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.

THE HATE U GIVE Review

The Hate U Give might come off as a perfectly-timed opportunity given the "Black Lives Matter" movement and the unfortunate, consistent headlines that tell us a young, unarmed black individual was gunned down by a white police officer, but fortunately, director George "Notorious" Tillman's adaptation of the Angie Thomas novel is not an opportunistic publicity stunt aimed at an audience who are already well-aware of the points the film is making. Rather, The Hate U Give is a well-rounded and appropriately angry piece of filmmaking that tells of both these types of crimes and the reasons for the feeling of need for movements such as "Black Lives Matter" in our country at the moment.

Tillman luckily has a strong grasp on the multiple themes and rather epic scope of his film as Audrey Wells' adapted screenplay weaves in a multitude of challenges that face the black community outside of discrimination. Whether it be police brutality or white privilege or more universal issues that have become more associated with being black than is fair such as drug abuse, drug-dealing, and a lack of the traditional familial structure, Tillman is able to take each of these strands and weave them into a coherent narrative that, while maybe tying things up a bit too neatly at the end, is most admirable for admitting it doesn't have all the answers, but instead making plenty of suggestions on how to spark change.

HALLOWEEN Review

As much time has now passed between the original 1978 Halloween and star, original Scream Queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis' return to the role of Laurie Strode (though she did reprise her role in the original 1981 sequel) in 1998's Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later as it now has between H2O and 2018's Halloween. That is a long way of saying it's been forty years since writer/director John Carpenter first introduced us to "The Shape" otherwise known as Michael Myers, but it is also to point out that while Curtis' twenty-year reunion with her most famous character saw Strode as a woman on the run from her past, changing her name, concealing her identity, and attempting to move on while having raised a child in as much of a captive environment as possible director David Gordon Green's (George Washington, Pineapple Express) new film sees Strode as someone who has lived with the trauma of that single night for forty years and who has been waiting for an opportunity to take back what was stolen from her. It's admittedly both a rarity and an oddity to be able to see two different, but fully fleshed out interpretations of a single character and the aftermath of dealing with such a traumatic event, but it is in considering the different ways in which Strode's life might have unraveled as a result of that Halloween night in 1978 that Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley find their "in" in terms of how they can make their iteration of a Halloween sequel both different enough and justified enough for it to exist in the first place. In reality, we're dealing with a viewer's pick of alternate timelines based on preference and 2018's Halloween throws its hat in the ring by offering up the idea that everything that occurred in each of the seven sequels, including 1981's Halloween II that famously disclosed Laurie Strode was Michael Myers' long-lost baby sister, ever happened. No longer is anything canon except for what went down in the only installment Carpenter himself directed. And so, with that, Michael Myers no longer has a familial connection to Strode and thus no reason to make her his mission. This opens up the possibility for 2018's Halloween to simply be about a cold-blooded serial killer who murders at random because he's a monster following his impulses whereas Curtis' Strode is now the one who has built-up this connection between herself and Myers and sees it as her destiny that the two of them might once again come face to face. That Strode is more attached to Myers than he is her is the "in" Green needed to bring a fresh perspective to this endlessly re-made and ret-conned horror franchise, but it is with this twist on the original, principle character that not only do we get fertile new territory to explore, but we get to genuinely and sometimes gruesomely see the process of Laurie Strode truly taking back what was taken from her all those years ago.

First Trailer for THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING Starring Rebecca Ferguson

Writer/director Joe Cornish returns to the big screen next year with his first feature since 2011's Attack the Block (which, if you haven't seen it, see it now) with The Kid Who Would Be King about a band of kids who embark on an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace. The film was originally scheduled to open this September, but obviously that didn't work out. If this first look at the film is any indication though, it seems to have had nothing to do with the quality of the product, but more the timing of it all. What is interesting about this is that studios seem to be beginning to remember there is an entire market out there of kids between the ages of nine and fifteen who don't really care to be relegated to only animated films (as good as the computer generated images may be) and shouldn't be operating on a steady diet of only comic book movies. Or, as Scott Mendelson so wisely phrased it, "over the last 15 years, the PG-13, the four-quadrant global blockbuster has supplanted the adult melodrama and the kid-targeted fantasy as the go-to pick for all demographics." And so, while The Kid Who Would Be King was originally set to open on the same weekend as Eli Roth's The House with a Clock in Its Walls I'm happy to have to wait a few more months so see Cornish's long-awaited follow-up so as to have it potentially reach a bigger audience than see it be buried under a higher-profile film in the same genre fishing for the same audience. The Kid Who Would Be King looks like the kind of movie that thrived in that time we're all nostalgic for now and if Cornish, who wrote and  directed this, is able to create a new adventure film based on the template of King Arthur and the knights of the round table with plenty a creative twists for the current generation to become nostalgic for in another twenty-five years, well then, all the more power to him. Given the current cinematic climate, all this generation will have to be nostalgic for are less than stellar reboots of what the previous generation was nostalgic for anyway. Well, those and Marvel movies. This is all to say the first trailer for the film looks like an ad for a movie filled with wonder and that is sure to be a ton of fun. Here's hoping it was worth the wait, Joe. The Kid Who Would Be King stars Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart, Tom Taylor, Ashbourne Serkis, Rhianna Dorris, Dean Chaumoo, Denise Gough, Angus Imrie, and opens stateside on March 1st, 2019.

FIRST MAN Review

Are you rushing or are you dragging? This quote from the most famous scene of director Damien Chazelle's second feature, Whiplash, kept coming to the forefront of my mind as I sat and took in his latest project-a project that, on the surface-feels radically different from anything the guy has done before. While Chazelle has carved out his niche by making films as influenced by the music that shape them as they are the pictures that compose them the closest thing First Man has to a musical number is a tease that Neil Armstrong was a fairly good piano player and that he might have written a musical with a friend in college. Are you rushing or are you dragging though? This line of dialogue from music instructor Fletcher via J.K. Simmons reoccurred to me though, due to the fact that this time around, in his fourth feature, Chazelle couldn't quite seem to figure out what tempo he wanted to keep. That is to say, there is this grand juxtaposition in First Man between the sections in which we're fully engulfed in the development of the NASA missions and the defining of the procedures and the role Ryan Gosling's Armstrong played in these decisions and then there is the home life of Armstrong, a visually warmer, but still very cold atmosphere that this man inhabits due largely to the fact he is still grieving and dealing with the death of his young daughter-even years after she has passed away. On their own, both serve as equally compelling narratives about a man in crisis each trying to figure out how to overcome something that has both never been done before and something they've never had to deal with or ever dreamt of having to deal with before. And sometimes, when these two disparate environments if not similar situations in regards to their circumstances come together they do so in effective ways; one crossing over with the other creating a broader picture of the layers that not only played into the daily lives of these men, these engineers, these astronauts, but into the lives of their wives (both Claire Foy and Olivia Hamilton are stand-outs in two different types of supportive roles), and their families. There is a particular instance dealing in how "good" the Armstrong's once were at attending funerals as a result of the line of work Neil was in, but while certain moments feel layered and others pop due largely to the stakes at hand there is an inconsistent tone to the overall piece where many sequences dealing in the moon missions feel as if they're rushing given the sheer amount of information screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight) is trying to cover while the more personal, introspective moments at home tend to drag in an honest attempt to truly convey Armstrong's mental and emotional processes. Fortunately, by the end, Chazelle is able to haul his intentions over these hurtles and merge the contrasting tones to create a moment that is both visually and emotionally monumental.

First Trailer for Stephen King's PET SEMATARY

Spoiler alert: I've never seen the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 novel of the same name about a cemetery behind a young family's home in Maine that holds a terrible secret concerning the power of life after death. While that all may sound rather vague, what Pet Sematary is actually about-from what I can recall of my brothers discussions concerning the '89 film-is that of a haunted cemetery that brings pets back to life. Outside of that, I don't know much about what goes down in the story, but it's not hard to see why with the success of last fall's IT re-imagining and Hulu's Castle Rock why we're getting more re-makes or re-imaginings of King's most popular works. Does this carry the same cultural significance or nostalgia as IT, no way, but Sematary always felt like something of an appreciated if not exactly well-renowned entry in King's storied career. Given Mary Lambert's original film is now available to stream on Amazon Prime I'll definitely be making time to catch up with it before the end of the month (why not? It's October!) as well as preparing myself for whatever directing duo Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have in store for us next spring. While Kölsch and Widmyer don't exactly have anything in their filmography that stands out (a bunch of rando horror flicks that look to be on the cheap side with not exactly glowing reviews) they did direct a few episodes of MTV's underrated and underseen Scream: The TV Series that makes me a little more optimistic about what they might do with a King property. Based on the trailer alone, I'm digging the way this thing looks (it was shot by Laurie Rose who's worked on Netflix's Peaky Blinders and also did 2017's 70's-laden Free Fire) as it feels more crisp and precise than some horror flicks that delve headfirst into a more grimy aesthetic. I'm also loving that John Lithgow will be playing the weird old man next door role (originally played by the original Herman Munster, Fred Gwynne, in the '89 version) as the guy is so versatile and, if you've seen Dexter, is a guy you know can play psychotic and/or crazy to haunting effect. While the rest of the casting is more shrug-worthy given Jason Clarke seems to be taking any role these days there is definitely potential here, but I'm sure I'll either have more hope or less optimism after giving the original film a go. 2018's Pet Sematary also stars Amy Seimetz, Naomi Frenette, Jeté Laurence, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine, Hugo & Lucas Lavoie, and opens on April 5th, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 9, 2018

VENOM Review

There's always been this desire by a certain generation of Spider-Man fans to see the web-slinger's villain, Venom, portrayed on the big screen in the effortlessly cool yet terrifyingly fun way he was presented in both the comics and the nineties animated series that devoted an entire stretch of episodes to the Stan Lee and Avi Arad-created story titled "The Venom Saga". Venom's popularity has always been about little more than how "cool" the character looks as there is little else of actual depth to the character beyond the fact it's a sludge from space that requires a host to bond with for its survival. In the comics, Venom became most notable as one of Spider-Man's archenemies after Peter Parker realized the insidious nature of what was referred to as the "symbiote" and trashed the suit only for the symbiote to then join with a second host: Eddie Brock. In the animated series Brock was a well-meaning guy looking for his big break who just so happened to view Parker as a rival reporter. Needless to say, in joining with the symbiote and becoming Venom Brock inherited the alien's enhanced abilities and felt a power for the first time in his life he wasn't going to readily give up. So, one can see how-despite the rather artificial intrigues of the symbiote in and of itself that-once this liquid-like form joins with a human host who has their own personality and problems things might become more complicated and therefore more dramatically interesting, right? Well, consider that and then consider the fact director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) and screenwriters Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg, and Kelly Marcel only have about half of those source material ideas to work with in order to create a full-length feature around the character. This is what 2018's Venom was tasked with and thus why it turns out to be a mostly forgettable B-monster movie made in the vein of Sam Raimi's original live-action Spider-Man, but with none of the fun or genuine thrills that movie packed in. It's a re-purposed Spider-Man origin story, but with a symbiote instead of a radioactive arachnid where the individual blessed and/or cursed with these powers has to figure out how to control them and then decide how to use them for good. Seriously-Venom, the symbiote, likes to bites heads off, but Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock is an out-and-out good guy with no shades of moral conflict leaving the film itself to not be the interesting anti-hero tale it billed itself to be, but instead feels like a recycled Spider-Man movie from an alternate universe where the symbiote was brought to a world where Peter Parker doesn't exist (at least for the time being) and the titular character becomes by default the hero of the story. In other unfortunate words, Venom adds nothing to these tropes audiences have seen countless times over the last two decades, but is all the worse for it due to the promise of being a real scoundrel's story.

A STAR IS BORN Review

Often in movies about individuals who strive to make a living telling stories the process of capturing the true essence of such lives strays from the actual topic of why the way these particular people tell stories is so special. What it actually takes to get from a lyric to a melody to an arrangement or in whatever order inspiration decides to strike is completely glossed over. With A Star is Born, Bradley Cooper goes from movie star to film director, screenwriter, musician, and songwriter with no doubt countless other titles one could heap upon him. While there are plenty of leading men-types in Hollywood these days what has always allowed Cooper to stand apart is his full immersion and commitment to each and every role he takes on. Given as much, it then felt inevitable that Cooper would bring such qualities and thus the same level of commitment to these new, more principal, roles. In taking on these new roles though, and applying them to what is the fourth incarnation of A Star is Born Cooper has seemingly found a way to work through the finding of his artistic voice in a thinly veiled metaphor of sorts via the world of musicians and the music industry in place of Hollywood and the studio system. While past incarnations of the film have dealt specifically with actors and featured no music whatsoever 2018's A Star is Born is not so much a re-make of the previous versions as much as it is a familiar set of archetypes by which Cooper can work through his creative process by exploring the creative process. I say all of this having only read about the past films while having decided to not watch any of them prior to seeing this latest version so as to have as little precedent or expectation of what should come to define it. The point being, A Star is Born never struck me as a movie about the rise of a young and talented artist through the ranks of fame, but more as an exploration of more introspective shades of fame e.g. why some people and not others are "famous" despite the likely fact one may possess more talent than the other. Someone might be a technically proficient singer, so why would they not aspire to sing? Okay, but do they have something to say and not only that, but do they have a way to say it that will make people shut up and listen? This main idea works as both a throughline for Cooper's film as well as his own trajectory as an artist who has to figure out if how he wants to say something in fact merits this fourth incarnation of a well-worn story. In short, 2018's A Star is Born has plenty to add to the conversation.

Official Trailer for VICE Starring Christian Bale

I'm not someone who delves much into or cares to delve much into politics, but I am someone who is fascinated by the ins and outs of as much. I enjoy political movies, House of Cards sucked me right in and had I been the right age when West Wing was in its prime I probably would have loved it too (I should probably go back and check that out, actually), but it does take a special something about a politically-heavy piece of film or TV to pique my interest given my general lack of interest in the topic overall and lucky for me-Vice has a lot of special somethings that make me more than eager to see it. I questioned whether or not the film might even be released this year given all we'd seen up until this point were a few unauthorized stills of star Christian Bale heavily made-up and as the film hadn't been included in any of the major fall festival line-ups it seemed unlikely to bow this year, but it now seems this will be the wild card in this year's Oscar race. Vice chronicles the rise of Dick Cheney (Bale) and how he, though his eight years as the power behind the throne in the Bush Administration, was able to reshape America. Now, of course it's interesting that Bale will be transforming once again to play the former vice President, but what makes the film all the more engaging is the fact Bale is re-teaming with his The Big Short director, Adam McKay, for the project. McKay, who has also made Will Ferrell's best films in Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys jumped into the big leagues in a major way with 2015's The Big Short and if this trailer is any indication it should be fascinating to see how his take on Cheney will inform the current state of our country. I also love the use of The Killers track in this spot. The enticing elements don't stop at McKay and Bale though, as Amy Adams is playing Lynne Cheney, Steve Carell is Donald Rumsfeld, Tyler Perry is Colin Powell, and Sam Rockwell will no doubt make for a glorious George W. Bush-I mean, his performance in this trailer alone is enough to garner him another Oscar. Vice is set to open on Christmas Day and one can only hope that is a wide release day.

NIGHT SCHOOL Review

At this point I question if there’s even a point to me sitting down and taking time out of my day to write a review of a new Kevin Hart movie. I mean, unless Hart decides to work outside his comfort zone with a director that might challenge him or unless he’s part of an ensemble cast one pretty much knows what they’re getting from a Kevin Hart comedy, right? Given Night School is the first production to be released under Hart’s own production company though one can safely assume that if this is successful-which all signs point to why wouldn’t it be?-that the general viewing public can expect more of this same, middle-of-the-road comedy with recycled premises and recycled jokes that hold Hart at the center as a character who must overcome something in order to realize something about himself...while being made fun of for being short, of course. That said, I appreciate and kind of admire Hart for always willing to be the brunt of the joke and despite Night School being a rather large missed opportunity given it pairs the immensely charming and infinitely likable Hart with Girls Trip breakout Tiffany Haddish and her director on that film, Malcolm D. Lee (who’s also made The Best Man films and the most recent Barbershop picture), there is still enough here for it to qualify as an entertaining enough time at the movies. No, that’s not necessarily a ringing endorsement, but it does mean this doesn’t feel wholly like a cheap, quickly manufactured product with little effort put in and therefore little expectations held for it. In fact, it’s actually the opposite in that it’s not hard to see Hart, his co-stars, and his company are genuinely trying to make something with, well...heart. Does this mean it actually holds some weight? Not really and it isn’t as consistently funny enough given the stars of the film, but this is a rare comedy that doesn’t have an ugly side to it. It’s an optimistic comedy, if you will, whereas the majority of big studio comedies tend to be both cynical and egotistical Night School sets itself apart from the pack if not for being the funniest of the year, but for holding out the most hope in humanity and seeing the good in the resilience of the human spirit. Not exactly an easy thing to do these days.