John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum Review

Director Chad Stehelski and Keanu Reeves Continue to Up Their Game in this Third Installment as the Action is More Impressive than Ever.

Avengers: Endgame Review

This Season Finale for the MCU brings to a Conclusion one of the Greatest Experiments in Cinematic History with as Much Grace and Satisfaction as One Could Hope.

POKÉMON Detective Pikachu Review

The First Live-Action Pokémon Film Sports a Beautiful Aesthetic and some Fun Moments, but the Story Undoes Much of this Work.

The Intruder Review

Dennis Quaid Takes a Turn Into B-Movie Territory as a Maniac who Can't Seem to Let the Past Go.

Long Shot Review

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron Deliver Their Version of the Romantic Comedy with some Political Commentary on the Side.

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING Review

The Kid Who Would be King takes the Arthurian legend, drops it into modern day Britain, and puts a Stranger Things twist on it in the hopes of capturing some of the magic of those live-action adventure flicks for kids that were more prominent in the early to mid-nineties. The Kid Who Would Be King is immediately appealing and don't get me wrong, has its charms, but as one sits and experiences the film it can't help but become evident that this charm largely is due to the fact audiences simply don't see this type of movie as often anymore. Were we still to get a handful of these kinds of movies every year odds are The Kid Who Would Be King would fall somewhere in the bottom half of the barrel, but given the rarity of its genre and style of its execution it can't help but to feel a little more special. Writer/director Joe Cornish, who is largely known for directing 2011's Attack the Black and introducing the world to a nineteen-year-old John Boyega, but who is also a frequent collaborator of Edgar Wright's and who has worked on screenplays for the filmmaker including Ant-Man and Hot Fuzz, has decided to place his own twist on this traditional hero's journey of a story that we've seen numerous versions and interpretations of since the beginning of cinema. Unfortunately, Cornish's twist on the material isn't exactly fresh or unique in any form that inspires something of a revitalized hope in this live-action children's genre which is rather disappointing given the way in which his previous film took certain tropes of the alien invasion film and spiced them up with a unique location and wicked sense of humor; it was fun because it featured conventional story beats upended by unconventional protagonists whereas The Kid Who Would Be King, which essentially has all of the same elements minus the R-rating, displays half the energy and even less of the creativity that seemed to surge through Attack the Block's veins. Cornish displays fits and starts of both as there is a certain energy to moments and flashes of innate creativity in others, but overall the film feels patched together and somewhat choppy-as if Cornish is never able to fall naturally into the groove he wants this story to find and thus the final product defaulting to this collection of overused themes and narrative devices that feels flat and rather bland. Cornish ultimately doesn't even attempt much of a twist on these beats, but more plays to the strength of them which-thankfully-is more than enough to keep the target audience entertained if not completely entranced.

Red-Band Trailer for THE BEACH BUM Starring Matthew McConaughey

Neon, the distribution house who has produced recent favorites such as I, Tonya, Vox Lux, and Three Identical Strangers continues its run of making real competition for prominent indie studios like A24 with what might possibly be the most outrageous film we see all year. While the studio released a first look at the film a couple of months ago they have now released a second, red-band trailer for the film allowing it to seemingly market itself in its truest and most liberated fashion. Writer/director Harmony Korine‘s comedy starring Matthew McConaughey as a “rebellious rogue” named Moondog living large, mostly high, and completely by his own rules in Miami is about as much as one can derive the movie is about from either trailer though. What makes the lack of any insight about the film in terms of its objective or what it hopes to relay is the sheer amount character, mood, and tone put forth in the images we have seen thus far. While McConaughey's stock has certainly taken a dive over the last few years post-Oscar win (last weekend's Serenity made for the star's sixth straight critical and commercial live-action flop following The Sea of Trees, Free State of Jones, Gold, The Dark Tower, and White Boy Rick as even his two animated films, Sing and Kubo and the Two Strings, either didn't perform critically or commercially), but with that in mind the guy is do for a win and if anything might bring him out of a funk-at least critically-it's that of a collaboration with Korine. The filmmaker originally made his name by writing the 1995's controversial Kids, the NC-17 drama that featured Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson in their film debuts, but went on to wider acclaim after writing and directing 2012’s Spring Breakers and as this will be Korine's follow-up there is definitely a certain amount of anticipation-let's just home the filmmaker isn't peddling the same themes here as the setting, color palette, and character traits all share more than a little in common. The Beach Bum also stars Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Snoop Dogg, Martin Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Jimmy Buffett, Stefania LaVie Owen, and hits theaters on March 22nd after making its world premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 22, 2019

2019 Oscar Nominations

Here we are once again with the 2019 Oscar nominations and while I attempt to limit any coverage of the awards season hoopla (simply because there are so many to cover and too little to care about) the Academy Awards are obviously the biggest show of the season and so it was with great anticipation I awaited this morning’s announcements. What has been great about this year's award season thus far is the seeming lack of any clear front-runner. There have been so many films vying for the attention of awards season audiences this season, including a few that hardly got noticed at all including First Reformed (how is Ethan Hawke not racking up on statues?) and First Man (available on home video platforms today!), and thus it has resulted in a field of nominees that, while more concentrated than I imagined, still leaves room for an open playing field come the night of the ceremony. Let's start with things I'm happy to see. Obviously, with A Star is Born being one of my favorite movies of 2018 I am thrilled to see writer/director/star Bradley Cooper and his film grab a Best Picture and Best Actor nomination, but the snub of no directing nod for Cooper is a big indicator of how the gold might actually pass this one up. Still, it's nice to see Lady Gaga get nominated in the Best Actress category here though her odds have winning have decreased significantly over the past month or two. A Star is Born felt like the heavy-hitter of this awards season going in, but hasn't done much outside a few wins for Gaga in acting and Original Song. While I'm still optimistic about the film's chances at taking home some major prizes there is definitely more of a risk of something like Green Book or-most likely-Roma taking some of the major categories. I wouldn't be surprised if there's another split among Director and Picture this year, but we'll get into the details of things in the following paragraphs to come. For now, hit the jump for a full list of nominees.

GLASS Review

Nineteen years after writer/director M. Night Shyamalan's sophomore effort, Unbreakable, and two years after he confirmed his return to form with Split, the unique auteur has concocted what is the third film in an unlikely, but not so unlikely trilogy given the twist in Unbreakable was that all-along viewers were watching the origin story of a new hero and his arch nemesis yet were unaware of it. Like Unbreakable, Split was marketed under the guise of a different genre than what its true intentions held and when that original, James Newton Howard score re-emerged in those final moments of Split almost two years ago to the weekend it was one of the greatest "twists" I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a theater. This inadvertently created an issue for Shyamalan though, as with this trilogy-capper, Glass, there is no disguising what genre this film belongs to: this is a super hero movie through and through. And so, for a director who has made a name and a career off of the misdirect and/or "twist ending" the challenge in penning his first, unabashed sequel would be that of how might he might continue building these characters organically while integrating them into one another's respective worlds as well as framing the continuation of their story through a device that would satisfy the intrigue and sustain the investment. The idea that James McAvoy's "Beast" or Kevin Wendall Crumb as we know he truly exists is in the same world as Bruce Willis' David Dunn and Samuel L. Jackson's Elijah Price made for some exciting prospects, but where would Shyamalan actually go with things? How would these three individuals find their way across one another's paths and even if they happened to meet-what might it ultimately amount to? These are big questions that require much ambition and follow-through and while Shyamalan has been saying since Unbreakable opened in 2000 that he's had ideas or plans for a follow-up the time has finally come to put up or shut-up and for the most part, it's a good thing Shyamalan doesn't shut-up. With Glass, the filmmaker certainly has much to communicate and much he wants to say, but one will be hard pressed to figure out how all of these (broken) pieces are meant to fit together.

First Trailer for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM

The third entry in Keanu Reeves' latest franchise, John Wick, that began as a humble one-off revenge thriller in 2014 with little to no aspirations has (finally) released its first full trailer and this neon-soaked barrage of violence and fine tailoring couldn't look more badass. John Wick: Chapter 3 or Parabellum as it has now been subtitled will follow the events of Chapter 2 in allowing audiences to witness the "excommunicado” of its titular assassin as he is now a wanted man by the entire criminal underworld, but without the safe haven of places like The Continental to escape to. While it looks as if much of this latest film will see Wick on the run, eluding and deflecting those with balls big enough to try and claim the bounty on his head it also looks as if director Chad Stahelski (who co-directed the first film, but went solo on the sequel), directing a script from Derek Kolstad, will be introducing plenty of new faces-not least of all a character played by Halle Berry. While Berry hasn't exactly spurned the promising beginnings of her career into one of widely adored projects or a franchise or character that has catapulted her to insane levels of fame, she seems right at home in this world of Wick and given she seems to essentially be teaming up with Reeves I can only hope the chemistry and banter between them is as good as I might venture to guess; the touch of her having a pair of attack dogs isn't bad either. Of course, what most come to the John Wick franchise for is the action and it would be hard to blame them as both the aesthetic of the film in general and the look of the many large action sequences here look to be downright striking. Taking place mostly at night, with lots of moody rain we see Wick chase sword-wielding motor cyclists on a horse in a chase sequence I can't imagine will be anything less than bonkers while Wick also seems to have figured out a way to make even reading lethal. Needless to say, this looks to be exactly what any sequel to that 2014 original would promise itself to be. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum once again reunites Reeves with his Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne, with other newcomers including Anjelica Huston, Jason Mantzoukas, Hiroyuki Sanada, Robin Lord Taylor, Tiger Hu Chen, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman, while Ian McShane,  Lance Reddick, Common, and Ruby Rose all return when the film opens on May 17th, 2019.

Teaser Trailer for SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

It's been quite the a month or so for Marvel Studios-kicking things off with what feels like the ramp-up for their first film of 2019 with the much anticipated, first female-led Captain Marvel and of course following that up with the glorious teaser that finally revealed the title and our first real look at what we now know is Avengers: Endgame. And now, today brings us the first look at what will be Marvel's (in association with Sony, of course) third film of 2019 in the official sequel to 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home. Far From Home only just wrapped shooting in October, but while filmmakers and digital effects artists are now able to work almost simultaneously with one another, building sequences that require large amounts of CGI as dailies are being sent to them from set, this did leave one curious as to just how much has been accomplished in the three months of post-production as rumors began to swirl as early as the same week the Endgame trailer dropped that we'd be getting a Far From Home trailer. Sony no doubt wanted to give their animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie time to breathe before reminding people there would be another movie featuring the web-slinger hitting theaters in less than a year and good on them for it as Spider-Verse certainly deserves all the acclaim and accolades it is receiving, but no lie-this looks great and the effects look better than expected meaning we get more money shots here than I thought we might. Given the events of Infinity War and the fact we don't yet know what happens in Endgame it was always going to be a tricky task to market a film featuring a character that supposedly "died" in that movie, but this teaser makes no reference to that seminal work in regards to superhero films, but instead goes one further and confirms Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is also back from being dusted. Jon Watts returns to direct this sequel that will see Peter Parker and his friends, including Zendaya's MJ and Jacob Batalon's Ned, going on a summer vacation to Europe where Peter and co. find themselves in a plot with Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio. Spider-Man: Far From Home also stars Cobie Smulders, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Michael Keaton, Angourie Rice, Martin Starr, Tony Revolori, J.B. Smoove, and opens on July 5th, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 15, 2019

MOVIES I WANNA SEE MOST: 2019

With a new year we are brought many a new prospects for our entertainment purposes and in looking forward to 2019 one thing is more than clear and that is the fact audiences will have an abundance of interesting material to choose from. In setting out to make a most anticipated list I actually began with some fifty-something films I found interesting or knew I'd care to see based solely on surface factors such as director, cast members, or synopsis. It pains me that movies like John Crowley's follow-up to Brooklyn, Goldfinch, won't get acknowledged here nor will James Mangold's Ford v. Ferrari, Danny Boyle's Beatles project, or Joe Wright's The Woman in the Window, but that is the way these things work. That is without mentioning the long list of blockbusters that won't appear here-including Glass, Shazam!, Captain Marvel, John Wick: Chapter 3, The Lion King, and the Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle sequel-as I'm certainly excited to see what each of those deliver, but am not anticipating any with the fervor my top ten bring.

THE UPSIDE Review

Charming is the key word here. You will be charmed. The Upside is charming. Charmed in the sense not that The Upside will put you under a spell necessarily, but more in the sense of it being a pure pleasure; a delight, if you will. Many a foreign films are re-tooled into American stories so as to make the context more familiar and the circumstances more relatable/understandable, but oddly enough the 2011 French film, The Intouchables, might be the last foreign film to come to mind when considering what would benefit from a re-contextualization as it, by virtue of its broad and rather simple odd-couple premise, feels the least foreign in terms of beats and emotions relayed. Still, for one reason or another it was deemed a big enough hit overseas and therefore must have been doing enough right to make a stateside studio want to re-make it once more (it has already been re-made in India as well as having a Spanish-language re-make to boot) and so why not hire the likes of Walter White and the most reliable comic actor of the moment to bring it to a wider, English-speaking audience? Thus, The Upside was born and first premiered on the festival circuit back in the fall of 2017, but was shelved and sold off following the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. Eventually bought by STX Entertainment, the studio is either hoping people overlook the time of year in which they are dumping this into theaters and simply trust the inspired pairing of Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart or they are just trying to unload what is sure to make some money, but what they ultimately realize was always an unnecessary piece of cinema. And yet, unnecessary as it may be, the inspired pairing of Cranston and Hart is what makes director Neil Burger's (Limitless, The Illusionist) re-make of the film a film with genuine heart and even a little insightful substance from time to time rather than that of a film completely devoid of any charm or wit that exists solely as an opportunity to replicate a previous winning formula. The Upside is certainly formula and it goes without saying any seasoned movie-goer will know to expect every beat this hits, but that doesn't mean it's neither appealing nor endearing as it strokes its familiar elements to the point it is these charming qualities that stand out most.   

ESCAPE ROOM Review

Though I haven't seen Vincenzo Natali's 1997 film, Cube, I have seen about thirty-two Saw movies and, in all honesty, could take or leave a PG-13 version of those movies that decided to utilize that same premise while also capitalizing on the recent fad of going with your friends to an "escape room" and seeing if you can figure out the clues in enough time to, well...escape. It's a nice little riff writer/director Adam Robitel (Insidious: The Last Key) has come up with, sure, but he's essentially re-contextualized that aforementioned Natali picture for modern audiences as the synopsis for Cube is surprisingly accurate for Robitel's Escape Room. "Six complete strangers of widely varying personality types are involuntarily placed in an endless maze containing deadly traps." Change that "involuntarily" to "voluntarily" and you have yourself a whole new movie. Despite the glaring similarities between itself and a number of other subgenre peers though, Escape Room still manages to make itself feel fresh in ways that emphasize the journey rather than leave it all up to the destination. Escape Room doesn't necessarily improve upon any of these well-worn tropes, but it isn't a completely wasteful take on the premise either; it doesn't re-invent the wheel, but it re-designs it to the extent a wheel can be re-designed.

New Trailer for HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U

With a budget of under $5 million and a domestic gross of $122+ million it was inevitable that Blumhouse and Universal would be jumping on this train and quickly pumping out a sequel to the surprise Halloween smash that was Happy Death Day-which will have only debuted sixteen months prior by the time its sequel hits on Valentine’s Day this year. While the premise of Happy Death Day was tried and true it had never really been attempted in the vein of a horror movie-or more specifically-a slasher movie before, but it made sense: in slasher movies a mysterious killer goes around killing this core group of teens we come to know in an order we can easily guess based on a combination of race, gender, and screentime, but instead of being a predictable, run of the mill slasher what if it was the same kill every time with our hero trying to figure out how they both got stuck in said loop and how they might escape it; it’s defeating the killer on a whole other level and while this premise doesn’t typically lend itself well to sequels, it can’t help but seem Happy Death Day 2U (one of the greatest sequel titles of all time, I might add) is taking things to a whole other level with where this next film may in fact go next. Given the sequel’s plot picks up from Happy Death Day's conclusion it almost feels like Christopher Landon’s film will reach for Back to the Future 2 aspirations where not only does the second film become a satisfying continuation in executing the logical next step, but also goes about lending the events of the original more meaning at the same time. Landon, who directed the first film from a screenplay by Scott Lobdell, has penned the sequel screenplay on his own (though he's no rookie having written Disturbia and several of the Paranormal Activity sequels) and seems to have infused more of his comedic tendencies (see Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse if you haven't already) into the fabric of the film as star Jessica Rothe definitely seems to have more opportunities here to show her full comedic range as was hinted at in the first film while the film itself feels more like a horror/comedy than a straight-up scary movie. Happy Death Day 2U also stars Israel Broussard, Suraj Sharma, and Sarah Yarkin and opens in theaters on February 14, 2019.