FATMAN Review

The Nelms Brothers Pit Mel Gibson against Walton Goggins in this Dark Christmas Comedy that Sees Santa Receive Payback for All the Coal He's Left Over the Years.

RUN Review

Searching Director Aneesh Chaganty Returns with Another Hitchcockian Thriller Featuring Sarah Paulson at Her Most Mommie Dearest.

SOUND OF METAL Review

Riz Ahmed Shines in Darius Marder's Directorial Debut about a Heavy-Metal Drummer Whose Life is Thrown into Freefall When he Begins to Lose his Hearing.

HILLBILLY ELEGY Review

Ron Howard can't Even Find Ample Opportunity for Glenn Close and Amy Adams to Pine for Awards in this Well-Intentioned, but Ill-Conceived Bio-Drama.

NOMADLAND Review

Frances McDormand Anchors Director Chloé Zhao's Fictional, but Alarmingly Authentic Portrait of a Woman Looking to Discover a New Life in a Dying World.

THE TRUE ADVENTURES OF WOLFBOY Review

A modern fable of sorts, The True Adventures of Wolfboy feels like it's intended to largely be an allegory while in fact being a pretty straightforward story that seems to have been concocted for the sole purpose of delivering as broad a message as possible about acceptance. What's not curious is that a film with "wolfboy" in the title feels akin to the type of story that might have been told around countless campfires in the past, but what is curious is how a movie with "wolfboy" in the title comes away feeling as poignant and tender as Martin Krejčí's film does. There is a moment barely two minutes into the film after we're initially introduced to Jaeden Martell's Paul and his father, Denny (Chris Messina), as they stroll through a carnival on Paul's birthday that efficiently places us inside the perspective we're meant to inhabit for the rest of the story. Paul is a thirteen year-old boy whose biggest fear isn't the onset of puberty, but rather dealing with the fact his body has been covered in hair since he was a baby. This is actually the result of a rare disease called Hypertrichosis AKA Werewolf Syndrome and it has forced Paul to wear a ski mask for the better part of his life in order to conceal the congenital disease. Paul doesn't want to be at the carnival and in fact thinks that because it's his birthday he should have final say on what they do, but his father knows were it up to Paul he would spend all day in his room, alone. As Denny describes a ride to his son called "the dragon's dilemma" (which is not coincidentally also the name of the first chapter in Paul's saga) they are approached by three local boys around Paul's age. The boys claim to be Paul's friends - which brightens his father's face - but it quickly becomes apparent they're only bullies looking to get a rise out of Paul and Denny. They make their jokes and quickly run away, Denny immediately demanding their names as if already planning retribution via their parents, but it is Paul's response that highlights the moment and reminds the audience who isn't aware they even needed reminding that just because this is the first abusive encounter we've seen Paul endure it is far from the first or last time he will have to experience as much. When Denny asks for the names Paul simply responds, "They don't have names." Such provocations and badgering have been aimed in Paul's direction for so long now the enemies don't even have names or faces. They just exist, like weeds in a garden, and the moment you try to eradicate them twice as many take their place. This is heartbreaking, sure, and the interaction rings as such between Paul and his long-defeated dad, but this also tells us why - if we couldn't already surmise and sympathize with as much - we'll come to find out that Paul is kind of a jerk. Immediately dropping the expectation that our protagonist is a noble character who forges past life's biggest barrier to overcome the odds allows Olivia Dufault's (Legion, Preacher) screenplay to take us on a rather dark, but simultaneously uplifting journey where the story beats and characters feel neither trite or absurd despite the outward facade that would have you believe as much by placing the word "wolfboy" front and center.  

Teaser Trailer for Disney's RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

The first trailer for Walt Disney Animation Studio's Raya and the Last Dragon has arrived. Originally meant to open in theaters this Thanksgiving, the Mouse House's fifty-ninth animated feature is now set to premiere next March. Of course, this isn't the first bit of drama the movie has had to deal with as Disney Animation announced in August that three new directors/co-directors had been brought on board the film, as well as adding a new producer and recasting the lead voice actress. These changes were obviously not made at this time only announced publicly on this date, but past news stories from several credible outlets suggest the production of Raya, a Southeast Asia-inspired fantasy film, has not been smooth. New directors Don Hall - a director on Big Hero 6 and Winnie the Pooh, who also served as a co-director on Moana - was teamed with Disney new-hire Carlos López Estrada. Estrada, only thirty-one, is a Mexican filmmaker who directed a number of music videos and commercials prior to making his feature directorial debut in 2018 with the live-action film Blindspotting starring Daveed Diggs. Paul Briggs was originally announced as the director of Raya in 2018, along with Dean Wellins, who is no longer on the project as Briggs was seemingly demoted to co-director with John Ripa being brought on alongside him. Both Briggs and Ripa are story department veterans and have served as heads of story on past Disney hits. While the new directors are something of an odd couple in terms of both the amount and the kind of experience they possess it would seem Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee (the director/writer of both Frozen films who took over for John Lasseter in 2018) must have seen a spark of something unique the team could bring to the table as this first teaser trailer for the film highlights something of an unexpected, but wholly welcome tonal shift. The film is set in the fictional fantasy land of Kumandra, which has been inspired by cultures from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Laos. The story - as penned by Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) with revisions by Qui Nguyen - follows Raya (The Last Jedi's Kelly Marie Tran who replaced Cassie Steele) as she searches for the titular last dragon, voiced in the film by Awkwafina. As it turns out the dragon, named Sisu, is a water dragon who can transform into human form and the two set off on an adventure to stop an evil entity from taking over their kingdom. A somewhat by-the-numbers good vs. evil scenario, but we all know it's about the journey, not the destination and if this first look tells us anything it's that this should be one fun, exciting journey. Raya and the Last Dragon is set to open on March 12, 2021.    

ON THE ROCKS Review

Having only now seen half of Sofia Coppola's movies I still don't know where I sit with the filmmaker. That said, the four features I have seen likely sum up why Coppola's career has felt mostly hit or miss as Lost in Translation was lost on me when I first experienced it at fifteen, The Bling Ring was one of the biggest disappointments for me a decade later in 2013, while The Beguiled may very well be my favorite film of hers as I haven't seen Marie Antoinette, but appreciated the step back from the more relaxed yet reflective nature that seems to encompasses the majority of her work. While I also haven't seen The Virigin Suicides, the director's breakout 1999 adaptation of the Jeffrey Eugenides novel, it would seem that her latest, On the Rocks certainly positions itself more in the category of the Lost in Translations, Somewheres, and Bling Rings than it does her more ambitious work. That isn't to say these films don't have as much ambition from an emotional standpoint, but more that it seems all of the effort put in is emotional leaving very little room for Coppola - who also writes or adapts works for her own direction - to pour efforts and vision into the other, equally important departments. As this seems to be the case with On the Rocks, there is plenty to appreciate from the perspective of varying perspectives as well as themes and ideas that deal with societal double standards, father/daughter relationships where the daughter is the sole exception for how women deserve to be treated, as well as the sanctity of marriage past the formalities and legalities and beyond to the day to day where the love is sustained or quickly killed, but outside of the plot that pushes these thoughts to the forefront Coppola's latest doesn't really offer much by way of what are charming or funny ways of conveying as much. The saving grace of Coppola's eighth feature is her relationship with Bill Murray and what the actor is able to bring to a role that might otherwise be seen as a writing exercise for Coppola to work out her frustrations with men and the sense of entitlement too many seem to possess. Murray's performance makes the issues with the film feel senseless though, and instead welcomes the viewer in with such affection we feel lucky just to be able to witness Murray at his most "him". Whether the title be in reference to a drink or a relationship, Coppola's latest - while likely the undiluted film she wanted to make - unfortunately experiences some difficulties along with way.

REBECCA Review

First, some context: I haven't exactly been a big fan of director Ben Wheatley's films thus far. On the other side of this coin is the fact I've only seen two of the man's films in High-Rise and Free Fire. So, not a wealth of evidence on which to base my presumption that the filmmaker's take on Daphne du Maurier’s beloved 1938 gothic novel and the second major film adaptation after Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 version wouldn't live up to its acclaimed predecessors. Some further context: I haven't seen Hitchcock's film nor have I read du Maurier’s novel, so at the very least Wheatley's iteration of this story would not be viewed under the shadow of those former works. In turn, this works well for a viewer and viewers with the same circumstances given the mystery of the piece undoubtedly works better for those previously unaware of the specifics of the narrative. That said, the two films I have seen from Wheatley both very much fit into a small, very specific kind of niche genre in that both seemed to have been heavily influenced by the style and color palette of the seventies while carrying an equally sardonic tone if not admittedly varied when it came to themes and ideas. If nothing else, Rebecca would offer an opportunity for the director to branch out stylistically and tackle a different genre altogether in this very British, very romance-infused thriller as adapted by the likes of by Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass) and screenwriting duo Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse (Seberg). The idea is certainly ripe given Rebecca purports to be something vastly different than that of anything Wheatley has made before, but would seem to take a turn into terrain that the director is not necessarily accustomed to, but is likely more comfortable in. It is in this hope that Wheatley's mentality and strong penchant for bringing an attitude and point of view out of his images and into the tone of his films might make Rebecca more than a by-the-numbers account of jealousy incarnate, but it is in this hope that this latest endeavor ultimately fails as it more often than not feels like this new adaptation of du Maurier’s work could have been made by anyone. Despite having not read the novel and not having seen any other versions of the work Wheatley's film moves along at a pace that fails to ever make viewers fully invest in either the characters, the drama, or the character's drama. This is an adaptation that is just enticing enough to pique interest in the source material yet couldn't feel more like a condensed version of the literature; the depths of Wheatley's film only reaching so far as Mrs. Danvers' compassion rather than that of Rebecca's grave.

First Trailer for THE 355 Starring Jessica Chastain & Lupita Nyong’o

While Jessica Chastain's AVA wasn't exactly the quality actioner one might have hoped for given the actor's pedigreed résumé and reputation there is some (slim) hope that The 355 might be a different approach to the genre. I'm not sure what it was about working with writer/director Simon Kinberg on X-Men: Dark Phoenix that made Chastain want to work with the filmmaker again given her under developed and rather forgettable villain in that final nail in the 20th Century FoX-Men franchise's coffin, but whatever it was let's hope the second time is a charm for these collaborators as both could use some favorable reviews. Honestly, I'm mostly sold on the "stunt" of the movie if nothing else as it centers on CIA agent Mason “Mace” Brown (Chastain) who forms a team that includes rival badass German agent Marie (Diane Kruger), former MI6 ally and cutting-edge computer specialist Khadijah (Lupita Nyong’o), skilled Colombian psychologist Graciela (Penelope Cruz), and a mysterious woman, Lin Mi Sheng (Fan Bingbing) who is tracking their every move. The team gets together in order to retrieve a top-secret weapon that has fallen into mercenary hands or some such boilerplate, but no matter the plot what the movie is going to live or die by is the camaraderie and chemistry this core group demonstrates. Written by Theresa Rebeck and Kinberg this trailer feels pretty generic with a visual style that looks competent and well-made without having a single distinctive aspect to it that would make me sit up and take notice otherwise. This could have been a short clip intended to advertise cars, jewelry, or guns from a company with a large marketing budget and I wouldn't have been surprised, but that isn't to say that's because it would make me want to buy any of those things, but more because a lot of it feels like white noise in the background. It's a "movie movie" in the vein of if aliens came to earth and we had to point out an example of the moviest of movies that ever movie'd this would seemingly be a contender. I have the urge to say just go back and watch Steve McQueen's Widows from two years ago as you probably didn't see as it at the time and it offers a similar all-female team up, but on a much smaller and more nuanced scale. Still, while Kinberg has done nothing yet to separate himself as a filmmaker and this trailer does nothing to sell me on this movie or story other than to say, "Hey! Look at this cast!" I can only hope the final product proves my initial pessimism wrong. The 355 also stars Sebastian Stan and Edgar Ramirez and is due for release on January 15, 2021.

New Trailer for FREE GUY Starring Ryan Reynolds


As Ryan Reynolds and the rest of the cast of Free Guy announced on the actor's YouTube channel yesterday the action comedy originally set for a July 4th weekend release is now definitely (probably) arriving in theaters on December 11th (maybe). With the recent news of No Time to Die officially being pushed back and today's announcement that Dune will be postponed an entire year the question of if theaters will be able to remain open through the end of the year is a huge question mark and obviously a determining factor in if we'll actually see Free Guy before the end of the year. Sure, there are titles like Robert De Niro's War with Grandpa and Liam Neeson's Honest Thief set to be released over the next two weeks and November actually has a solid slew of releases set for theaters including Blumhouse's Freaky, Pixar's Soul which is still on the schedule for a November 20th theatrical release for the time being and of course DreamWorks' sequel to The Croods which seems pretty locked in for the Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, all of these are titles that could easily transition to PVOD whereas Free Guy is a legit big-budget studio blockbuster from Fox/Disney that I could have seen going the way of Mulan had that panned out the way Disney hoped, but given the delay of Black Widow and the persistence that Free Guy will play in theaters it doesn't seem like this will be an option for the movie. All of that to say, I'm as eager as the next person to return to theaters-especially for fun, good-natured entertainment like Free Guy seems to be-but I just don't know that any major release is going to actually make it into theaters before the end of the year. As for how the actual movie itself looks, this new trailer certainly expands the world we first became privy to in the initial trailer while wisely putting on display the central theme of the film: the world can always use more good people. While the first, pre-2020 trailer played more into the spectacle aspects of the Pixels/Ralph Breaks the Internet-like premise, this new trailer ventures outside the video game world in which Reynolds' character exists and gets a little more existential with everything as our hero comes to seemingly represent a beacon of hope in an otherwise pessimistic and complacent world. Of course, the action still looks big and the ensemble cast looks like a hell of a lot of fun, but it's also refreshing to see a major movie with a high-profile star typically associated with mockery feel so...genuine? Whenever this ends up being released, it seems Free Guy will be the dose of positivity we can all use right now.       

POSSESSOR Review

It's crazy how our bodies are just vessels, right? In looking at myself in the mirror the other day I felt, for a moment, as if I didn't recognize myself and the belief that what people saw is all they associated me with if they didn't know me further kind of took me off my feet. We attempt to craft our outward appearance as much as possible to give others the best, most accurate first impression of who we are and what we represent as an individual, but there is so much more going on beneath the surface-beneath the skin-that it's difficult to sometimes grasp that others will take not from what you believe you have to offer, but what they assume you are or are not capable of. This isn't a new idea of course, everyone over the age of six knows one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I'm talking more about distilling down the difference between the identity and the character. The identity being who we truly believe ourselves to be on a level so personal you feel only you yourself know who you truly are whereas the character is that of the one you've constructed based on the context of your life. Whether it be little indicators in your physical appearance that make you lean toward dressing a certain way, the interests of your friends that you don't mind taking a liking to that influence your verbiage, or the beliefs of your parents that convey their expectations and naturally impact how you shape your own perception-there are a thousand different reasons as to why one might have constructed the outward character they've become. As we grow and as appearances and inhabited character traits become more and more a part of who we are we begin to discover what we actually like and don't like and more importantly-who we want and don't want to be. It would be easy to say all of these previous words have accomplished is to break down the psyche of what it's like to brave the terrain of the brain during one's adolescent years, but as much as that may be applicable what was actually the catalyst for these considerations are the ideas at the center of writer/director Brandon Cronenberg's second feature film, Possessor. From the outside, Possessor would appear to be a film made purely in the vein of Cronenberg's father, David's "body horror" genre and while the movie certainly has some gnarly violence woven into its fabric its clear Cronenberg, also like his father, is more interested in intertwining the psychological with the physical and in this movie specifically-the idea of how everyday life has become more like a movie than the movies have grown to reflect everyday life themselves. 

Official Trailer for BORAT 2


Borat 2
AKA Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, is not only real but now has a full-length trailer and release date on Amazon Prime. The film was made in-secret earlier this year during the initial shutdown from the Coronavirus pandemic. Sacha Baron Cohen returns in the role of his iconic character-the fictional Kazakh journalist-while also having collaborated on the script with what seemd to be at least eight other writers. The "subsequent movie film" was directed by Jason Woliner who replaces the original's Larry Charles and has thus far largely worked in television. Another person getting their big break with Borat 2 would be that of relatively unknown actress Maria Bakalova who will star opposite Cohen as Borat’s daughter as the film will seemingly focus largely on the duo’s journey to the White House in order to marry her to Vice President Mike Pence. One can only imagine the audition process for such a role, but given the fact Baron Cohen wanted to shoot and release the film prior to this year's election the idea of involving politicians and Borat's offspring only further confirmed how enlightening this long-awaited sequel should be. The film reportedly sparked a large bidding war between the streaming services with Amazon coming out on top as it was able to guarantee the October 23rd release date now being advertised. While the first film was released by 20th Century Fox which is now owned by Disney it comes as not surprise they were not involved with the sequel at all. Universal did help fund the comedy, but the film apparently belonged solely to Baron Cohen up until landing at Amazon. The experience of seeing the first Borat film in theaters is one of those vivid movie-going memories as it was a packed house where no one seemingly had any idea what we were about to embark on and by the time the credits rolled the majority of the audience, myself included, could hardly fight back tears from laughing so hard. It's good to see that this sequel will acknowledge the idea that Borat is now recognizable as the but in the Halloween shop with an adult Harry Potter costume already feels like classic Borat. Thankfully though, Borat's popularity still hasn't reached every part of the country as we see in the trailer when Baron Cohen quarantines with what we can safely assume are avid Trump supporters in a sequence reportedly shot during the pandemic once unions allowed the film’s minimal crew to return to work. According to Deadline, Cohen also had to wear a bulletproof vest on two separate occasions while filming. For example, in June, Cohen attended a Conservative rally in Washington state, where he encouraged others to sing along to racially insensitive lyrics. Needless to say, anticipation is high for what Baron Cohen pulled off this time. Hit the link to watch the first, full trailer.