Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt Kick-Off the Summer Movie Season with a Big, Fun, and Funny Action-Packed Adventure that Fully Delivers on its Promises.


Luca Guadagnino Attaches his Latest Exploration of Sexuality, Desire, and Relationship Dynamics to Tennis in this Flashy Zendaya Vehicle.


Alex Garland's Highly-Anticipated Film Upends Mainstream Expectations by Existing more as an Exploration of "Why" than a Blunt Explanation of "How".


Writer/Director/Star Dev Patel Draws From Numerous Sources of Inspiration for his Electric and Exceptionally Executed Debut.


Denis Villeneuve's Grand and Gorgeous Epic is as Insightful about Sincerity and Strategy as it is Engaging on the Broad Levels of a Big-Budget Studio Blockbuster.

TOP 10 OF 2018

As opposed to last year, 2018 has made it difficult for me to narrow things down to a finite ten films that I thought worthy of making my list. These kinds of lists, no matter how superfluous, would always fare better were they put together in a couple years time rather than in a rush in the last few days of the year as one is attempting to cram in all the end-of-year awards contenders being released simultaneously as well as catching up on everything that might have been missed throughout the year, but that is supposed to be really good and you don't know why you didn't watch some of these sooner. Alas, some will slip through the cracks and while I made as valiant an effort as I possibly could (I even saw Holmes & Watson yesterday-more out of an undying loyalty to Ferrell than the potential of it making my list, of course) I still managed to miss more than I would have liked to. Furthermore, there have been films with exceptional moments that might feel like glaring omissions from my favorites list given you've likely heard a lot about them over the course of the last few months that will make many others; examples include films such as Green Book, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and The Favourite. I couldn't agree more that each of those films possess inspired moments that transcend the art form, but as a whole were they films that made an impression on me that will last, if not forever, but at least a few weeks after seeing them? Not at this point, no, though I'm suspect this might change with at least two of these.

On the other hand, there are a handful of narrative features competing for spots on my list that, on any given day, might have been in one of those top ten spots; HBO's The Tale, the Joaquin Phoenix-starrer You Were Never Really Here, Steve McQueen's Widows, what could possibly be Robert Redford's swan song in The Old Man and the Gun, as well we Bo Burnham's feature debut in Eighth Grade would round out my top fifteen at this point, but if I included documentaries on this list it would be a completely different story. The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, Three Identical Strangers, Whitney, Free Solo, not to mention Won't You Be My Neighbor? were all fantastic documentaries released this year where at least three of those would have made my top ten, but given the differences in the approach to filmmaking it only seems fair to highlight them outside of a traditional top ten list. Of course, going back over the year there are many regrets around films like Blindspotting, The Hate U Give, Searching, Bad Times at the El Royale, Halloween, Instant Family, Vice, Shoplifters, Love, Simon, and Hearts Beat Loud that I wish there were space for as I enjoyed each and every one of them to the extent I would genuinely label them as "great". All things considered though, please know I go into every film truly hoping to see one of the best movies of the year and the ones that follow are the ones that surprised me with their quality or surpassed every expectation I held for them. Enjoy!


My wife and I took our four-year-old daughter to see this despite her having seemingly no interest in the trailers or TV spots that have been on heavy rotation-especially over the past week or so. Admittedly, this was partly for the reason both of us wanted to see this fifty-four-year-later sequel to Mary Poppins and didn't want to have to go through the hassle of finding a babysitter the weekend before Christmas, but it was mostly due to the fact that despite the lack of interest in the promotional materials that sometimes you just have to trust your parents know better than you and, lucky for us, our little four-year-old girl decided to indulge us on this particular matter (the slush and popcorn might have factored in, but I digress). The point being, that once director Rob Marshall's (Chicago, Into the Woods) Mary Poppins Returns began and Emily Blunt's incarnation of the practically perfect nanny showed up and began teaching the new generation of Banks children (as well as reminding their parents) that while imagination may not always be approved of, that it's more than necessary to make life fun and largely bearable, the little one was more than hooked by the magic of the titular character. And so, while Mary Poppins Returns is admittedly more of a re-hash or re-imagining of that first, 1964 film than I would have either thought or hoped it to be it is also a reminder of how powerful and delightful the imagination can truly be. Though my personal experience with the film may not be as heartening as those who take their teenagers to the theater and see their faces revert to a state of child-like wonder; to experience the kind of magic and possibilities Mary Poppins brings to the table and exerts with pure enthusiasm strike our daughter in such a clear and distinct way-especially during the numerous musical numbers-was quite something. The Julie Andrews picture was always one of those movies that was always on whenever we needed it to be growing up and taking on the burden of crafting a follow-up to that respected classic (the only live-action film Disney saw garner a Best Picture nod in his day) there was a degree of respect built-in for even attempting as much and while Mary Poppins Returns could have certainly done a little more to stand on its own it is so excessively charming, appropriately cute, and full of original songs and creative executions that it's hard to argue the film is anything but perfectly pleasant in every way.

Official Trailer for Jordan Peele's US

Get Out was my favorite film of 2017, so it goes without saying that I'm extremely excited to see what writer/director Jordan Peele has in store for us with his follow-up feature, Us. While I was somewhat hesitant initially upon hearing Peele would once again venture into the horror genre with what would undoubtedly be another layered social commentary piece that fear was immediately rectified with this first, official trailer. Peele has stated that the film will not be about race which, for as much as I found Get Out enlightening and interesting, I'm glad to hear the writer in Peele won't allow him to re-visit the same water hole again, but from a different angle-at least not in his second feature anyway (I could see him doing something that is more a companion piece to Get Out in fifteen to twenty years and it making more sense). With Us, the film will follow Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Black Panther's Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer. After a day at the beach, Adelaide-who’s haunted by a lingering trauma from her past-becomes increasingly more paranoid that something bad will happen to her family. When night falls, the Wilsons see four figures silently at the bottom of their driveway with the twist being they look exactly like the Wilsons. While the trailer doesn't give away much more than this, including what themes Peele might even be considering exploring, this doesn't diminish the impact of what the trailer does deliver. Maybe the most striking thing about the trailer though? The use of Luniz's "Got 5 on it," a 1995 track by the West coast hip-hop group is at first utilized to establish a certain amount of coolness, nostalgia, as well as inform us of some character features, but the way in which the trailer ultimately manipulates the music to turn the iconic nineties jam into an anxiety-inducing horror score is pure genius. It's more than effective, it's downright chilling while being unbelievably hip. Hopefully, this is the first and only trailer we receive for the film as it will seem Us is best experienced knowing as little as possible going in with the endless possibilities of what the film might actually hold being the greatest suspense Peele can hold us in until all is revealed. Us also stars Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Madison Curry, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, and opens on March 15th, 2019.

Recent Release Reviews

In the lead-up to the holidays and awards season there is always an onslaught of new releases as studios ready both their awards-contenders and their holiday hopeful blockbusters and 2018 has been no different if not worse in some ways. It may be due to the fact I was unable to make it to any film festivals this year or that there have been less than a handful of convenient press screenings in my market, but there has seemed to have been a wave of smaller releases showing up in theaters over the past two weeks not to mention the full-on deluge of wide releases and expansions this week that included the triple-header of blockbusters that is Aquaman, Bumblebee, and Mary Poppins Returns that have put me far off my admittedly optimistic initial schedule. Blockbusters weren't the only thing opening this past week though, as other releases included the Steve Carell-fronted Welcome to Marwen, the Jennifer Lopez comedy Second Act, as well as the expansion of the Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie period piece, Mary Queen of Scots. And that was just for this past weekend as it doesn't include the fact that tomorrow, Christmas Day, will see the release of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly's Holmes & Watson, Adam McKay's Vice, and the expansion of Barry Jenkins' follow-up to his best picture-winner (Moonlight) If Beale Street Could Talk as well as Nicole Kidman's Oscar-bid, Destroyer. And in this day and age it's impossible to ignore the impact streaming services, namely Netflix, have on the industry as awards contenders like Alfonso CuarĂ³n's Roma and Sandra Bullock's Bird Box have both recently debuted on the subscription service and offer the enticing option of catching a certain standard of film from the comfort of your own home. This is all to say that while I try to see and write about as many films as possible it is nearly impossible with everything else going on at this time of year to devote the time needed to both seeing all of these films and writing about each on an individual basis and so, as these things go, I have truncated my reviews and/or thoughts for some of the smaller films that have been or will be released within the last couple of weeks and included them in this single post. Hit the jump for quick takes on the likes of The Favourite, Vox Lux, The Mule, Destroyer, Mary Queen of Scots, Wildlife, Shoplifters, The Front Runner, Welcome to Marwen and If Beale Street Could Talk.

First Trailer for MIB: INTERNATIONAL Starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson

In my mind, this was never going to work-the idea that one could carry on what Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith created in the original Men In Black and then botched in unforgivable ways with the sequel, but somewhat redeemed with the ten year-later sequel that used a time travel bit to its advantage and turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun. One could say that I might put that original film in my top ten favorite (key word: favorite) movies of all time given I was ten when I first experienced the film and can clearly remember thinking how flat-out good of a movie it was-from every facet: the story, the comedy, the characters, the look, the score-everything was great in a full-on entertaining fashion that accomplished its job in spades. Needless to say, the idea of re-booting the franchise without either of the original trilogies stars seemed like a bad idea, but leave it to Sony to prove me wrong once again after they destroyed my preconceived notion that the last thing we needed right now was another Spider-Man movie, let alone an animated one. With MIB: International the studio has enlisted young and hip commodities like Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thomspon to re-vitalize and refresh the brand while keeping ties open to the original by having Emma Thompson reprise her role as Agent O from the third film. Smith and Jones get a nod in a mural that graces the halls of MIB headquarters, but this is very clearly not a film intent on re-hashing characters or circumstances from the original outside of silly alien designs and outrageous shiny weapons. As far as the story is concerned though, it seems this new film will deal with a mole in the Men In Black organization. Given the film has been written by the guys who penned the last Transformers movie as well as Iron Man it's anyone's guess as to how good or bad the Men In Black twist on this premise might be, but Straight Outta Compton and Fate of the Furious director, F. Gary Gray, hopefully has enough style up his sleeve to make some if not most of this feel substantial as well. Men In Black: International also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Najiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Liam Neeson, and opens on June 14th, 2019.

Official Trailer for HELLBOY Starring David Harbour

In the category of things you didn’t know you needed, but are getting anyway (something Hollywood is admittedly good about) Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate have officially (and finally!) released the first trailer for the Hellboy re-boot starring Stranger Things star David Harbour. That feels rather odd to say given Harbour has been such a reliable character actor who’s been working for so long in what, at least in retrospect, feel like strong, adult dramas, but good on the guy for taking his new found fame and banking on it in a lead franchise role. By the time this latest incarnation of Hellboy hits the screen it will have been a decade plus a year since director Guillermo del Toro produced his well-reviewed, but overshadowed sequel: The Golden Army. I can’t say I wasn’t an offender of TGAs as it came out the week prior to The Dark Knight in the summer of 2008 and I was busy going to see Christopher Nolan’s sequel upwards of ten times in theaters, not giving TGA a cinematic outing until it reached my local dollar theater (RIP). The point being, when I did finally get around to seeing TGA I was genuinely surprised by how great it was and how much I found myself immersed in the world and mythology given I could take or leave del Toro’s initial film. And while it seemed for a long time in that decade in between then and now that we’d eventually, somehow end up with a third del Toro/Ron Perlman Hellboy movie, we did not...and here we are. Harbour looks like he’s having a ton of fun with the role if this trailer is any indication and I’m really digging the irreverent tone of the whole thing (director Neil Marshall made the 2006 underground hit The Descent and has directed A LOT of TV you’ll know), but as for what will differentiate this from the previous films story-wise remains to be seen though it should be noted the comic's creator, Mike Mignola, opted for this re-booted R-rated take rather than finishing out the del Toro/Perlman trilogy. A friend who has read a few of the Hellboy comics cited The Wild Hunt-which this film is said to be based on-as one of his favorites as it sees Hellboy getting the opportunity to wield, good enough for me! Hellboy also stars Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim, Milla Jovovich, Sasha Lane, Brian Gleeson, Sophie Okonedo, Penelope Mitchell, Allstair Petrie, and opens on April 12th, 2019.

VICE Review

Doing what is right is boring. Following the rules is boring. Doing what is wrong is entertaining. Bending and breaking the rules is amusing. Movies should not be made about politicians, but given most politicians don't do the right thing rather often and tend to break and bend the rules to fit their own needs and agenda as frequently as they need to it is no surprise there are plenty of television shows and movies based around and on political figures. There is a brief scene in Adam McKay's latest film, Vice, based around the life of Vice President Dick Cheney where he is teaching one of his daughter's how to fish and she asks if the trick of baiting the fish with a live worm is right or wrong-you know, morally. Cheney replies that, "It's not right or wrong, it's just fishing." His daughter admits to not wanting to hurt the worm, but her father summarizes his justification for the sport by stating, "You find out what they want and you use it to catch them. The family gets to eat." It is with this perspective that Cheney seemed to approach his political career as well-it also exemplifies how every single line and aspect of McKay's film is integral to the portrait the writer and filmmaker is painting. "It's not right or wrong, it's just what needs to be done." What McKay is really exploring through Vice though, is this idea of how does a man go on to become who he is? The film describes life as being a series of events that contain certain moments that are so delicate, that they are akin to a stack of teacups with a saucer in between each where-at any moment-one could fall in any direction and change the course of the future forever. Unfortunately, there's no way to know the future and which way things will fall, but while McKay is keen to note that Cheney more or less fell into the roles he would eventually allow to define the purpose of his life largely due to the involvement of his wife, what he seems particularly interested in dissecting is how Cheney came to view the job of serving the country and how he interpreted that responsibility as it becomes very clear that Cheney and his staff were experts at interpreting things strictly in the way they wanted and in what would benefit their cause best. What McKay is truly attempting to do is bring about a case concerning how Cheney had his hands in so many pies, either for reasons of his own agenda or for what he truly thought was best for the country (it's hard to tell from one issue to the next), and that the result of these meddling's effectively changed the course of history. McKay wants the viewer to not only read that tagline that could easily be misconstrued as a piece of hyperbole and understand it, but to grasp it and take to heart; to truly understand the ramifications of this single man's actions in determining the fate of millions upon millions of other people's lives.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 18, 2018


Look, I get it, Aquaman was never going to be an easy movie to make-especially given the weight of the pressure on the film to make or break Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe. The losses certainly outweigh the wins at this point, but there was a hope that after the triumph of Wonder Woman and the hurried process of simply getting through Justice League (a movie already in production when Batman v Superman received its backlash and essentially completed when WW turned things around) that James Wan's Aquaman might be able to finally allow this rival to the Marvel Studios cinematic universe to settle on and find its own distinct tone. Aquaman somewhat accomplishes this as the movie certainly settles on its own tone-one that is arguably appropriate for a movie about a man who can talk to fish-but Aquaman also never seems to find its rhythm. Wan, a master of suspense and horror, translated his skills into the bigger, action-oriented realm fairly well with Furious 7, but while Aquaman features some of the best choreographed and executed fight sequences of the year everything around them feels like an exercise in trying to figure out how best to configure an underwater world that the movie still hasn't figured out by the time it reaches its final, climactic battle. So listen, I understand there is only so much one can do with an Aquaman movie, I really do, but while the ambition is there and the movie offers some genuine fun in fits and starts the product as a whole never gels in the fashion that it feels like a complete, satisfactory work. Wan's Aquaman, as penned by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall, feels like if the Power Rangers series had decided to grow up with the generation Mighty Morphin premiered with, but never developed mentally past that of an eight-year-old's mindset. Meaning, the only thing growing with the audience was the budget while still retaining the mentality and most importantly, the sense of humor, of that core demographic of fourth and fifth graders. Aquaman is a Saturday morning live-action cartoon on steroids likely meaning a certain, large demographic of the audience will absolutely love and revel in what Wan has put together and to be frank, upon further re-watches I can see how it might become more endearing, but upon first impression Aquaman leaves much to be desired in terms of substance despite indulging its audience in eye candy and overwhelming them with silliness.


In the sixteen years since Sam Raimi's Spider-Man first debuted we've had seven different Spider-Man films featuring four different incarnations of the webslinger. And while each of those incarnations have their own unique qualities that make each effort commendable (even the less successful ones-I'm a fan of the Marc Webb Amazing films, even), with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse we get something that would seemingly be the nail in the coffin as far as originality in blockbuster cinema goes. I mean, "Seven Spider-Man films in sixteen years? That's a new Spider-Man every four years and didn't we just get a new Peter Parker last summer? Why do we need another Spider-Man let alone another Spider-Man movie?" These are all valid questions and concerns, but somehow-rather than being the tipping point that sends audiences over the edge into full-on superhero saturation directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman have crafted a superhero film that does the complete opposite and reinvigorates the genre over and over again with its brisk two-hour time frame. What Spider-Verse does to separate itself from the past incarnations of the character is not only introduce a new Spider-Man in the form of Miles Morales (DOPE's Shameik Moore), but to also offer a completely new origin story that also offers a new perspective on what it's like to be a superhero. The movie, which comes from producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie, 21 and 22 Jump Street) with Lord getting a sole screenwriting credit, knows exactly what it is and if you've seen any of Lord and Miller's previous work then you know how aware and how smart they are about recognizing the genre they're operating within, completely lampooning that genre, and then creating an experience of a movie that exists within that genre that is somehow simultaneously one of the best examples of that genre. For instance, if you were to pool this year's list of superhero films (a very strong year to boot) Spider-Verse would still be among the very best of them despite the fact superhero fatigue and references to past missteps in the series are explicit within the film's DNA. By executing the tropes audiences have become accustomed to in such expert fashion and placing this fresh twist on our expectations of the genre, Spider-Verse is able to stake claim in the fact that while viewers have seen plenty of superhero movies before, they've never seen one quite like this.


While the distance between myself and 2014's Godzilla has not exactly made the heart grow fonder, last year's Kong: Skull Island at least did more with the titular monster character and his friends to be entertaining if not necessarily excellent. Skull Island completely knew what it was and embraced that whole-heartily and it seems Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus filmmaker Michael Dougherty has very much done the same with his follow-up to Gareth Edwards' film. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the crypto-zoological agency Monarch-which has been the connective tissue through both of those two, aforementioned Warner Bros. monster movies-faces off against an arsenal of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. Having no sense of the history of this franchise or real sense of significance with these monsters outside of that one time when a younger cousin got really into the old Toho Godzilla films, there was never any real connection I held with the material. I remember the names Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, but not much else as I was never drawn to the appeal of the movies; I could see why people were drawn to them, but they never felt as if they were for me. This is all to say that while this latest Hollywood version of Godzilla's greatest hits will probably be a lot of fun and looks as if it knows how to be exactly what it wants to be there is a certain sense of coldness between myself and everything I've seen around the film that doesn't necessarily have me excited for what the narrative or even the action might have in store. It is worth noting that the human cast in this thing is pretty incredible as it not only includes the likes of Stranger Things breakout Millie Bobby Brown (I still can't believe that's her full name-it's so great) at the forefront, but also has newcomers Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler joining in on the action as what I can only surmise are Brown's character's guardians in some capacity though what connection her character makes with the title character remains to be seen. Godzilla: King of the Monsters also stars Bradley Whitford, Ken Watanabe, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, and Sally Hawkins, but c'mon...we all know who the real stars are here. Additionally, the film opens on May 31st, 2019.


Bumblebee is produced by Steven Spielberg, but it doesn't feel like a 2018 Steven Spielberg-produced movie, it feels like a 1987 Steven Spielberg-produced movie. That is to say this Travis Knight picture is undoubtedly influenced by the young ensemble adventures of Spielberg's early days and is nothing short of a welcome change of pace for a franchise that, let's be honest, had long since passed its breaking point and was desperate for some change in direction (take note, Wizarding World!). Knight, the son of Phil Knight AKA the co-founder and current Chairman of Nike, Inc., who is himself now the current president and CEO of Laika Animation-a studio he helped re-organize and re-brand over a decade ago-had only directed a single feature (2016's Kubo and the Two Strings) prior to taking on the task of re-energizing a major franchise, but damn it if the guy doesn't have a grasp on exactly what this franchise needed: simplicity. The key is simplicity in everything and Knight as well as sole (emphasis on sole) screenwriter Christina Hodson (Unforgettable) understand that from the perspective of the story all the way down to character design; things are streamlined in order to simultaneously wipe the slate clean and inject some much needed adrenaline into the concept of robots in disguise. Gone are the convoluted plots and multiple McGuffin’s of Michael Bay's films and stripped are the overly detailed and multi-colored Transformer designs as Knight and co. make everything better by making it easier. In doing so, Bumblebee quickly establishes itself not only as a thrilling, adventure origin story of sorts, but as one of the more heartwarming films of the season as well (I know, I'm as surprised as you are). A true coming-of-age story for both the title character and Hailee Steinfeld's Charlie that features a few massive action set pieces rather than the other way around, Bumblebee is somehow able to retain the tone of a Saturday morning cartoon while rising above being little more than a campy homage to those Spielberg-involved films of yesteryear a la The Goonies or E.T. In fact, Bumblebee is more an unabashed update of The Iron Giant that changes the setting from space race era America to the radically free MTV-inspired era of the eighties. With its feet firmly planted in a universe where the kids are always smarter than the adults, where the aliens are as fearful of us as we are of them, and where every scenario we're presented with is one any group of young children could play out in their backyards Bumblebee resuscitates a series that had long been surviving on life support.

First Official Trailer for AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Avengers: Infinity War is currently and is likely to remain my number one film of 2018. What that film accomplished and the amount of expectation it lived up to is as close to immeasurable as I can imagine and so, to say that anticipation for the follow-up and conclusion of what has been a decades worth of films is high is an understatement. Since the credits rolled on Infinity War in late April of this year leaving room for only a minor Captain Marvel tease afterward there has been little discussion about what was to come in the direct sequel to the film despite coming to know how absent players like Ant-Man and the Wasp played into the events of the film. Marvel Studios will of course be rolling out Captain Marvel in March of next year and delivered a second, full trailer for the Brie Larson-fronted film on Monday night as rumors are also swirling that our first look at Spider-Man: Far From Home will be arriving tomorrow via the Sony Panel at the Comic-Con Experience in San Paulo, Brazil. Sony no doubt wanted whatever kind of teaser has been put together for Far From Home to play before the upcoming Into the Spiderverse that opens next weekend and given at the end of Infinity War that character was a pile of dust there would need to be some kind of statement from Marvel or glimpse at the second half of Infinity War so as the more casual viewers might possibly understand how Tom Holland's webslinger was back. Up until this point though, not even a title was know for the fourth Avengers film and now, as we have the title and have seen images from the film confirming it will in fact be ready to go by this summer movie season it's kind of surreal in a way that this was always going to be unavoidable, but somehow it seemed as if it might be so big as to forever elude us. Avengers: Endgame also stars Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner, Evangeline Lily, Vin Diesel, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Pom Klementieff, Dae Bautista, Josh Brolin, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, and opens April 26th, 2019.