for almost six years now the credit he is due the movie allows this antagonist to live up to the mythos those past movies have built around him.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Summer 2018

The summer movie season is always one of my favorite times of the year because it seems people outside those of us who consistently devour movies seem to make a big deal of what's opening in theaters each week. When it's something the masses are interested in it feels like a celebration and no matter how crappy or generic some of these movies might be that attract the masses I can't help but smile about people finding joy and excitement in the cinema. I've always attempted to find a balance between big-budget and indie fare rather than dismiss the blockbusters and only adore the smaller, more intimate movies. I like to try and think in terms of objectives and how well a movie accomplishes the objectives it sets out to accomplish by the end of the film. This seems especially critical when approaching traditional summer popcorn movies. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily more excited for Skyscraper than I am something like Hot Summer Nights, but rather that I'm interested in both for very different reasons. While neither of those titles will be on my list I would place director Brad Bird's follow-up to his 2005 Pixar juggernaut, The Incredibles II, just outside my top ten along with the likes of Rupert Wyatt's follow-up to his The Gambler re-make titled Captive State that stars John Goodman and explores the lives of beings on both sides of a conflict that has been in place for nearly a decade after an extra-terrestrial force took occupation in Chicago. The film has an August release date and was included in my most anticipated of the year as Wyatt's entry in the last Planet of the Apes trilogy is still my favorite and this film seems like a natural progression after Goodman's fantastic turn in 10 Cloverfield Lane, but the absence of any trailer or any promotional material whatsoever makes me wonder if this one might not get delayed. Elsewhere, there is The Happytime Murders from Brian Henson (son of Jim) a dark comedy about the puppet cast of an eighties children's TV show that begin to get murdered one by one, Gary Ross' (Pleasantville, The Hunger Games) take on a Steven Soderbergh heist flick with the star-studded Ocean's 8, and likely Morgan Neville's (20 feet from Stardom) documentary that explores the life, lessons, and legacy of iconic children's television host, Fred Rogers in Won't You be My Neighbor?. You won't find the likes of The Equalizer II or The First Purge on my list and none of the broad mainstream comedies such as Tag or Uncle Drew are on there despite the fact I'll no doubt end up enjoying both of them, but like I said, I'm by no means opposed to unabashed blockbusters as is evidenced in my number ten pick...

ISLE OF DOGS Review

Isle of Dogs is the ninth feature film from director Wes Anderson and by this point, one knows prior to going into an Anderson film both what they will be getting and whether they're already in the bag for Anderson's style and how he will undoubtedly expand upon it. Needless to say, I was very much in the bag for the auteur's return to stop-motion animation after the delightful excursion that was 2009's Fantastic Mr. Fox. And so, the question then surpasses that of expectation dictating the perceived outcome of a certain film, but rather to be that of if there is already this acceptance of quality due to the understanding of the passion, time, and care committed to a project then just how good is it exactly? Where does it rank among the director's already impressive catalogue? As the credits rolled on the brief feeling, but wholly satisfying Isle of Dogs it became infinitely more clear than it had a moment earlier when still in the midst of the film that while this may be Anderson's most outright imaginative take on a motion picture it is also the one that is most vague in regards to its intentions. Maybe memories of Fantastic Mr. Fox escape me or maybe I missed a thesis that Isle of Dogs states throughout its rather straightforward narrative, but what seems most likely is the fact Anderson intended this to be as simple as it could possibly be so that individual movie-goers might make of it as they please with the filmmaker himself only taking credit to the extent the experience of watching his film brought excesses of escapism and joy. There isn't a single aspect of that previous sentence I would disagree with in terms of how easy it is to be swept up in the world of Isle of Dogs and how effortlessly enjoyable the movie is, but there is no sense of real emotional investment to be conjured either. It's not a mandate that Anderson's films be emotionally involving which is to say the meaning of his movies rarely take center stage, but often times it's hard to avoid such because of the natural investment made in the compelling characters. In Isle of Dogs we have a pack of abandoned canines and a twelve year-old boy who doesn't speak English whom Anderson gives no subtitles and thus there is something of a disconnect, but despite these small quibbles (and trust me, that's all they really are) Isle of Dogs is a meticulously crafted, beautifully rendered, and pitch perfect Wes Anderson movie that positions the water cooler conversations to not be about what the film is discussing, but what the film is; not what it says, but how it makes you feel.

Official Trailer for THE EQUALIZER II Starring Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington, who is now a ripe sixty-three years-old, has finally decided to make a sequel and while that may sound exciting and enticing given the actors prolific and well-regarded career it might get a little less enticing when I tell you the character Mr. Washington has decided to re-visit for the first time in his nearly thirty-five plus year career is that of Robert McCall, a retired agent turned hired gun. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven) is back as well with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and the first The Equalizer screenwriter Richard Wenk. That is to say, if you enjoyed the first one-which I liked well enough, then odds are we're in for more of the same here as it will no doubt be done just as effectively. I remember being surprised by how methodical the first half of that first film was-Fuqua and Wenk really giving the movie time to breathe and the character of McCall to really be defined before getting pulled into what the movie inevitably was-another of Washington's shoot 'em up actioners in the vein of 2 Guns, Safe House, and Out of Time that would be profitable due to Washington's name above the title and the fact every credible leading man from the nineties was now getting their own shot at an action franchise. Washington is different in this regard though, as he has always been able to walk the line between critical and commercial projects rather seamlessly and has built a brand because of that. Now that Washington has actually engaged in a franchise with which he will forever be associated it will be interesting to see if Fuqua went about doing anything different in his approach to the continuation of McCall's story or if they will ditch the nuance of that first film altogether for little more than revenge scenarios and broken bones. What we glean from this first trailer is that McCall is still serving justice for the exploited and oppressed, but his limits are seemingly put to the test when someone he loves is brought into the fold. Not much to go on, but if you're up for another gritty action thriller starring Denzel Washington you likely can't go wrong with what this will deliver. The Equalizer II also stars Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, Pedro Pascal, Jonathan Scarfe, Sakina Jaffrey, Ashton Sanders, Abigail Marlowe, and opens on July 20th, 2018.

A QUIET PLACE Review

There is a lot to say about A Quiet Place, the third directorial effort from John Krasinski (The Office) starring real-life wife Emily Blunt in their first on-screen collaboration (and as a married couple no less), but more than anything this is a movie that encapsulates the equal amount of unexpected fear as compared to the expected amount of joy that comes along with becoming and being a parent. It is something society doesn't often prepare you for and that you don't hear much about when embarking on this particular chapter in your life. People tell you how it will change your life, certainly, and how it will do so for the better as well as how tough things will be at different times for different reasons, but no one ever seems to warn expectant parents just how much fear will encompass their lives and in what are otherwise seemingly normal of situations. This isn't what A Quiet Place is about outright, but as the father to a three year-old daughter that is what A Quiet Place is most explicitly about to me. It is a summation and tense execution of what it feels like to solely be responsible for the lives of those that are dependent upon you whether they see it that way or not; they simply expect you to be there for them because that has always been your role without a second thought to the worry and fear that role might encompass and carry. A child's perspective is difficult to re-adjust to the point they understand the full spectrum of various emotions we as human beings are capable of experiencing, but there is something inherent when becoming a parent where your brain automatically switches to all-of-a-sudden be weary of any potential dangers to your child while at the same time coming to the realization your strengths and abilities might not be enough to protect them from whatever the world throws at them. Granted, A Quiet Place is this times fifty-seven and represents the worst-case scenario of what are most of the time internalized fears, but that is what makes the film so effective and ultimately, so moving. At the center of the story is a family unit that has been fractured by grief in the midst of having to adjust to this new way of life thanks to an extra-terrestrial threat whose origins remain a mystery sans some quick glances at a few newspaper clippings, but the context doesn't matter as much as the concepts that bound forth from its simple, but intriguing premise. Through all of this, Krasinski hones in on what makes the premise work so well, that being the grief, necessary coping, and inherent fear that inevitably comes with making ourselves vulnerable enough to care so much about others. Realizing these emotions and this feeling of need to protect and shelter those you are responsible for even when you have no idea how you might accomplish as much into a tight, ninety-minute actualization that will have you holding your breath and remaining as still as the reflections we see on screen.

RAMPAGE Review

Rampage is the happy meal version of a movie. It's cheap and easy and you walk away mostly satisfied even if there was no nutritional value whatsoever. It's a strange world where Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson can still be seen in theaters in his last big-budget action adventure that involves a jungle and then the first time we see the chrome-domed former wrestler in Rampage he just so happens to once again be making his way through a similar environment; it’s as if the star is guiding us out of one movie and into the next. As we are welcomed into this new world of Rampage by The Rock himself we are introduced to his Davis Okoye, a primatologist AKA someone who studies nonhuman primates, who works at the San Diego Zoo and has essentially fostered one of the last remaining albino gorillas to be his own. George, as played through motion capture not by Andy Serkis, but by Jason Liles, is a seven foot tall, five hundred plus-pound primate who can communicate with Johnson's Davis with as much ease as a deaf child might be able to communicate with their hearing enabled parent and who also has a good sense of humor about himself and his circumstances. The one thing Rampage does better than it has any right to do is develop this relationship between the two biggest stars on screen meaning Johnson is really just that good at making audiences believe he is the coolest guy around. Not everyone could make befriending a monkey cool and inspiring as opposed to the weird and off-putting looks most would get, but the guy does it; acting as if it's the most normal thing in the world and oh yeah, he was also part of an anti-poaching military force once upon a time too, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it. And sure, the fact it’s The Rock that is both this intelligent and extremely fit guy who clearly has a streak of compassion with an especially soft spot for animals is part of the appeal in Rampage as it is the ability The Rock brings along with his presence that makes a movie as ridiculous as this work as well as it does…even if it probably shouldn't. That said, and having never played the video game on which this is based, I expected the latest from director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, San Andreas) to be a little more fun than this ends up being. Yes, there are moments of pure outrageous bliss, but they are too few and far between to make Rampage feel like the large-sized combo it was advertised to be. Rather, Rampage is drenched in that Happy Meal feeling from its quick and easy delivery to its processed if not convenient conclusion.

First Trailer for NIGHT SCHOOL Starring Kevin Hart & Tiffany Haddish

It comes as no surprise that just over a year after Tiffany Haddish was welcomed into Hollywood with more enthusiasm than anyone since J-Law six years ago that she would be headlining a comedy with Kevin Hart set to premiere in the typically dry time between the summer movie season and awards season where it will undoubtedly make all the money. Night School, an out and out comedy about a group of troublemakers, including Hart's character, who are forced to attend night school in hopes of obtaining their GEDs, pits Hart as a successful business owner who has nowhere to turn after he loses said business in an accidental fire against Haddish. This will seemingly build a love/hate relationship with Hart's student as he was hoping to skate by in acquiring the few credits he was missing for his GED while Haddish's character, well, it's kind of unclear where she falls at the moment as she is initially indifferent towards the night school gig, but as a full-time teacher seems to have a fun rapport with everyone else at the school including Taran Killam's principal who defaults to using "black voice" when in the company of Hart and Haddish. It's a funny running gag in the trailer and I'm curious as to whether this will come out as PG-13 or R as I would have assumed it to be the latter, but this first look gives the impression Universal might prefer to play it safe and capitalize off the pairing of its two stars with as wide an audience as possible. Girls Trip director Malcolm D. Lee (who also made both Best Man films) is at the helm here as well and while his full filmography would suggest a spotty track record his most recent works including Best Man Holiday, the third Barbershop film, and last summer's massive aforementioned comedy that made Haddish a household name have leaned toward the better end of the spectrum than the other. While Lee's latest certainly doesn't look like anything that will break the mold it definitely has the components and credentials to make me excited at the prospect of it. Night School also stars Ben Schwartz, Rob Riggle, Keith David, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Anne Winters, Jacob Batalon, Mason Guccione and Romany Malco and opens in theaters on September 28th.