Will Smith and Martin Lawrence Return for a Fourth Round in the Franchise and Continue to Deal with the Challenges of Aging in a Young Man's Game.


This Experimental Slasher Flick puts Audiences Literally In-Step with the Killer and Features Some of the Most Gruesome Deaths in the Genre's History.


Director George Miller Returns to the Wasteland with a Full-Fledged Epic that Balances the Titular Character's Story with the Bombastic Vehicular Mayhem.


This Latest Installment in the Planet of the Apes Franchise isn't Necessarily Bad, but is Probably more of a Forgotten Chapter in the Franchise Mythology.


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.



Remember in 2005 when Wedding Crashers was heralded as the return of the R-rated studio comedy? Prior to, comedies had devolved somewhat into the deluge of late-nineties high school comedies, PG-13 rated spoofs (a ripple effect of the R-rated Scary Movie in 2000), and Farrelly brother films that showed them quickly coming out of their prime. Old School jump-started the "Frat Pack" era in '03, but it was Crashers that solidified their ability to perform financially and ushered in Apatow's gang who would dominate through the 2010s. This all to say, while I'm as happy as anyone that Jennifer Lawrence's No Hard Feelings is being marketed as the "return of the R-rated mid-budget studio comedy" it ultimately feels more like an Old School than it does a Wedding Crashers. At least in terms of the culture if not also the quality. 

A perfectly funny and surprisingly sweet raunch-fest, writer/director Gene Stupnitsky (Good Boys) guides No Hard Feelings through the familiar beats of a rom-com with an emphasis on the "com" given the more outlandish premise. This is especially of note considering the biggest hurdle the film had to clear was the fact it centers on a thirty-two year-old seducing a nineteen year-old and how, were the roles reversed, this (admitted double standard) would feel a lot more icky. Fortunately, Stupnitsky and co-writer John Phillips balance the potentially uncomfortable parts of their premise by not shying away from them and instead continuing to emphasize the outrageousness of Lawrence's age with the fact Lawrence's Maddie can't really handle just how much older she is than Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) or how distinct the line between her generation and the next has become.


It seems with each new Wes Anderson project the distinction between the two halves of his films that are style and story, art and heart, aesthetic and dramatic become sharper. While I wouldn't say that throughout his nearly thirty-year career the auteur has ever been "great and terrible" as in one facet succeeds while the other fails miserably, I would say he's exercised a fair amount of "great and powerful" moments while also being unanimously "wonderful" in some fashion in most if not all his films. These phrases are obviously meant to allude to the character of the Wizard of Oz due to the fact Anderson has never felt more like the man behind the curtain than he does in Asteroid City. Opening with a live taping of a narrator discussing the writing of the story we're about to see unfold the framing and structuring of this venture will undoubtedly be too sophisticated for some viewers to grasp or too complicated for others to care about. While the story of the writing of the play the narrator is telling us about begins in September of 1955 the play itself takes place a thousand or so years in the future despite the traditional Anderson aesthetic that inherently implies the past. It's confusing, but not really a detriment to the experience as the battle, but more the integration between veneer versus reality is what fans of Andersons come to his films for. 

What hurts Anderson the most in the case of Asteroid City has more to do with the cavern between these aforementioned halves; the lack of said integration. The craft on display is top-tier Anderson, naturally, yet the emotional resonance fails to make an impact (pun intended) as the juxtaposition between the perfectly crafted world and the characters on the brink rings false this time. The key factor in this being that audiences are aware the people here are little more than characters; that what we're seeing is a performance rather than weighted experiences where a genuine insight or epiphany is taking place. That is what makes the less than handful of moments when the actors break while performing the play inside the movie because they recognize something in the context of the production that echoes a conflict in their personal life so exciting and enticing. Because there isn't enough real estate for Anderson to fully explore his nesting doll structure though, these cracks in the otherwise neat facade fail to leave much of a mark. There is no doubt the distance between the emotions the people and the characters are experiencing and the levity the visual stylings bring isn't intentional, but it almost feels intentionally broad so as to allow viewers to assign whatever meaning resonates most rather than Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola having a certain theme, truth, or thought they are explicitly exploring.


It's interesting to hear/read critics of my generation (I'm 36) and older who have had more and more trouble relating to Pixar films over the course of the last few years as it doesn't seem to so much be that the movies are changing in quality or intent as much as it is the formula isn't as novel or innovative as it once felt. Not as it once was, but how it once felt; specifivcally to these generations of viewers. Being present at the beginning of something as groundbreaking as a wholly computer generated feature can only mean that no matter how majestic or convincing the animation becomes the characters and story are what ultimately remain the hook. For my money, the latest run of originals including Onward, Soul, Luca, and Turning Red show as much imagination and innate observational humor as anything from Pixar's early days (and this is coming from someone who thinks Soul is the weakest of that bunch specifically because it does try too hard) and Elemental is no different in terms of offering all the trademarks and cornerstones of a Pixar film as the studio still manages to create broadly appealing adventures for younger audiences while finding an emotional chord to strike with adults, at least as far as this adult is concerned. 

The point being, I'm not exactly sure what to say to convince adults, especially newer ones, that Pixar's films are as strong and affecting as ever (sans maybe Lightyear, I wasn't a fan of Lightyear) and that just because the shine may have worn off a bit or the engineering might be a little more apparent doesn't make them work any less. I saw this film with five children ranging in ages from eight to one including my three year-old nephew who has down syndrome and this was his first trip to the theater. My eight year-old daughter exclaimed how much she loved it as soon as the credits began rolling, my (almost) four year-old son and five year-old nephew couldn't stop laughing and talking about how funny the movie was (probably a little too much throughout the movie, honestly), and my nephew with down syndrome not only stayed seated for the majority of the film but sat in awe of the colors and everything unfolding on the giant screen. Granted, the one year-old did not stay seated the entirety of the runtime, but without all the trailers and traditional Pixar short I think it would have been a different story. Again, the point being, it was just as fulfilling to see their smiling faces watch and react to the film as it was for me to experience this new world and new romance the film created and maybe that's the reason for this adjustment period some newer adults/parents are experiencing. While Pixar has now been around for some time kids who were definitively kids in 1995 are now definitively adults and parents if they've so chosen to be and as viewers who have seen both ends of the spectrum it's more difficult to accept something that felt so exclusively ours as children no longer be made explicitly for us, but that doesn't mean the magic is just means we may not have shifted gears yet.


The dominance of the comic book movie over the last twenty-something odd years has admittedly brought me plenty of joy and moments of pure cinematic euphoria, but as we reach what is at least our sixth multiverse film in the last five years (and the second in the last three weeks) I think I've reached the acceptance phase of letting go. Letting go not necessarily because I want to, but because it has become more and more apparent that it is time. While it would feel easy to be angry, depressed, or even regretful about the direction of the genre and what super hero films have collectively become over the past few years it would seem simpler (and easier) to just accept that The Flash is a prime example of why these types of films have begun to feel like they're eating themselves and thus, as much as I hate to say it, why it's time to take a break. 

Letting go, not just of the possibilities that have both been fulfilled and lost, but of the individuals who pioneered these characters as flesh and blood. Listen, I get it, letting go is hard because it means freeing one's self from aspects of their past, things that have become such a big part of a person's life they may even define part of their personality and it's understandable why, rather than moving forward, one might want to remain in this state of familiarity - there's a comfortability in it - but director Andy Muschietti's The Flash is a watershed moment in the super hero genre not because it breaks new ground or re-energizes the kind of escapism these movies can provide, but because it brought upon the realization there is a difference in being comfortable and being resistant and that one can only resist change for so long before what was once a source of comfort becomes discomfort as the seeds of doubt and truth that what once was no longer is begin to grow and further, that a person can only tolerate discomfort for so long before admitting that change is necessary.


Sixteen years removed from Michael Bay’s original foray into live-action robots in disguise and if one were to only watch that initial film and the latest from Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) they would be accurate in feeling like we haven’t come nearly as far as the journey has felt. There would be more to it than meets the eye if you will. As the interim between these two films has offered four sequels and a spin-off though, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts doesn’t feel so much redundant as it does refreshing; the franchise growing from the humble reset that was Bumblebee while never allowing itself the arrogance of believing it takes anything near two hours and forty-five minutes (yes, that’s the actual runtime of 2014’s Age of Extinction) to tell what would easily be a three episode arc in the cartoon. 

Rise of the Beasts is, for all intents and purposes, another Transformers film where the thing a bad guy needs to complete/destroy/take over has somehow made its way to earth and the stranded autobots must help a couple of humans who’ve become tangled in the intergalactic mess defeat the antagonist and save the world. The film adheres to these familiar archetypes while executing them in clear and endearing ways. This is especially true when it comes to the action sequences as well as the human characters. Both Anthony Ramos and Dominique Fishback are so appealing with Ramos lending his effortlessly cool aura to the tone of the film while Fishback infuses things with a certain amount of gravity that feels more authentic than put upon. The New York-based nineties setting doesn’t hurt either as Caple and his set designers go all in on the pop culture references, specific car models, and of course - the soundtrack. Wu-Tang, Tribe Called Quest, Biggie, and LL Cool J tracks all drop at opportune times, enhancing the procedural nature of the plot points and invigorating the vibe again and again.


What makes a spider-person the hero they are? Or the person they are? Just as Miles Morales feels like an anomaly among his own, this film is very much that in both today’s comic book movie and cinematic landscape. Utilizing every element at its disposal to convey character feelings and better distinguish each of the many universes it creates, every aspect feels organic despite being completely constructed out of oblivion. Themes resonate more than the sometimes confusing plot, but the care and love evident in every decision makes all the multiverse talk more semantics than linchpins. It’s something special even if it’s not completely clear what it is; though, instead of considering it the anomaly it is we might simply recognize (appropriately) that it goes beyond anything we’ve seen before. 

As breathtakingly beautiful and boundary-pushing as it is visually it also attempts some rather daring narrative choices by upending the peace Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) found in becoming Spidey at the conclusion of the previous film and more specifically, the peace in being part of a tribe that finally understood him. Speaking of conclusions and daring narrative choices, this is definitively part one of a two-part story and thus there isn't a resounding completeness to all of the themes and arcs that Across the Spider-Verse puts forward (and it's a lot). Knowing this is set-up for a third film due next year the cliff-hanger of an ending didn't bother me but feels worth mentioning due to the multiple groans heard in my screening when that "To Be Continued..." hit. It was the only part of the experience that evoked the current state of comic book movies.


Movie teenagers are the worst, but the teens in attendance at my screening of The Boogeyman made the experience all the more enjoyable. Screaming at every minor sound effect, hiding their faces under the covers they brought specifically for that reason and praying they don’t have to overcome a fear of the dark for a second time in their lives after seeing the latest from director Rob Savage (Host). Their reactions honestly may have influenced my enjoyment of the film slightly but only because it became very clear how effective the film was at working on its target audience just as it intended. 

The Boogeyman doesn't offer the most original premise, no, but Savage knows how to construct jump scares and build atmosphere; both of which are key to enjoying this well-made and effective horror flick even if the themes and conceit don’t reinvent the wheel. Beginning with the offscreen death of an infant is one way to set a tone (sorry if that's a spoiler) yet Savage goes there and leans into the idea of death without fear of alienating his audience. Rather, the dynamics and situations of his prmary cast members are strong out the gate because Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman's screenplay takes its time in both describing and processing the grief each character is experiencing and handling in different ways.