Movie Review: Avengers - Infinity War

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I know, I know, I know. Avengers: Infinity War came out over a month ago and has made over $2 billion dollars worldwide. I get it, you don't need this very outdated review to tell you to go see this film. While I saw this film opening night, I found myself holding back on sitting down and putting my thoughts down on how I felt about this film. I knew I enjoyed it and many others would enjoy Infinity War too. Some scenes in this film are without a doubt some of the best scenes Marvel has ever put on the big screen. So why the hesitation on publishing my thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War I guess comes down to not wanting to give into impulses when reviewing greatness. 

If you have visited this site before, chances are that you've read one of the many articles I wrote looking back at the MCU in The MCU Countdown. Long story short, all of films inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe have all lead up to this event of Thanos and the Infinity Stones. While the project was a fun one, I mainly did the project believing that there would be plenty of callbacks to previous films inside of Infinity War. What else would you expect with ten years of investment and storytelling? While I was not surprised at all of the moments that linked back to prior films, I was shocked by how many references there were to Marvel films. 

Avengers: Infinity War might be the first Marvel film that moviegoers will find themselves lost in if they've never seen a Marvel movie before this one. Even if you've seen over half of them, if you've missed out on films such as Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 chances are you'll be leaning to the friend next to you asking for a quick catchup lesson of what the characters have been up to. Surprisingly, the aftermath of Spider-Man: Homecoming does not play a big part into this film and it feels natural that it shouldn't. Many of the ramifications of that film only affected the live of Peter Parker himself and not the overall MCU. While I enjoyed watching these investments pay off, you must look through the eyes of a fan who might not remember or understand where these connections are made. All I hope is that those moments within the film did not hurt their enjoyment.

As far as pace and storytelling, The Russo Brothers and the team at Marvel did the near impossible of cramming nearly every Marvel superhero ever created into a two-and-a-half-hour movie without making the film feel cramped, chaotic, or disorganized. I love the pacing of the film as the films and how it puts the pedal to the metal. While the movie is fast, it cruises on from plot point to plot point giving you enough time to enjoy each and every moment but knowing when the time has come to move on to keep the story progressing. I know it might be odd for me to say but I feel like this film would have flowed even better if the studio gave the filmmakers the green-light to inflate the runtime to 2:45 or 3 hours.

The acting in Infinity War is the best that Marvel has ever put on film but what else would you expect when you have one of the most talented casts ever put together. Everyone earns their paycheck in this film no matter if they are a major character in this film or one that only has a few seconds of screen time. Even Karen Gillian, an actress that I have habitually ripped on this site for her over-the-top performance as Nebula, finally shows why fans of her like her as an actress. I feel like the Russo Brothers finally got her to tone it down and give a performance that's less cartoonish and more relatable. The stand-outs of this film I believe are Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and Tom Holland but I could go on and on. 

Avengers: Infinity War is the most fun you will have at the cinemas this year. While the year is still young and there are plenty of films to come, the fact remains that Infinity War delivered on a promise that was made 10 years ago at the end credits of Iron Man. All of the set-up and connective tissue has helped create a film that will go down in history as one of the most influential films in cinema history and pop culture history. A new bar has been set for comic book films and the summer blockbuster. For the longest time, I held The Dark Knight and The Avengers as the 1A and 1B on my list of best comic book films of all-time. I knew that one day, something would come along and possibly supplant those films and that day has come. Congratulations Avengers: Infinity War, you will stand the test of time. 

Movie Review: Solo - A Star Wars Story

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I am not ashamed of saying that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is my favorite Star Wars film to date. I love the film's cast of new characters, darker tone, and it's amazing third act. I left the theater excited for the future of Star Wars and what amazing things were to come under the Disney umbrella. Now a little over a year has passed since that night and now I'm left wondering what the hell went wrong. After the divisive nature of Star Wars: The Last Jedi left me and many others scratching our head at what the hell just happened, I was one of the few that thought Solo: A Star Wars Story might be the pallet cleanser the franchise needed after something so drastically different. I thought that maybe, just maybe, that Solo: A Star Wars Story could be just what the doctor ordered and help bring balance to the fandom. I was absolutely wrong. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story stars Alden Ehrenreich alongside Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, and Paul Bettany. Oddly enough, this story was original created between George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan (writer for Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Force Awakens) back in 2012. Kasdan stayed on and is credited as the main writer of Solo alongside his son, Jonathan Kasdan. The film takes place sometime after the events of Revenge of the Sith but before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. Han (Ehrenreich) is struggling to find his place in the galaxy and before he hits rock-bottom, he stumbles across a crew of smugglers (played by Harrelson & Newton) who he and his partner Chewbacca team up with. This band of scoundrels take part in a heist given to them by Crimson Dawn, a crime syndicate controlled by Dryden Vos. It is up to Han and company to complete the job or their lives will be over. 

Let me start off with one of the biggest gripes coming into this film which is the departure of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller from the director's chair (or chairs I guess) and the arrival of Academy Award winner Ron Howard. Like Justice League, this film saw a change in direction midway through production. I can happily say that unlike Justice League, it is very hard to tell what scenes could possibly be Lord and Miller and which scenes are the reshoots from Ron Howard. It might be completely possible that this film was completely reshot with Howard's image but I doubt that there was absolutely no usable footage under.

Next up, the casting of Alden Ehrenreich as the infamous smuggler, Han Solo. Does he fill the jacket and low-cut shirt that Harrison Ford made famous back in 1977? There are moments where I believe that he does live up to the part. What parts that might be? Sadly, it is the ones where he's not talking. I believe that Alden did a great job at capturing the mannerisms of ticks that make up the character Han Solo. I even believe that the script has some good stuff for Ehrenreich to go off and make his own. For me, what kept standing out to me is his voice. Maybe I'm in the minority here but I just didn't like his take on the voice of Han Solo. It came off as trying to do a Harrison Ford impression. I just wish that he took a page out of Chris Pine's book with a younger version of Captain Kirk and made it more his own.

Although Ehrenreich could have been better, I think the rest of the cast does a better job than expected. I was surprised that Emilia Clarke actually showed up in a performance that was not the mother of dragons. While there are some moments where she channels her Khaleesi swag, they work because they service the character and I'll give her a pass. Even Woody Harrelson, the last person I thought I would ever see in a Star Wars film, does a pretty good take on Han Solo's semi-mentor figure in the film. I do have some issues with his character in the film but those issues stem from writing problems and not from Harrelson's performance. Finally, can we thank Disney for listening to our prayers and casting Donald Glover as Lando? Seriously, the moment he shows up in this film, he oozes the charisma and charm that Billy D. Williams introduced with his appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. Everything about what Glover does with the role is perfect. He doesn't just try to impersonate Billy D. Williams, he literally becomes a younger Billy D. Williams. The perfection of his performance makes it that much more frustrating when watching Ehrenreich play Han Solo. When you try to come to peace with his performance and say to yourself "It's just not possible to become Harrison Ford" you look across the screen and see Glover doing just that with his character. 

No matter how talented a cast is, it can only go as far as the movie's script allows them to go and this movie lives and dies by the script. The story within Solo: A Star Wars Story might possibly be the most erratic Star Wars story to date, and yes, I'm including the prequels in that statement. While the prequel films might have been bad, they were consistent bad throughout mostly. We had to deal with Jar-Jar from beginning to end with The Phantom Menace. We had to deal with the horrible romance between Anakin and Padme from beginning to end in Attack of the Clones. In Solo, we have some moments and reveals that I believe live up to the moments that they are hyped up to be. At the same time, there are elements of this story that are complete head-scratchers with some that make you completely roll your eyes. For every moment that makes you enjoy Solo: A Star Wars Story, there is another that makes you wish that you never saw that scene ever. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story is not a good film but having a director change and months of reshoots and still putting together something watchable is something I can applaud. Solo is nowhere near the production dumpster fire that Warner Brothers threw on the screen and called Justice League. Justice League and a lot that did not work but this film has a lot that does work. The visuals in this film might be some of the best visuals you'll ever get from a Star Wars film. Some of the major events that we know happen in Han's life happen in this film. Ron Howard and company could have easily dropped the ball on these events and set this film up for disaster before the credits rolled. The fact that they did a great job with those moments allow me to give this film a past. Very rarely do we get a origin story to a firmly established character that's successfully shows the moments that make them become who they are. Almost all of these moments for Han Solo work very well. What doesn't make this film work are some of the core story elements like the Cloud Riders and their leader Enfys Nest. Overall, if you're a fan of Star Wars, Solo is worth taking a shot at. Many Star Wars fans have sat through the prequels many times and if you can handle those horrible films, you can definitely handle this mediocre one. 

Movie Review: Ready Player One

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I am a child of the 90s, but my heart belongs in the 80s. So much 80s pop culture has influenced my live in so many ways whether it being the music I listen to or the films that I hold dear to my heart. When I heard that Steven Spielberg, the master of 80s cinema, was taking on the adaptation of Ready Player One, the match seemed like one that makes so much sense that it wouldn't happen. I mean perfect matches don't seem to happen that often in cinema. I remember Brian Cranston as Lex Luther rumors. Perfect matches happen less often that you would think. The hype train was full-steam ahead with moviegoers hoping that this beloved novel would not fail to fulfill expectations. 

Ready Player One stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance with Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, the writer of the original novel, penning the script. The film takes place in the year 2045 and most of the population has given up on living a normal social live and stays indoors to succumb to the virtual reality world of the OASIS. The OASIS is an open-world virtual reality game that allows players to go wherever they want and do whatever they want, the possibilities are endless in the OAISIS. When the creator of the game, James Halliday (Rylance), dies of old age, Halliday launches a contest that will give the winner full-control of the game along with becoming one of the most powerful individuals in the world. Wade Watts (Sheridan) becomes one of the first players to discover the first clue to the contest and once he becomes the most likely candidate to win, others begin to challenge him both inside and outside the game.

As a reader of the book, I can definitely confirm that there are many differences between the novel and the film. While there are many differences, including two of the three challenges, having Ernest Cline handle the adaptation helps give the film all of the fun and excitement that came with the novel. Both the novel and the film give off the same entertainment value and enjoyment even though the stories are completely different. Whether the differences in the stories might bother some individuals, I believe that many will not be turned off with the changes. In fact, the changes might benefit the film in a way since this version really helps increase the pace of the story. 

When it comes to the visuals of this film, a majority of this film takes place in the digital world of the OAISIS. While I was intrigued that we spent so much time in the digital world in this film, I was not put off with the use of CGI in this film. The world of the OAISIS is not as lifelike as it is made out to be in the novel. The visuals are definitely great but nothing near the lifelike effects that many might be hoping to see. I do believe that there was a creative decision in weakening the realism of the OAISIS to help viewers of the film differentiate when they were in the real world and in the virtual world. 

Tye Sheridan does a decent job at portraying Wade Watts. Sheridan is effective at conveying the social awkwardness of Watts, especially when it comes to the romantic-tension between Watts and Art3mis (played by Cooke). While I think both do a good job at conveying the awkwardness that comes with falling for someone's digital profile, I don't believe the chemistry between the two once they meet up in the real world. Mendelsohn's portrayal of IOI's head honcho has its ups and downs. One moment, he comes across as a menacing presence similar to his character of Director Krennic in Rogue One and then the next, he comes off as a bumbling Scooby-Do villain.  The worst performance in the film hands-down goes to Hannah John-Kamen as F'nale Zandor. Her performance in this film provides so much cheese, you could produce entire fondue for a starving family. 

While the film is not perfect, Ready Player One is definitely an entertaining film. Great pacing and a tightly-knitted plot help elevate this film to the expectations many set for this film. The performances from the cast are nothing to hang your hat on but they earn their paychecks by making you care for these characters enough to get you into the film. While the visual elements warrant a viewing of this film on the big-screen, I can understand moviegoers waiting for the home release of this film. There are so many pop-culture references within this film that it is impossible to catch all of them in your first viewing. I'm looking forward to picking up this film when released on home video in late July and I hope you take that time to give this film a shot.

Movie Review: A Wrinkle in Time

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The first film of the 2018 blockbuster season is here. After weeks of trash and leftover Oscar films populating the theater, Disney kicks off the summer season with their second adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Hoping to follow-up the hype of Black Panther and feed off the box-office tear, A Wrinkle in Time is another first for Disney and the Hollywood industry being the first Disney film to be helmed by a black female with a cast primarily filled with people of color. Director Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th) attempts to grow off of her early success with this film. Tons of hype has built around this film with all of the news surrounding pre-production including DuVernay's budget of $100 million, another first for a black female director. With the demand for representation in cinema at an all-time high, DuVernay and Disney hope A Wrinkle In Time can be another brick in the foundation for the future of cinema.

A Wrinkle In Time stars Storm Reid, Chris Pine, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Michael Peña. After the disappearance of her father, Meg Murry (Reid) has fallen into a depressive slump that has affected her life around her. Fellow students make fun of her while she struggles to keep up her grades in school. After an incident at school, her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and fellow student Calvin O'Keefe (Levi Miller) come to her aid as well as the three mystical women (Winfrey, Witherspoon, and Kaling). The three women know as "The Mrs." inform Meg that her father is not dead but still alive somewhere in the cosmic universe. It is up to Meg and her companions to help find him before it's too late. After gaining the trust of The Mrs., Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace decide to follow them on their journey across time and space.

My first takeaway from Wrinkle in Time is the film's ambitious attempt at world building and the visual direction of the film. In today's cinema, it is very easy for films to throw tints on top of their images and dull the colors out. DuVernay strays away from the norm and floods her film with tons of color and saturates the screen to take you to worlds that are truly eye-catching. While the film parades visual eye-candy, I believe that A Wrinkle In Time fails to fully deliver on its intentions due to the film's reliance on CGI. So many times in the film I was taken back by seeing poor feathering along actors and poor motion tracking. Not only that but some of the details within the landscapes seem somewhat dated with prior films doing a better job at creating CGI scenery. You would think that Disney would put more dedication in that department when it comes to creating a top-billing film such as A Wrinkle In Time. Having a bigger budget to enhance the CGI and creating more practical sets could have gone a long way in making the film much more breathtaking.

The acting of the entire cast throughout the film is also very exceptional. While Oprah, Reese, and Mindy did what you would expect from their castings, what you will not expect is the chemistry between Chris Pine, Storm Reid, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Pine and Mbatha-Raw's relationship as husband and wife throughout the film is definitely believable and you honestly believe their love for their work and each other. Pine continues to grow as an actor and show audiences that he is more than just Captain Kirk and the emotional scene between Pine and Reid is the defining moment of their performances. The weight that they can convey to their story on-screen is one of the brightest parts of the film and the raw emotion they project is undeniable. The only part of the cast that I could have seen improvement in is Levi Miller's performance. While Reid delivers a truly genuine performance, Miller definitely comes across as very "Disney Channel". Instead of acting like a teenager, he performs like what Hollywood thinks teenagers are. 

While there are bright spots in the film, A Wrinkle In Time is an uneven at best that tries to use its visual aesthetic to distract from the failures to deliver a cohesive plot. The first act is flooded with bad tropes in terms of extremely dated adolescent interactions, adult characters failing to understand youth, and talking down about children in ear-shot of who they're talking about. The second act struggles with trying to drag out scenes to increase a runtime that ruins the pace of the film. There is literally a 5-10 minute scene that completely haunts the film's plot in order for you to look at the pretty pictures. The final act tries to right the ship but a majority of the audience might be checked out by the time the story gets there. While the film sits at 1 hour and 49 minutes, 20-30 minutes could have easily been cut and nothing from the story would have been missing.  

After watching A Wrinkle In Time, I left the theater wondering "Who is the target audience for this film"? On one hand, the film showcases story-elements that come across as very cheesy and quite childish. So, if the film is aimed at children, then how are they suppose to comprehend complex plot details such as tesseracts and M.C. Escher-esq paradoxical loops? The density of the science and the childish tone made me really conflicted as to who this film is made for. Then I realized that I might not of connected with this film because I was not a woman of color. The director of this film is a woman of color, a majority of the cast is females of color. Younger women of color should be able to relate to the protagonist easily and maybe older women can see their younger selves inside of Meg. If Wrinkle In Time is meant for women of color, is that really a bad thing? People of color have had to deal with countless films about white men that we force them to relate to. Maybe it should not that odd for a film to be produced and not have male figures at the target audience. I feel like A Wrinkle In Time has problems in multiple areas but you cannot fight the emotional connection you get when seeing a film and this film can definitely invoke that connection. I can't guarantee that you will like A Wrinkle In Time but I can it is worth a shot if you're interested in the story and the message the film is trying to push forward.

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

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Every few years, two studios come up with similar ideas that go into production at nearly identical times. A notable example is 1997 which saw the release of Dante's Peak and Volcano, two volcano-inspired movies. The year after saw two asteroid-inspired flicks with Armageddon and Deep Impact. 2017 is another year to add to this trope of two studios producing similar productions. Darkest Hour takes place around the events leading up to the evacuation of Dunkirk which the self-titled film Dunkirk also made an attempt at telling as well. The difference between those film above doing similar productions and the Dunkirk-inspired films of 2017 is the fact that both Darkest Hour and Dunkirk are up for Academy Awards this season.

Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, and Ben Mendelsohn. With Europe beginning to see the full invasion strength of Hitler in the early stages of World War II, England is facing a ton of backlash from its citizens as well as its politicians for not being properly equipped to handle the impending invasion. After a vote of no-confidence on British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for being too weak, the government is appointed to Winston Churchill to help mend the government together in preparation for war. Once Churchill realizes the dire state that the country is in, he must face the doubts of leading this country within his war council and himself in order to keep England from falling into the hands of Hitler and his Nazi regime. 

The first takeaway from Darkest Hour is of course the transformation of Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. The first thing to take into consideration is the massive physical transformation Oldman undertook to become Churchill on screen. While many might be fooled that Oldman put on a ton of weight for the role, the truth is that all of the fat and weight that is on Oldman in the production is done with incredible makeup work. With many actors gaining and losing weight for roles, Oldman knew he was too old to drastically put on weight for the role. Instead, a team of make-up artist went to work and help molded Gary Oldman into Churchill and the results are some of the most make-up that has been seen on film. 

Not only does Gary Oldman look the part of Churchill but the man literally becomes him with his performance. Oldman gives the character such dedications with an incredible focus on the way he talks, moves, and interacts with people within the film. Oldman is completely mesmerizing and the he steals every scene he's in. Sadly, nobody else in this film comes to the plate in terms of raising the bar to balance Oldman's incredible performance. Everyone else in the film just seems to be floating in and out of the film both narratively and actively. It is almost like everyone knew going into production that the goal of this film was to give Oldman a chance to shine and that no one is allowed to divert that spotlight from him. Stronger performances from the supporting cast may have elevate Oldman even more or at least given the material a sense of merit.

Darkest Hour's plot can be complicated to follow sometimes. With all of the political moves in the background and the state of the country leading into the film, audience members who are unaware of the situation might find themselves lost. It also doesn't help that some characters in the film have agendas that they're trying to achieve but those goals are never explained or never given clear focus for the audience to understand where they are coming from. While the details in the story can be convoluted, you can still grasp the general idea of what Churchill and the country are going through and can relate to the struggles that they face.

While the film lacks a completely cohesive story or a visual aesthetic that one would expect from a major Oscar contender, the film succeeds and only on the merits of Gary Oldman's performance. Without Oldman in this role that will most certainly win him an Oscar in the coming weeks, this film could be in contention for a direct-to-dvd release that very few would get a chance to see. Darkest Hour is not a bad film but the only reason we're discussing this film right now is because of Gary Oldman. Now I completely agree with Oldman's nomination and support his efforts in winning the award later on this year, I completely do not support a majority of the other nominations this film picked up. Darkest Hour has no business being nominated for Best Picture this year. Films like Crown Heights, Logan, Wonder Woman, and even The Big Sick were much deserving of this nomination. If you're interested in learning more about the events of Dunkirk, I suggest you take your time and watch Dunkirk first. That film has much more entertainment value and gives a better understanding about how hopeless the situation was in France. If you find yourself wanting more, then I can suggest taking a chance on Darkest Hour

Movie Review: Black Panther

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As many of you have noticed, this site has been plastered recently with Marvel content due with our extended look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I have been revisiting many film in the franchise, I have had Black Panther circled on my calendar since establishing the start of The MCU Countdown. The potential and excitement that was building with Black Panther was very similar to the anticipated release of Wonder Woman last year with the only difference being that the DCEU was on life support while the MCU has been full-steam ahead since 2008. All I was hoping for going into this film was that Black Panther would just not let me down. The hype for this film was astronomical and I did not want to be disappointed like I was with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Black Panther,
 the newest film in the Marvel franchise with an all-star cast including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. Having a star-studded cast for a major blockbuster film like this isn't much of a surprise but how Marvel was able to assemble a cast filled with arguably the best Black actors in the game is something you have to applaud. At the end of the day, Black Panther is still a comic book film and to acuire talent that has won multiple academy awards and nominations is something not to blink your eye at. While Black Panther is the first solo-film for the character, this is not Chadwick Boseman first outing in the cat suit. Baseman along with Serkis reprises their role from Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther picks up right where that film left off.

T'Challa (played by Boseman) is still mourning the loss of his father but has begun his adjustment to becoming king of Wakanda and the Black Panther. T'Challa continues to pursue Ulysses Klaus (played by Serkis) and his quest to steal Vibranium from their technologically-advanced country. During his quest to stop Klaus, T'Challa comes in contact with Erik "Killmonger" Stevens (played by Jordan), an American soldier who has mysterious roots to the country of Wakanda. Killmonger challenges T'Challa's claim to the throne and their conflict leads to a civil war inside the nation of Wakanda. T'Challa must try to reunite the country under one rule before it tears itself apart from hatred.

One of the staples of Marvel films since the end of Phase 1 has been how many Marvel films turn themselves into a genre film. Whether it's a space-opera like Guardians of the Galaxy or a spy-thriller like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel has found a new model to keep their films fresh while continuing on with their branded style. I was expecting that make Black Panther might follow in the footsteps of Luke Cage, a fellow Marvel property, and channel a Blaxploitation vibe for the story. Instead, Black Panther mimics the style of a James Bond film giving audiences the black Bond that they have been asking for since the rumors spread of Daniel Craig leaving the property. Between the international setting of the film to the gadget-filled arsenal provided to Black Panther, the film screams many similarities to the popular spy franchise. 

The performances in Black Panther might be the best outing from a cast in the entire history of Marvel films. While I love many of the casts that have taken main billing in the films prior to Black Panther, I cannot remember one that left me connected to so many characters throughout the film. Maybe a film like Guardians of the Galaxy left me with a similar feeling but that was a film that had five lead characters. Black Panther treats it's supporting characters with as much care as its main protagonist. Everyone is given their moment to shine in this story. Boseman continues building off of his strong performances from Civil War but Michael B. Jordan, Danai Gurira, and Letitia Wright steal the film. Michael B. Jordan tears it up as Killmonger and gives the audience who are not expecting much from their villains a character they will remember and somewhat relate to. Dana Gurira as Okoye, a Wakanda special forces leader and Letitia Wright, T'Challa's sister, give Black Panther such a strong female presence that they almost make you forget about how empowering of a film Wonder Woman was. A lot is being made out abohow strong the African-American voice in this film is but the female empowerment in Black Panther has just as much strength which is something to applaud the film's stellar female cast for.

While I love everyone in this film and the direction of the story, the film was not a completely perfect. Black Panther had a few moments of erratic tone shifts, something that the MCU has had a chronic problem with for a while now. While there might me a moment of dramatic tension or high-paced action, Marvel always feels like it has to throw a one-liner or a cheesy jokes in those moments to keep the levity of the film high. While some times those moments work, most of the time they don't and Black Panther has a few of those moments that take you out of the film My main problem with the film was the inclusion of Martin Freeman's character from Captain America: Civil War. While I believed he did support the story's progression early on, his inclusion in the third-act of the film and focus in the climax of the film seemed distracting and unnecessary to the core story. For a film that's focus is on African-American politics, culture, and way of life, forcing a white man into a critical role in the finale seemed ill-advised. 

Black Panther is another example that Marvel can do no wrong in the genre of comic book films. For a franchise that has been going on for ten years now, to keep pumping out quality films is an impressive feat to reach. Black Panther isn't a film that's just meets the standard that Marvel films set for themselves, it exceeds it in many ways. Not only does the film provide satisfactory entertainment that one might expect from the franchise, Black Panther broadens the horizons by capitalizing on the climate that society is in right now and comments on the world we lived in and where it's at right now. I cannot recommend you enough to see Black Panther on the big screen. Go see it in a crowded theater. Go see it on the biggest screen you can. Bring all of your friends with you because this is a film that you must see in the best setting possible. You owe it to yourself.

Movie Review: The Disaster Artist

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Around five or six years ago, I was sitting at my friend's house in Gainesville, FL.  That night was just like any other night, we sat around his couches and chat over a few drinks with records playing in the background. Then one of his roommates came into the house and announced his arrival by saying the words "Oh, Hai Mark". The accent and the delivery were funny out-of-context but a majority of us did not get the reference. When he realized none of us had really seen The Room, he hurried to get his laptop and searched on YouTube for the infamous rooftop scene.

We sat around in amazement for how historically bad the rooftop scene was. Me in the middle of my times as a film student, I was amazed that a production this bad saw the light of day. Weeks later, that same roommate got a copy of the film and we all finally sat down and watched the best worst film of all time. Watching The Room with all of those people is one of my most memorable experiences watching a film ever. Somehow, The Room achieved something that I never thought I would feel. Tommy Wiseau's Frankenstein of a film gave me so many laugh while also giving me the biggest headache of all time.  A part of me died that day, I know it. Now all of these years later, here I am writing a review but not of the film that I watched with my friends inside a college house in Gainesville, FL.  This is a review for The Disaster Artist, the film about making the worst film in the history of film. 

The Disaster Artist stars James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan, Alison Brie, and Josh Hutcherson. The film centers around a young aspiring actor named Greg who resides in San Fransisco. While dealing with the struggles of breaking into show business, he comes across a fellow classmate of his who inspires him to get over his fears of the stage. That man is Tommy Wiseau, an old, foreign man who claims to not be foreign. His odd approach to acting and lack of care for what others think of his craft lead Greg and Tommy to form an unlikely friendship that causes them to move to Los Angeles. After the city rejects the two of them, Tommy makes the bold decision to make their own movie and at that moment was the planet graces with the story of The Room

When I sat the first teaser of this film that gives some cheap laughs dramatizing the behind-the-scene events of The Room's most infamous scene, the trailer turned me off. Being some-what of a fan of the original film and a person who also read Greg Sestero's tell-all about the production of The Room, I was worried that the film sharing the same title of Sister's book would not give his story the right justice. Instead of telling the complex story of who Tommy was and all of the weird mistakes that somehow made this film the cult-classic it is today, the film would instead focus on making fun of Tommy Wiseau and laugh at how this crazy man made the worst film of all time. I was completely relieved to see that the film would delve more into the man behind the film more than make fun of the man.

The film is still a comedy at it's core but the film does a good job at placing the fans inside Greg and Tommy's odd friendship which helps them believe their affection for each other. Greg and Tommy are not the only characters that the film succeeds in portraying. Every person involved with The Room is given a tone of care and accurately translating most of the major beats within the original novel. I do wish that the film did focus more on the manipulative nature of Tommy and Greg's slow-burning success that he has without Tommy, the film translates enough of Greg's story to call the film a successful adaptation of the book. 

While The Disaster Artist is a solid film that has a lot going well for it, I'm not one to support this film when it comes to award season this year. Yes I know that a lot of heat has been aimed towards James Franco and the allegations of him communicating with under-aged women but that's not the only reason why I'm not a believer that this film is best left on the outside looking in. Personally, I believe that 2017 was a solid year in terms of film this year. Yes, The Disaster Artist is a solid film but there were so many good films this year that it's hard for me to consider this film in the any Top Tens for this year. The film was a worthy adaptation and warrants a watching if you are a fan of the film and can set aside the allegations surrounding the film. Before you sit down and watch The Disaster Artist, you should consider playing catch-up with some of the actual Oscar contenders for 2017 before the ceremonies air in a few weeks.

Movie Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

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Talk about the biggest surprises of the Super Bowl. With all of the movie trailer hype going into the game, everyone was pumped to get a sneak peek at Mission: Impossible - Fallout and Solo: A Star Wars Story. While we did get those previews, fans of cinema were greeted with something else that they were not expecting. Bad Robot gave the millions of people watching the NFL finale their first look at the third entry into the Cloverfield franchise titled The Cloverfield Paradox. Not only were fans given confirmation of a third film but that they were getting the film released on Netflix immediately after the game. The Cloverfield Paradox would be the first major-franchise film to get released exclusively on streaming. Would The Cloverfield Paradox be a game-changer wide-release films or would fans be greeted with a film that mimics direct-to-home released films?

The Cloverfield Project stars Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O'Dowd, John Ortiz, and David Oyelowo. Taking place in the year 2028 (twenty years after the original events of Cloverfield), a crew of scientist are tasked with solving the world's energy crisis. With global tensions at an all-time high, this cast of scientist are running out of time to solve the problem with the Shepard particle accelerator, a massive machine that rips space-time to generate clean, renewable energy. When the machine overloads in power, the ship is thrown into chaos and the crew loses sight of Earth. Now the crew must find a way to get back home while also facing strange encounters throughout the ship.

The film does a good job up getting you into interested in the story. The amount of intrigue and questions that the film throws at you right off the bat is reminiscent of the prior two films. Every film should do the basic job of setting the scene and present you with a question to set up the plot. The Cloverfield Paradox does a good job at mimicking the tension of JJ"s "mystery box" methodology but fails at laying the basic foundation. The film attempts to fill you in on the current state of the planet. Russia is threatening war with Germany and other countries. Global chaos is on the brink. What the film never addresses is how the original Cloverfield connects to The Cloverfield Paradox. Is this chaos because of the events that happened in New York City? 10 Cloverfield Lane establishes the fact that the war between humanity and these monstrous creatures have grown and intensified. Cloverfield Paradox never addresses if these creatures are a part of this or if they don't exist. In a way, the film implies that these creatures don't exist.  

While the film has adequate performances, the cast can only do so much with a paper-thin plot. Gugu Mbatha-Raw does a admirable job of taking point in this film. Her character is one audience members can relate to. Chris O'Dowd and Daniel Brühl are also solid in the film but I thought David Oyelowo would be the strongest performer on the cast. Sadly, Oyelowo is not given much to work with and the direction his character takes is mind-boggling. Elizabeth Debicki's character in the film could have been a very intriguing one but her wooden acting completely telegraphs her motivations.

The Cloverfield Project is hands-down the worst film in the franchise. While the acting is far from terrible, they're nowhere near some of the performances that have been showcased in the prior films. Cloverfield Project shows flashes of promise but the film lacks a coherent foundation and a plot filled with more holes than Swiss cheese. I wonder how successful the numbers will be for Netflix with this surprise release of Cloverfield Project. Does Netflix get the returns they desire to green-light a fourth film?  Personally, I believe that this film kills any desire from fans to see where the franchise goes from here. While 10 Cloverfield Lane was a solid story that just happened to take place inside the Clover-verse, The Cloverfield Paradox is a direct-to-dvd version of Sunshine that gets warped into a Cloverfield sequel. I hope that we get a fourth film to right the wrongs that this film produced but the future looks much dimmer than it did Super Bowl Sunday.  

Movie Review: War For The Planet Of The Apes

Some of the greatest stories in modern cinema cultivate into a trilogy. While plenty of films strive for the glory of a strong trilogy, few films ever achieve that satisfying end to their story, The Godfather, one of the greatest films of all time, failed to put the exclamation point with Part 3. Star Wars, a film that sparked an entire generation of fans to dream of a galaxy far, far away failed  expectations with Return of the Jedi. Those are examples of films who had strong first and second chapters in their trilogies. Do not forget films like The Matrix, Back to the Future, and The Dark Knight who were unable to satisfy fans in certain aspects with their trilogies. The trilogy is probably the hardest feat there is in cinema. Trying to craft a satisfying finale to your story while at the same time trying not to leave room for others to bastardize your property after the fact. War for the Planet of the Apes is the most recent film going for the trifecta. After a decent reboot of the franchise that followed-up with a sequel that bested the original, fans were clamoring for how the story of Caesar would come to an end. 

War for the Planet of the Apes stars Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Millar, and Steve Zahn with Matt Reeves returning to the director's chair after Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The story picks up some time after the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes where Caesar and his family of apes are still on the run from the human race. Still feeling the aftershocks of Koba's revolt, Caesar strives to find peace and a permanent home for his followers. After an assassination attempt on Caesar's life, Caesar is left no choice but to abandon his family and friends and go off in search for the humans who want him dead in a hopes to put an end to the bloodshed.

I will admit that I did not rewatch the previous two films before going into War for the Planet of the Apes. I also have never seen the original films that predate the reboot of the franchise. Most likely that lack of knowledge hindered my full enjoyment of this film but that does not mean that I did not enjoy the film at all. In fact, I think War for the Planet of the Apes might be my favorite out of all of the new entries in the series. The amount of symbolism in this film really astonished me. The symbolism between the two species at war with one another and how that parallels what's going on with our society right now. For a third installment in a franchise, it's very easy to go back to the well with ideas and Matt Reeves did not do that with this film. Speaking of Reeves and his direction with this film, his imagery and use of the camera in this film is on point for a major blockbuster of this caliber. When most of the characters in the film cannot speak, the imagery alone has to tell the story and Reeves does that about as accurately as the characters themselves.

Speaking of characters, Andy Serkis as Caesar is going to go down as one of the strongest performances from an actor in a recurring role. The range of emotions Serkis can capture with this character without making Caesar feel like a human trying to impersonate an ape is captivating. His performance along with other motion capture artist create these lifelike characters that feel more human than the humans themselves in this film. Now whether Serkis deserved an Oscar nomination for his performances as Caesar is up for debate. I understand both points of the argument that a lot of his performance can be altered and changed due to CGI work. There is no doubt though that much of his performance is accurately transferred over to Caesar in the final product and I do believe that either the academy needs to start recognizing actors doing motion capture performance or create an acting category for motion capture. With the direction special effects is heading, more and more actors will begin performing motion capture roles and Serkis is the pioneer of this genre of acting.

While War for the Planet of the Apes might not be a literal war on screen, the war for humanity and apes does come to the breaking point in this film. The film delivers with strong performances and exceptional storytelling that leaves this film as one of the best of 2017. While I'm unsure where this film will rest on the Top 10 list remains to be seen, the film warrants a watch for anyone who is a fan of the franchise. For the few of you that might have missed out on the beginning of this trilogy back in 2011, do yourself a favor and rent or buy the entire trilogy. Sit down in front of your home television, pop on the films, and enjoy yourself for the weekend. The Planet of the Apes trilogy is worth your attention.

Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Of all the years that I have followed the Academy Awards, I do not believe I've ever had to write a mouthful of a title like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That being said, The film succeeded in locking more award nominations than actual words in their title. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the third-most nominated film at the Academy Awards including nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Screenplay. If it were not for the mass amount of nominations The Shape of Water received, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri would be considered the #1 contender for taking home Best Picture in March. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, and John Hawkes. The film centers around McDormand's character Mildred Hayes who is absolutely fed up with how the local law enforcement is treating the investigation of her daughter's death. This anger towards the police department leads her to rent out three billboards on the outskirts of town to bring her anger front and center. Chief Bill Willoughby (played by Harrelson) and his fellow officers do not take kindness in Ms. Hayes' publicity stunt and try to intimidate her into silence while they continue their police work. The back and forth between Hayes and the police leads to a chess match that escalates with every swift move.

I won't lie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the definition of an "Oscar bait" film. The film lacks the pace of many modern films as well as the diversity that many films put an effort in with their casting. While the film lacks those trends, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri doesn't lack in content and commentary on the current social climate. If your film's plot involves the inner-workings of a modern police department, you have to mention what police officers face on a daily basis in terms of their public image. The film does a good job at making a statement on the subject that makes sense to the story without that subject taking the focus away from the central plot.

When it comes to the films performances, you're in for a treat for what the main players in this cast put out. Woody Harrelson puts out some of his best work in this film since his departure from True Detective. Being the target of Mildred Hayes' anger could have made this character easily turn into an antagonist. Sadly, for the betterment of the film, Harrelson's performance is only an afterthought after the showcase that Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell put on screen. McDormand takes every moment of the screen time to showcase the pain and misery her character is dealing with. Your heart aches for her as her efforts to find her daughter's killer keep falling short. Rockwell's performance as Officer Dixon will be the one that will split the audience with their reception of this film. Rockwell's ability to channel the drunken hatred of Dixon throughout the film is something worth the price of admission. His presence throughout the film is felt even and you always worry what he might do next.

With Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri grounding this film in today's world, the film wanted to showcase both sides of the story and what each character is coming from with the issue, that choice in storytelling is what might aggravate some audience members with this film. While most members of the police office have serious character flaws, the story finds different ways to redeem most of these problematic characters. Few might see this direction as a way the film humanizes their cruel actions but I don't believe these decisions redeems these characters at all. Personally, I stand behind the way the film approached diversity in a film that lacks it.

In the end, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of the films that is almost guaranteed to make many critics Top Ten lists for 2017 including ours here. The incredible performances from this cast and the heart-wrenching story it portrays throughout is something worth seeing for yourself. While I can't guarantee the film will be one that you might revisit let alone enjoy, I believe that the performances inside the film and the story the film is trying to tell is worth your attention if you're looking for films to watch leading up to the Oscars. While I personally hope that another film wins Best Picture this year, I would not be disappointed if this film takes the crown.

Movie Review: Lady Bird

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The hype train for this film is full steam ahead. After rave reviews that set a record on Rotten Tomatoes and winning Best Picture at the Golden Globes, Lady Bird is a definite contender and a possible front-runner for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. If it were not for Cole Smithey being a complete troll, Lady Bird would still be sitting at a 100% with over 200 reviews under its belt. Expectations were high for me walking into this film. I was a fan of Greta Gerwig's acting in the past in films such as Frances Ha and Greenberg but can she translate to the director's chair? Can this film live up to the hype and take home Best Picture in March? The answer for both is absolutely not.

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age drama starring Satires Ronan, Lucas Hedges, and Laurie Metcalf. The film centers around a teenage catholic student named Christine McPherson who have given herself the name "Lady Bird". Her pretentious attitude floods into every form of relationship she has including her friends in family, specifically her mother played by Metcalf. Instead of staying at home to help her family deal with their financial burden's, Lady Bird believes that she deserves better than what Sacramento has to offer her and applies for art schools in New York City. 

The performances in Lady Bird are serviceable for the story. Saoirse Ronan comes off as a nagging, stuck-up teenager which hopefully is the tone that the film wants her to be. If the film is trying to make Lady Bird a relatable character that we all have inside us, then I don't believe many audiences will connect. While the film failed to make me relate or care about the character of Lady Bird, I don't give the fault of that failure to Ronan's performance. The film however did help me relate to supporting characters in the film, most notable being Lady Bird’s parents. Lady Bird's parents are the average low-income family that struggle to better their children's lives. While they do the best they can, what they offer is not enough for Lady Bird.  

Those thoughts aside, I personally do not get the hype behind Lady Bird. While the film is nowhere near a terrible film, this film should not be the best reviewed film of all-time. Lady Bird is not even in the top 10 films of 2016 for me. The film lacks the ability to form any sort of connection to the protagonist. When your attention and care is being drawn towards supporting characters, your story is doing a bad job. The film is riddled with intriguing story elements including a priest that is trying to deal with an illness and a father who's trying to compete in a young corporate world. Yet, the film keeps its focus on a teenage female who's never happy with her privilege. 

Obviously with the time the film is set, the upbringing, and the outcome with Lady Bird, this film is a pseudo-biographical story of Greta Gerwig herself. While she might believe that her struggle is real and that she's fought hard to get where she's at, she's far from that. Lady Bird's attempt to make the world believe that a white female who wants the world to come to her is something we need a movie about is far from something worthy of Best Picture. The academy is attempting to erase the stigmatism of "Oscars So White" off their ceremony and awarding Greta and Lady Bird the top honor of the show would do the exact opposite. Let us all hope and pray that March will be the last month we ever have to hear about this film ever again.

Movie Review: It

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When I first heard that a remake of It was going into production, I was confused at what direction New Line Cinema wanted to go with this film. On one hand, the source material and the imagery of Pennywise has the potential to be a solid horror film. On the other hand, the original It was known for its over-the-top portrayal of Pennywise from Tim Curry and the camp nature of the 90s-version morphed the film into a meme status that left a lasting mark on the film. Which version of this film were audiences going to get? The answer was something very failure yet completely worth the remake.

It is a horror film directed by Andrés Muschietti and stars Ben Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, and Jeremy Ray Taylor. The movie follows a group of kids that live in the small town of Derry, Maine. After the younger brother of Bill (played by Lieberher) goes missing and presumed dead, him and his friends try to piece the puzzle together as to what might be caused the disappearance of Georgie as well as other children in the area. 

Some time ago on this blog, I wrote an article about Hollywood's Reboot Problem and why more films in theaters are becoming reboots of properties. Part of that article gave a defense as to why filmmakers and studios shouldn't completely abandon the idea of remaking a property entirely and instead move the focus to rebooting lesser known properties instead of major blockbusters such as Transformers and Terminator. The property of Stephen King's It is a perfect example of a property that's ripe for a revitalization and New Line Cinema, Andrés Muschietti, and his writing team of Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman knocked this reboot out of the park. The plot is trimmed tightly and the pace of the film is nearly perfect with just the right amount of scares paced properly with levity. Talks about a franchise that goes from campy to creepy faster than you can say "Pennywise".

Ben Skarsgard coming on the scene and giving a worthy performance that lives up to the one created his predecessor. Skarsgard does something completely different with the character of Pennywise while also keeping to the tradition Tim Curry brought to the role in 1990. Any actor going into this film and playing an iconic horror character such as Pennywise could easily fall into the tropes of tracing what has already been done. Instead, Skarsgard just colors in the character that Curry drew from King's novels. The child actors also do an incredible job at rounding out the story and giving the audience individuals that they can relate to. Jaeden Lieberher does a decent job as the main protagonist but I believe Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, and Finn Wolfhard came in and gave it their all with these characters. Finn Wolfhard could have easily phoned this role in and played a different version of Mike from Stranger Things. Instead of being the nerdy lovable kid that he is best known for in the Netflix series, he shows range and plays the overly perverted type of child that no one wants to be alone in a room with until the kid learns to mature himself.

Not only does It have a great cast and a terrific pace but the film lands the perfect blend of nostalgic and tasteful imagery within the film. In one scene, you can see Muschietti's tributes to the 1990 original while at the same time taking pages from other properties such as Stranger Things, Get Out, and It Follows. The way the camera morphs and rotates when characters slowly enter the world of Pennywise is so effective that it almost gives you the sense of vertigo and dizziness one might find lying in bed at night. The color pallet is on point as well in this film with keeping a warm tone to give the film a sense of age while giving the color of red the freedom to pop off the screen whenever its present.

As you can tell by the length and depth of this review, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of horror due to the campy and cheap nature of the genre. The last few years have shown that horror is on a comeback. With the success of It means that the film will get a sequel and it will be interesting to see where this franchise goes from here. Will the sequel push the envelope more and build off the groundwork that It paved for future films or will the franchise begin to rinse and repeat itself like many horror series have before? Only time will tell but you have me interested in your return Pennywise.

Movie Review: Brad’s Status

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Are you a fan of Ben Stiller playing middle-aged men in a mid-life crisis? If so, then Brad’s Status is your next fix. Ever since his team-up with Noah Baumbach, Ben Stiller has been transitioning his career into a more dramatic tone. Most of these films have worked out for the best including films like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), and While We're Young. Some might not be considered huge hits but at least they are better than that stinker of a film Zoolander 2 was. Now Ben Stiller adds another one of these more dramatic roles to his catalogue in Brad’s Status.

Brad’s Status is a film written and directed by Mike White and starring Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, and Luke Wilson. Stiller plays Brad Sloan who works for a non-profit organization struggling to stay afloat. While we learn about the nature’s of Brad's life, we learn that he used to be close to a certain group of guys who have all become incredibly successful in their careers which leaves Brad somewhat jealous. While he deals with these inner conflicts, his son begins to tour colleges and gets an interview at Harvard University. This opportunity for his son to join a prestigious school forces Brad's hands into going with his son to Boston for his interview process. While in Boston, the audience takes a journey down memory lane with Brad while also learning more about the relationship Stiller has with his son Troy, which eventually leads down a path that Brad might not want to take.

The cast is full of under-rated talent with like likes of Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, and Austin Abrams sharing the screen with Stiller. Wilson and Sheen do a great job and conveying the multiple layers of their characters throughout the film. Austin Abrams' performance as Stiller’s son shouldn’t be taken for granted either. Abrams succeeds in making the inner conflict about Troy's career and his future in education very believable. Even if his son's acceptance into Harvard is one of the main driving plots of the film, Brad is still the focal point. If audience members didn’t truly care about Brad and what’s going on with his life or his relationship with his wife and son, then the story would completely fall dead on arrival.

For a smaller film, Brad’s Status doesn’t allow budget restrictions and inexperience to hinder the story that Mike White envisioned. The film does a great job of visualizing the personal dilemmas inside Brad's mind as well as contextualizing the story with its shot selection and editing. While the film might not have The flashiness of a film like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Brad’s Status succeeds in creating the personal dramas that bring people back to that film. The film’s strength comes from its complete self-awareness of itself. The film has one purpose and one purpose only and it does not allow out connection with characters or sub-plots interfere with what the film’s core value is about.

Brad’s Status is definitely a film worth checking out if you are a fan of Stiller’s later work. The film definitely carries the vibe that some of his previous films have contained and if you’re ok with that, then you’ll find yourself at home here. Although families, Brad’s Status is not s traditional film and audiences who are looking for something more traditional might be thrown off a bit with this film. That being said, I believe that the film is entertaining in its own way. Brad’s Status probably won’t be finding its way on many Top Ten lists at the end of the year but that doesn’t mean you should pass up an opportunity to check it out.

 

Movie Review: The Post

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Whether you like him or not, Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. The amount of greatness that Spielberg has pumped out is a feat that few before him have done. While the quality of his films have dropped over time, audiences and critics cannot take a new Spielberg firm for granted. As we inch closer to the 90th Academy Awards, the contending films begins to thin out and Spielberg's newest film, The Post seems to be one of those films that could have its name called in March.

The Post is a political drama starring Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, and Bradley Whitford. Hanks plays Ben Bradlee who is the lead editor of The Washington Post when news leaks that the United States has been covering up their actions in the Vietnam War. After President Nixon bars the New York Times from publishing anymore top secret material, The Washington Post and it's publisher, Katharine Graham (played by Streep) must face the hard decision of sticking with the integrity of journalism or the integrity of her friends that she's made in the business.

The first thing audience members will notice when they start watching this film is the depth of talent on this ensemble cast. While Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep will garner most of the attention with this film, solid performances from the likes of Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Sara Paulson, and Davis Cross help bolster their work in this film. Meryl Streep delivers another noteworthy performance but at this point, would anyone expect her to phone in a performance at this point? Tom Hanks also gives a performance that you would expect with top billing in a Steven Spielberg film. While his performance is solid, Hanks doesn't disappear in the role and make you believe he's another person which might bother some who are looking for something different from him.

The pacing of The Post is a little sluggish at first as the film tries to inform on what state the country was in during that moment in history. While informative, I believe that the execution could have been a little better as it can come across as confusing to some viewers. Once the first act wraps up, the film begins to crank up its momentum and tension as it leads towards the climax. The cinematography definitely left a lot of room for improvement. As a fan of Spielberg's older work, most of his newer work lacks the grand imagery that his older work provided.

Overall, The Post is another solid outing for Hanks, Streep, and Spielberg and the film absolutely warrants your attention. With what's going on in the United States right now between its leadership and their attack on the press, The Post is more relatable than ever. That being said, does The Post warrant consideration for Best Picture at this year's Oscars? The Post's performance, content, and execution do make it a contender for this year's Academy Awards. Whether this film will take the award home in March remains to be seen. I don't believe that The Post is the front-runner at this point but relevance to what's going on currently could catapult the film into that position.

Movie Review: All The Money In The World

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The end of the year is upon us and with that comes award season. Tons of films prepare for their full-court press as they flood theaters with best picture contenders. Some of these films mark the return of big-time directors like Christopher Nolan and Stephen Spielberg.  Other films hope to showcase top-tier performances including Daniel Day Lewis’ final performance. All The Money in the World has some of those characteristics but the return of Ridley Scott and Christopher Plummer is not why this film is grabbing headlines. Scott and Sony Pictures set a precedent this year when they made the decision to cut troubled-actor Kevin Spacy from the final cut of the film after sexual allegations were made against Spacey. While the spotlight has been shined on this film for many reasons not associated with the story of the film, Sony hopes to make a final push at award recognition.

All The Money In The World stars Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, and Christopher Plummer with Ridley Scott returning to the director's chair since Alien: Covenants release earlier this year. Christopher Plummer plays oil tycoon, J. Paul Getty who is considered the richest man in the world. After the abduction of his grandson, Getty and his former daughter-in-law must face a decision of whether they will pay their grandson’s $17 million ransom. Former CIA agent and head of Getty’s security, Fletcher Chase (played by Mark Wahlberg) must find out where the truth lies with his grandson’s kidnapping and how to return him home safely.

The story itself is enough to keep viewers entertained but I believe that the film’s pace is sluggish at best.  The film throws a lot of information at you from the start and then drags during the second act of the film. Once the film closes in on its climax, the film revs up again and speeds to a satisfying finish. While All The Money In The World is not ugly, the films lacks the great cinematography that many might expect from a Ridley Scott film. The film shows flashes Scott’s talent behind the camera but the film lack’s the voice that a Ridley Scott film brings.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, most of the audience’s attention gravitates towards Christopher Plummer as soon as he makes his presence on screen. The appearance of Plummer definitely looks more natural than the heavily prosthetic performance of Kevin Spacey. Plummer’s definitely brings a ton of gravitas and strength to the role of J. Paul Getty. Even at the age of 88, Plummer can be a threatening presence on the screen.  While Christopher Plummer delivers a performance worthy of the big screen, Michelle Williams is the actor who steals the show in this film. The emotional battles that her character of Gail Harris goes through as she fights her battles with Fletcher, the kidnappers, and Getty is mesmerizing. When Gail hits the lowest of lows in All The Money In The World, Williams soars to incredible heights.

While this film brings top-tier performances that audiences expect during award season, the film itself won’t be able to hold up to the major players this year.  Michelle Williams and Christopher Plummer give this film everything they got and deserve the recognition for their work in this film. In the end, no matter how great the performances are, All The Money In The World will always have the shadow of Kevin Spacey cast upon it.  Everyone knows that somewhere at Sony Pictures lies a cut of this film with Kevin Spacey’s performance still intact and many will always wonder “Was Spacey’s take on J. Paul Getty better than Plummer?” Personally, I do not believe Spacey would have made this film better and I’m happy for Ridley Scott, the cast, and crew to find a way to spin this film in a positive manor after Spacey’s departure. One person’s actions should not hamper the work his peers have done and I hope audiences around the world take that with them to the cinemas when they see this film.

Movie Review: Logan Lucky

Around four years ago, Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement from directing. The announcement shocked many film critics and fans since the director popped off three hits in a row with Magic Mike, Side Effects, and Behind the Candelabra. To no surprise, Soderbergh made his tryphant return from his hiatus. Personally, I’m glad that Soderbergh has returned to filmmaking. With Hollywood’s lack of creativity in terms of producing original stories, Soderbergh was one of the few directors working that was always bringing fresh ideas to the industry, Steven Soderbergh literally made a male stripper movie that was more than just some cheap eye candy film for a female audience. Need I say more for why we should be excited for this director to be back? 
 
Logan Lucky marks the return of Soderbergh’s new muse, Channing Tatum along with Adam Driver and Daniel Craig, two of Hollywood’s biggest actors working currently.  Contrary to what I said to Soderbergh’s originality, the plot of Logan Lucky is basically a southern-fried version of Ocean’s Eleven. Both films share the basic plot of criminals planning a complex heist that involved the robbery of millions of dollars in a vastly populated area. Logan Lucky trades out a Vegas casino for Charlotte Motor Speedway and sly George Clooney for a duo of unlucky West Virginia rednecks. The Logan bothers (Driver and Tatum) have had enough of their low-end lives and team up with Joe Bang to rob the nearby major speedway during one of the largest sporting events of the year.
 
Right off the bat, the hyper realistic look of Soderbergh’s films takes over the visual canvas. Soderbergh’s eye for cinematography is not one that’s incredibly stylistic unless you count some of his heavily saturated color grading he did with his last few films. Long gone are the heavy yellows of Magic Mike as Soderbergh saturates the screen with vibrant colors that pop in nearly every scene.  From the vibrant skies of West Virginia to the dozens of stock cars racing down the track, Soderbergh’s choice to widen his color pallet pays off. 
 
As for the film itself, Soderbergh adds another quality entry into his film catalog.  While the film seems a bit stiff at the beginning due to its lack of humor, the film uses that time wisely in allowing the audience to understand the world that Jimmy & Clyde Logan come from. The final act of the film seems to drag some due to some decisions Soderbergh makes in wrapping up his story. While I can see his reasons behind his story structure, I believe that the film has already implied that with how the film executes its climax. Performances from top to bottom are pretty good minus a few.  Katie Holmes I thought would be a weak spot in the film but Hillary Swank and Sebastian Stan took that participation ribbon from Holmes. Stan’s role in the film seemed to be a complete waste and not prevalent to the plot at all. I believe Stan’s unnecessary role to the plot affected his dedication to the role and the same goes for Swank.
 
In the end, Logan Lucky is an entertaining film and quite possibly one of the most entertaining films of 2017. While I’m not sure if the film will land on my personal Top 10 list, the film could makes its way on others depending on how well the film connects with them. Soderbergh does a great job at channeling the issues going on in rural America and blends their realities with the fantasy and entertainment that comes with the heist genre. Logan Lucky sports quality laughs, a solid performances from its cast and hopefully keeps the creative spark from flaming out of Steven Soderbergh.

Movie Review: Bright

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Last year, David Ayers faced a ton of criticism from fans and critics about his adaptation of Suicide Squad. The third film in the DCEU was considered a huge bomb and one of the darkest stains left on the DC cinematic universe. Ayers himself regrets some of the decisions that he made in producing the film, While many hold most of the blame on Warner Brothers with Suicide Squad’s failures, David Ayers took the high road and never threw the studio under the bus. While other studios may have hesitated on bringing on David Ayers, Netflix believed that Ayers’ still has the potential to make hits if given the creative freedom. 

While Netflix has crushed television programming for nearly five years, it has failed to successfully launch its film production. Studios such as Amazon have already received awards and accolades with their productions in a shorter amount of time with pictures such as Manchester by the Sea and The Big Sick. Netflix hopes to stop this slump with Bright, a major production starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. Bright follows two LAPD officers in an alternate reality of Los Angeles where humanity coexists with fictional species such as Orcs, Fairies, and Elves. Will Smith plays a cop who has been partnered up with the first Orc police officer in the United States played by Edgerton. Smith and Edgerton must work together after they stumble across a plot to destroy the existence of the world as they know it and only the two of them are able to prevent the apocalypse. 

My first impressions of the film when I saw the trailer earlier this year was that the film had great potential just because of the modernizing classic fantasy tropes. Bringing the fantastical world of mythological characters to the grit of modern Los Angeles brings tons of opportunities to tell a story. The visual ascetic of elves fighting orcs in the modern world with modern weaponry is thrilling to watch on screen. Ayers and company did a tremendous job at capturing the viewer' attention with spectacle and super-human action that this premise brings cinematically. Ayers’ writer Max Landis helped convert this idea into a cohesive story in a world that’s incredibly rich, so rich that it suffers from being condensed into an hour and fifty seven minute movie.

Will Smith and Joel Edgerton try their best to give this film the humanity it needs to give the audience characters to relate to. Bright does succeed in having moments where you can relate to the characters and their situations. Their success only gets muddled down by the cartoonish nature of their counterparts. Lucy Fry plays the role of Tikka, a mysterious elf who’s trying to run from her menacing counterparts who are plotting to destroy the world. Her character is a carbon copy of Leelo from the science fiction classic The Fifth Element and her look and performance are identical to Harley Quinn from Ayers’ previous film. The character of Tikka was needed to move the film forward but the execution of the character was poor. The film didn’t need this character to be Diet Harley Quinn for her to work. This role could have been as effective if the character was played by a child. If Tikka were a child, maybe her fears and wants would be more believable. 

This world belongs as the heart of a Netflix original television series. The backstories and history hinted at throughout the movie are much more suited for that medium. In order to make this complex world understandable in a short amount of time, the audience us to get subjected to pigeon-holed stereotypes within each fantastical species. Replace white privilege with elves who rules the world. Replace black culture with humanity striving to find their place in society. Replace Muslims, Hispanics, and Asian culture and characterize them into the race of Orcs who the rest of the world looks down upon with judgement. Bright knows that it’s using cultural stereotypes to characterize these races because they cannot spend the whole movie explaining who these people are. An example of this self-consciousness comes very early in the film where Will Smith swats a fairy to death like a common fly which he then follows-up with the lines “Fairy Lives Dont Matter”. Using writing like that in a film filled with racial and cultural stereotypes with the political climate we’re in is downright lazy, offensive, and not funny.

Overall, Bright might be a step in the right direction for Netflix but the film is still not up to the task of competing with other films produced by streaming services. The film definitely has the star power, excitement, and visual aesthetic you might see in a theatrical film but Ayers stumbles again at creating a cohesive story that audience members can wrap their heads around. Bright is not a major mess in comparison to Suicide Squad but the film is another example that David Ayers is not ready to tackle major productions. Hopefully the results of Bright give Netflix the confidence to continue their film productions and allowing filmmakers the freedom to tell rich stories. 

 

Movie Review: Star Wars - The Last Jedi

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Forty years ago, fans of all ages walked into theaters across the nation to go watch a funny space film made by some quiet spoken college grad from USC. What the audience didn't know was that they were walking into one of the most influential films in cinematic history. Star Wars: A New Hope which at the time was just called simply "Star Wars" changed the way Hollywood made films, the way films were merchandised, and how the next generation of filmmakers will tell their own stories. Since the release of the first Star Wars film, the series has produced a combined box office haul of $7.5 billion with three films reaching the billion Today, the world is introduced to the 8th film in the Star Wars saga and the 10th theatrical Star Wars release with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

In The Last Jedi, the story of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren continues where their stories left off in The Force Awakens. Rey meets her soon-to-be mentor in Luke Skywalker, Finn recovers from his attack on Starkiller Base, Poe takes on a larger role in the resistance, and Kylo Ren meets with the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke as they plan their next move for taking over the galaxy. The film gives fans nostalgia and plot elements that will remind them that they're in a Star Wars film while adding to the mythology and taking the story in a new direction.

The acting performances in The Last Jedi are some of the best we have seen in the saga recently. John Boyega and Oscar Issac continue to give audiences more of what they liked from their characters in The Force Awakens. Issac's Poe Dameron takes on a larger role in this film which is a welcome addition after receiving little screen time in the previous. John Boyega continues his tear of being one of the best young actors working in Hollywood despite some of the shortcomings in his story arc. While both Boyega and Issac give solid portrayals, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver steal the show. Ridley and Driver's efforts in evolving Rey and Kylo's story arc is the most powerful segment in The Last Jedi. You believe every issue that each of them are dealing with as they pave the way to the grey areas that Kylo and Rey live in. Carrie Fisher's last performance as Leia Organa will strongly affect anyone who is a fan of the series. Leia's story-arc and the journey her character goes through in The Last Jedi could be considered the strongest Leia plot line since her story-arc in The Empire Strikes Back. How much of her story's weight comes from our outside knowledge of Carrie Fisher is hard to tell but I'll personally say that I lost myself in my emotions multiple times in the film. The return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker was a much anticipated arrival and I believe his story was well worth the wait. While I believe his character faces some criticism, my issues with Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi do not fall on the performance of Mark Hamill.

While the film has a ton of things going right for it including one of the best moments in Star Wars history, the film fails on a ton of levels as well. While the film does a solid job progressing Kylo Ren and Rey's story arc, The Last Jedi critically fails to develop any other character in the film. Finn and newcomer Rose (played by Kelly Marie Tran) are shoehorned into a romance and causes a huge disservice to both characters. Fans who are looking forward to the return of Captain Phasma, Snoke, Maz Kanata, and other fan favorites from The Force Awakens will be severely disappointed. The failure to progress many characters is just the icing on the cake once you dive deep into the plot of the film. Each story-arc throughout the film has plot holes that the audience could fly a Mon Calamari cruiser through.

When I have left a Star Wars film in the past, I always remember how much I enjoyed myself after each film. Even with all of the issues of the prequels, I always left looking forward to the future or talking about some of the incredible moments that happen in each film. With The Last Jedi, I left with a feeling that I've never felt after leaving a Star Wars film, disappointment. The wave of disappointment I felt completely threw me off guard especially after coming out of last year's release of Rogue One which had me feeling that I just saw the best Star Wars film ever. I should have left The Last Jedi feeling great and looking forward to the future of the Star Wars saga. Instead, the film's lacks a solid foundation along with the failure to develop core characters is what makes The Last Jedi a massive speed bump in the continuing Star Wars saga. At least the film's choices in how it progresses itself do not damage the past that the prequels habitually did. Instead, The Last Jedi leaves the audience with a blank canvas as to where the saga goes two years from now. Some people out there might be excited with the fact that the story can literally go anywhere but many might be left not caring what the future of the saga holds.

 

Movie Review: Justice League

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The DC film universe has not had the best run of a film franchise since its debut in 2013. It's crazy that this film franchise has only been around for five years yet all the drama surrounding it makes it feel like fifteen.  The DCEU has had as many downs as it has had ups but the majority of fans and critics believe that Justice League could be the film that can help bring both parties back on board; especially after the success of Wonder Woman. So does Justice League help build off the momentum of the success of Wonder Woman or does this film stumble and fall like many of its predecessors? 

Justice League stars Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa and Ray Fisher as their respected heroes. Batman and Wonder Woman (Affleck and Gadot) must put together a team of people with special abilities to help prevent the world from falling into an apocalyptic hell by the hands of Steppenwolf played by Ciarán Hinds. These heroes are the Flash (Miller), Aquaman (Momoa), and Cyborg (Fisher). The hope for this team is that if they fight together, they can be the beacon of hope that was dimmed due to the death of Superman in the previous film. I had a lot of hope going into this film, primarily because of Joss Whedon taking over the helm from Zack Snyder who left the project do deal with personal issues that where affecting him. I felt that having someone like Whedon who had a ton of success with comic book properties and team-up films (Avengers & Age of Ultron) the film would have a slim hope of being a bust. Yet somehow, some way, this film found a way to be a complete mess. 

I'll start with the positives first mentioning the performances in the film.  Gal Gadot once again shows that she has stolen the mantel of top-billing in the DCEU. Gadot comes on screen once again with a strong and powerful performance as Diana Prince and has great chemistry with the newcomers in Miller, Momoa, and Fisher.  Affleck does a good job at being Batman in the film but he still doesn't hit the dramatic tones that Christian Bale could hit at Bruce Wayne in his Dark Knight trilogy. Ezra Miller is probably the brightest spot in the cast of newcomers to the franchise as his performance of Barry Allen/Flash does a great job at lightening the mood.

That's about it when it comes to a solid positive from this film. Yeah there are a few pieces here in there in terms of action scenes and music cues from Danny Elfman's entertaining score but outside of that, this film is probably the worst production of a big-budget film I've ever seen. Going into this film, I knew there were a ton of reshoots to help add more scenes with Wonder Woman as well as lighten the tone of the film to match the tone of Marvel films. In the end, the reshoots are some of the most noticeable I've ever seen in a film. Scenes will jump back and forth from shots made on real locations to reshoots filmed later on a green screen. Cast members change there appearance multiple times in the film with Ezra Miller's hair changing in length while Ben Affleck's beard comes and goes along with his weight.

While the reshoots and studio mandated runtime help destroy the past of the film, the studios lack of effort in the CGI department helps round out the awfulness of this film's production. The CGI done on some character's faces is painful to watch but nothing takes president over the monstrosity that is Steppenwolf.  The CGI work done on Steppenwolf is on par with a video game from 4 years ago. Details on Steppenwolf are washed out at best and the mouth movement doesn't mirror any form of human performance capturing. For a studio that has put out great visual effects work, I cannot believe that a top-tier film release was sent out to theaters with this unfinished product.

Overall, Justice League is a complete mess of a film as well as a production. Although the film has entertaining moments with it's character, the film lacks a ton of exposition. I highly believe that there is a cohesive version of this film somewhere deep in Warner Brothers editing room. Does the failure of ustice League warrant a hard reboot of this film universe, I don't think so but another major failure from the studio might warrant it. The main problem is that Warner Bothers needs to allow their filmmakers to make the movies that they wanted to make. They got in the way of the production of both Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad and the director's cuts of both films hold much higher praise than their theatrical releases. I would not be shocked if the same will be said for Justice League when the smoke clears. 

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

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When I finished watching the original Blade Runner a few years ago,  I was completely let down.  I was let down because I didn't get the movie I was expecting.  For a film labeled as one of the best science fiction stories of all time, I was expecting more action and more adrenaline.  Instead I was given something completely different and was caught off guard.  Over time, I read more into the film and then gave it a second viewing when the film was re-released on blu-ray. After a second watch (and watching the final cut instead of the theatrical), I took a complete 180 turn on my opinion of the film.  Now after years of loving this under-appreciated film, I was conflicted when I heard the news that this classic would be receiving a sequel. I initially thought this was just another one of Hollywood's lazy attempts at making quick cash. Then Ridley Scott was attached to the project, Denis Villeneuve was hired as director, and Ryan Gosling joined the cast along with the return of Harrison Ford. This film has no chance at failing right?

Blade Runner 2049 is the highly anticipated sequel to the 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott. As stated above, Denis Villeneuve takes over as director of the sequel with Harrison Ford returning to the iconic role of Rick Deckard.  The sequel takes place thirty years after the original and replicants are still facing the same hatred and racism that they faced in the prior film but society has found a use form them.  Officer K (played by Ryan Gosling) has taken on the role of Blade Runner as he's task to find the older model of replicants that society still forbids to exist.  His work leads him to discover something that he cannot comprehend.  Now the future of humanity and replicants fall on his shoulder as he winds his way though the complex world of a futuristic California landscape.

The plot of the film mirrors elements of the original 1982 film but removes some of the problems the original had. That being said, fans of science fiction still need to be prepared for a film that is not your traditional science fiction film. The pace is still slower than your typical blockbuster but has more action than it's predecessor to help give the illusion of a faster pace. For fans of the original, many of you might be worried wether some ambiguities could be answered in this film. Many I believe will be satisfied how Blade Runner 2049 dances around those questions but others could be frustrated. 

Harrison Ford's return as Rick Deckard is enjoyable but not as believable as his return to the role of Han Solo two years back. Ford still gives moments that show you why he's one of the best actors to have worked the last forty years but I still had moments where I didn't see Rick Deckard but Harrison Ford. Ryan Gosling and Ana De Armas give incredible performances that help pass the torch to the next generation of this story. Their on-screen chemistry as well as the adversity that they face throughout the film almost make you forget that you're in a Blade Runner film.

The visual effects in this film are the best you will see this year. The unique color pallet along with the seamless blend of CGI and practical effects create a cinematic experience that help transport you to the futuristic dystopia of California. Sadly, I found no information that the film was ever shot with IMAX camera or else I would highly recommend seeing this film in that format. That being said, the cinematography, the quality of image, and the amount of color in the film definitely warrant a premium viewing experience to enjoy the film to its fullest extent.

As a fan of the original film and Denis Villeneuve, this project seemed like something that would be pretty hard to screw up and the end results confirmed that confidence. Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best looking films of 2016 and definitely will be the discussion for many awards this season. Following up a sci-fi classic such as Blade Runner is something that's incredibly difficult. Making a sequel that surpasses a classic is nearly impossible and Denis Villeneuve accomplished that impossible feat.  Sadly, a ton of people did not come out and support this quality film even with all of the buzz surrounding the film. Why this film failed to connect with audiences will be analyzed for years to come but make no mistake, this film is a new modern science fiction classic.