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.

First Trailer for X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX

Simon Kinberg, the long-time writer and architect of all Marvel properties not owned by Disney, will make his directorial debut next year by continuing the convoluted storyline in the follow-up to the terrible X-Men: Apocalypse with X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The X-Men films have always held a special place in my heart as I was at just the right age of thirteen when the first Bryan Singer film debuted in theaters in 2000 and ushered in a new wave of comic book movies that would essentially instigate everything that has come along in the nearly twenty years since. In those years since there has of course been the sequels, the spin-offs, and the First Class re-boot that is now having its own trilogy extended as Kinberg will attempt to not only regain audiences trust after the misfire that was Apocalypse, but also re-write the history of the worst reviewed entry in the franchise prior to Apocalypse: The Last Stand. With Dark Phoenix, Sophie Turner's Jean Grey begins to develop incredible powers that corrupt and turn her into...you guessed it...the Dark Phoenix. The X-Men, including the majority of the First Class cast is (somewhat surprisingly) returning for a fourth go-around-including Michael Fassbender's Magneto, James McAvoy's Professor Charles Xavier, Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique, and Evan Peters' Quick Silver-as well as adding Jessica Chastain's villain to the roster which undoubtedly adds some weight to the project, but that's what we thought when Oscar Isaac signed on as the titular villain in the last movie, so...we'll see. What concerns me is the fact that in the comics, and even in that original trilogy of films-no matter how deep your hate for Last Stand runs, we'd had two previous films and some solid character arcs that were explored that granted a genuine compassion and familiarity for Famke Janssen's character. With Turner, we've barely had a single movie to get to know her iteration of the character and so it is with great optimism that I hope Kinberg has penned a strong script and worked with enough talented filmmakers to do justice to this iconic storyline as fans have already seen how wrong this can go once before. X-Men: Dark Phoenix also stars Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Jonigkeit, and opens on February 14th, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 25, 2018

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS Review

Eli Roth’s The House with a Clock in Its Walls, despite being a straight-up kids movie with a release date in the dead of September, was one of my most anticipated films of the fall if not of the entire year. Despite the obvious warning signs though, I think it’s actually pretty easy to see why this was the case. First, there is Jack Black who has done well to understand the current phase of his career; with last year's Jumanji sequel as well as Goosebumps he is slowly establishing himself as the guy that will be fondly remembered by the tweens and younger teens of the current generation as that funny guy who was in all of their favorite movies. Better even, when those same kids get older they can go back and discover more of Black's rather impressive collection of work. Another encouraging factor going in was the fact this was a kids movie with Cate freakin' Blanchett in it. Now, Blanchett has been doing more work in more commercially viable popcorn flicks as of late with the last Thor film and Ocean's 8, but it seemed it would take a really great script or great character to really entice an actor of her caliber. Blanchett certainly seems to be having a great time exploring the genre, but unfortunately she doesn’t have nearly as much to do as one would expect sans the excellent bickering back and forth between her and Black. This cast, this genre, this time of year...what more could there be that might help propel this project to the heights it seemed so obviously destined to reach? I say this somewhat ironically as it seems most critics and audiences didn't expect much from another kid-centric Black film-especially one based on a children's book from the seventies and especially not one directed by the guy who made 2018's Death Wish, but alas...here we are. As someone who has always adored Black's range and versatility there was this sense of optimism and support, but the point of concern was always Roth. Roth is a director raised on the Amblin films that are very clearly an inspiration for his The House with a Clock in Its Walls, but unfortunately Roth's homage to spooky if not exactly scary kids fare doesn't pass that test of being a magical film about magical people. The finished product can certainly be endearing for long stretches, but the big picture never gels and is more a hodge-podge of several different "chosen one" archetypes than it is a single, focused, satisfying narrative. And though The House with a Clock in Its Walls proved to be more disappointing than hoped for it’s not impossible to see how the film might become more appealing over time-especially to the generation that will grow up on it.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: September 18, 2018

First Trailer for Marvel Studios' CAPTAIN MARVEL Starring Brie Larson

Marvel Studios has released the first look at Captain Marvel, the first female-led flick in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There have been about eight different characters known as Captain Marvel over the years, but the movie will follow the Carol Danvers storyline who first appeared in the comics in 1968. In the comics, Danvers was an Air Force pilot and CIA agent recruited by NASA and more specifically, by Dr. Philip Lawson, with whom she struck up a romantic relationship before learning of his true identity of Mahr Vehl from the alien race known as the Kree or the race of blue aliens we first saw in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. Mahr Vehl blocks an explosion causing his genetic template to meld with Danvers' DNA turning her into Ms. Marvel. It wouldn't be until July of 2012 though that Danvers would take on the mantle of Captain Marvel after Mahr Vehl dies (spoiler alert!). Described as the most powerful super in the MCU (maybe even more so than Thanos) Captain Marvel has super strength, tons of military training, absorbs energy and returns the blasts from her fists as well as being able to fly six times faster than the speed of sound. This is all without mentioning the fact she apparently has a seventh sense that allows her to subconsciously anticipate the moves of her opponents and to connect with the cosmos. This cavalcade of powers will no doubt come in hand as the character's first film will be set in the nineties and deal with the ongoing galactic war between the Kree and the Skrull-a race of extraterrestrial shapeshifters. In the film, Brie Larson (Room, Kong: Skull Island) plays the titular character while Jude Law will appear as Lawson. Samuel L. Jackson will return as a younger Nicky Fury and Clark Gregg will be back as Agent Coulson. Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou will also reprise their Guardians of the Galaxy roles as they are Kree warriors. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Mississippi Grind) were tapped to write and direct and while the screenplay is credited to both Boden, Fleck, and a host of other writers including Liz Flahive (GLOW), Meg LeFauve (Inside Out), Carly Mensch (Weeds, Nurse Jackie), Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (2018's Tomb Raider). And while this will largely be our introduction to Danvers if not your typical origin story it still has the responsibility of clearing up where Captain Marvel has been this entire time and how the character will play into Avengers 4. Needless to say, Boden and Fleck have their work cut out for them, but if the MCU train and this trailer are any indication, it doesn't seem the MCU will be getting off track anytime soon. Captain Marvel also stars Gemma Chan, Ben Mendelsohn, McKenna Grace, Annette Bening, Pete Ploszek, and opens on March 8th, 2019.

Official Trailer for MARY POPPINS RETURNS Starring Emily Blunt

Disney has released the full trailer for their sequel to Mary Poppins, a film made in 1964, that Disney has already touched with their current trend of re-makes and re-imaginings with 2013's Saving Mr. Banks which followed P.L. Travers reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney who wanted to adapt her books based around the titular character for the big screen. While Saving Mr. Banks was more in line with this summer's Christopher Robin it seems as if Mary Poppins Returns will be more in line with the live action re-makes of Disney's animated classics, but labeled as a sequel to one of their early, more enduring live-action movies. Of course, as can be glimpsed in this trailer, Mary Poppins Returns looks to essentially be a re-hash of what that original offered, but dammit if this thing doesn't look infinitely charming and all-around wonderful. Emily Blunt takes over the reigns from Julie Andrews (who I have to imagine will show up in some capacity) as the enigmatic nanny returns to Depression-era London where a now-grown Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), along with Michael's three children, are in the midst of dealing with a personal loss. It is through Mary Poppins' unique magical skills, and the aid of her friend Jack (Lin Manuel Miranda), that she once again will help the Banks family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives and no doubt teach them a few lessons along the way. So yeah, this will more or less follow the same structure of that original film, but given Travers had a series of books concerning the character one might hope screenwriter Dave Magee (Life of Pi, Finding Neverland) pulled from such a resource to add in new elements that went unused in the original. And while the trailer certainly paints a delightful experience of a movie that will make all the money this holiday season the one gray area that clouds the project is director Rob Marhall. Marshall, who seems to be something of Disney's go-to-guy as of late broke onto the scene in a big way with 2002's feature film version of Chicago and followed it up with the critically acclaimed Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005 has had a rough run as of late turned in the worst Pirates of the Caribbean movie, what is maybe the worst Daniel Day-Lewis movie, and then the somewhat successful Into the Woods four years ago. I'm hoping His latest is more Chicago, less Woods, but time will tell. Mary Poppins Returns also stars Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters, David Warner, Dick Van Dyke, and opens on Christmas Day.

THE PREDATOR Review

I was born in 1987 or the same year the original Predator was released. One might think this means something more or that it's led to some long-standing connection I feel with that John McTiernan movie, but it doesn't and hasn't. I say this more to point out I was too far behind to now have any nostalgic or appropriated affection for that movie. In fact, I've only seen Predator once before in preparation for the 2010 re-boot, Predators, and while the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick certainly makes for an enjoyable enough action movie it certainly didn't hit me the same way in 2010 as it likely did those who were in their late-teens to early-twenties in 1987. For me, it was fine, goofy fun and very much a product of the time in which it was made. And while 2018's The Predator will rank miles below that original for those who adore it and place it on this pedestal of action perfection, which I admittedly can't dispute given the credentials of my birth, The Predator is also perfectly okay. There is a lot going on and it wants to do more than its hour and forty-seven minute runtime dares to contain, but at the heart of the issues with the film is the fact the movie itself doesn't seem to know what its heart really wants. Does this mean there is nothing beating within the core of this movie? Does it mean there's no pulse? Not necessarily. There is so much going on that it kind of creates the illusion of this pounding sense of energy and tension, but energy doesn't always equal an understanding or coherence. There are numerous players playing different games, following several different arcs, but none of them thread together to form a satisfying whole despite countless efforts to present a facade that it does in fact do so. The Predator puts on that it knows what it is, but taking in the execution presented it seems the movie only has ideas of what it wants to be. Writer/director Shane Black knows he wants to make a bloody, irreverent, and fun action movie but for one reason or another everything Black throws at the audience feels like both disparate and sometimes desperate attempts to play to what the masses want never landing a single of the many things as well as he's proven he could have.

Teaser Trailer for CAPTIVE STATE Starring John Goodman

Say what you will about Matt Reeves and his two sequels in the latest Planet of the Apes trilogy, but my favorite of the bunch is still Rupert Wyatt's initial film. So much better than it had any right to be, Rise of the Planet of the Apes came on the heels of Wyatt's little seen, but insanely entertaining 2008 film, The Escapist. Hell, I even thought The Gambler was a solid genre exercise even if there wasn't necessarily a need for it to exist and Wyatt came up with nothing in the way of that purpose, but instead simply executed the beats in fine fashion. Next year though, the director is back with his first original effort since that 2008 prison break actioner in Captive State. Written with Project Greenlight alum Erica Beeney the film is set nearly a decade after the occupation of earth by an extraterrestrial force as the narrative will explore the lives of those on both sides of the conflict: the collaborators and dissidents. While this first teaser trailer doesn't give viewers much by way of story details it more offers brief glimpses the tone of the movie will take on in order to acclimate them with this grounded sci-fi setting that is said to attempt to shine light on the modern surveillance state, the threats to civil liberties, and the role of dissent within an authoritarian society. While Captive State is most definitely a sci-fi thriller it seems to have bigger ideas on the brain, but while it remains to be seen how well it will convey such ideas this first splattering of images certainly indicates the "how" in how Wyatt plans to convey such themes while keeping the facade of a pure genre picture. The teaser also only briefly highlights some of the names in the cast as well given we only have single shots of some and only split seconds of others despite the fact Wyatt has recruited the likes of John Goodman and Vera Farmiga to play alongside up-and-comer's such as Moonlight's Ashton Sanders, White Boy Rick's Jonathan Majors, If Beale Street Could Talk's KiKi Layne, and rapper Machine Gun Kelly AKA Colson Baker. Captive State also stars Alan Ruck, James Ransone, Madeline Brewer, D.B. Sweeney, Kevin Dunn, and opens on March 29, 2019.

Movies I Wanna See Most: Fall 2018

The fall/winter movie season is always one of those times of the year where it seems there's so much to do and so little time. 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 and vice versa. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily more excited for Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 than I am something like Suspiria, 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 each of them just outside my top fifteen along with the likes of the sure-to-be juggernaut of this holiday season, Marry Poppins Returns, and the likely to be overlooked The Hate U Give from director George Tillman Jr. Elsewhere, there is your typical festival fodder like Beautiful Boy, The Favourite, Boy Erased, and Mary Queen of Scots that I'm certainly interested in seeing, but not necessarily overly excited for as I feel as if I kind of know what I'll be getting myself into with each of these (except for maybe the Yorgos Lanthimos experience), but am more than happy to take a chance and spend some time with them as any given movie could come out of nowhere and blow you away; if attempting to watch as many new releases as I do each year has taught me anything it is this.

There are two movies in particular that I had a difficult time grappling with whether they should go on my list and furthermore, where they should go on my list if I were to include them, but ultimately they didn't make it and I'm still not sure if that was the right choice or not. First is Jonah Hill's directorial debut, mid90s, which tells the story of a thirteen-year-old in 90s-era LA who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop. I think Hill will probably have a rather distinct voice and good handle on conveying his own screenplay given the sheer amount and vast variety of creative people he's worked with, but the subject matter isn't something so near and dear to my heart that I find myself aching to see it. And then there is the first film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón since Gravity earned him a Best Director Oscar five years ago. Cuarón's two hour and fifteen-minute opus that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s wuill have its festival run, but is set to largely premiere to a wide audience on Netflix in mid-December. This may be the smarter route financially, but the anticipation of such an event and/or return can't help but to feel a little undercut by the knowledge that in my region of the country it's unlikely I'll be able to experience Roma on the big screen. All of that said, you won't find the likes of Bumblebee, The Mortal Engines, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, or that new Robin Hood movie on my list, but like I said, I'm by no means opposed to unabashed blockbusters as is evidenced in my number ten pick...

THE NUN Review

The NUN is the third in a line of spin-offs prompted by the success of  James Wan's 2013 throwback horror flick, The Conjuring, which itself spawned a sequel in 2016. In between and since those films we have also received the likes of Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation neither of which I've had the privilege of viewing, but from what I hear I'm really (not) missing out. Of course, I didn't see Insidious: The Last Key either, so it seems there is something about these spin-offs of Wan initiated franchises that tend to either push me away or leave me feeling so uninterested I could care less whether I consume them or not (which is saying a lot for a guy who feels the needs to see and assess as many new releases as he can each year). While both Conjuring films had their merits and were, at the very least, well-constructed, the spin-offs featuring that demon-laden doll have had a go of one being bashed as outright terrible and the other being hailed as an effective genre exercise. Unfortunately, if the consensus is true, then The NUN as written by Conjuring-verse veteran Gary Dauberman (who, funnily enough, had nothing to do with either of The Conjuring films, but was one of the credited screenwriters on last year's IT, so I'll give him that) falls into the former category joining 2014's Annabelle as more an opportunity for revenue than a true creative endeavor. Dauberman wrote both Annabelle and last year's Annabelle: Creation though and so maybe, as much as we like to believe story is the most important thing, when it comes to the horror genre it is more about the way in which these ghost stories are constructed and conveyed that matters just a little bit more. Annabelle was directed by first time feature director and former cinematographer John R. Leonetti whereas Creation was directed by Lights Out filmmaker David F. Sandberg who was recognized for a short film he made then adapted into a feature. This is all to say that Sandberg likely has an inherent eye and skill for directing whereas Leonetti may have seen countless director's work over the years, but might not be able on his own to build a cohesive product having to manage several departments at once. This brings us to Corin Hardy who shares more in common with Sandberg in terms of experience and perspective, but whose film shares more in common with what Leonetti apparently crafted. Meaning, The NUN is a fine example of throwing shit against a wall for an hour and a half to see what sticks and then moving on leaving a mess in the wake of whoever has to come behind it and clean-up. I feel bad for whoever makes The NUN: Final Vows.