The coolest movie of the summer has finally arrived. Baby Driver is driven with great writing, acting and direction. Plus, the film features a killer soundtrack!
Put the petal to the metal, Baby Driver is a summer movie sensation. Fueled by fast-paced action that is both smartly written and character driven. Writer-director, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) hits a new high is his superb career. In a world, full of bloated CGI, Baby Driver goes retro as there is little to no CGI or green screen used in the car chase sequences. The driving is all practically done. The intensity you feel rush through your bones, while watching the thrilling car chase scenes was captured in real time and live stunts.
This just goes to show how brilliant Wright really is as a filmmaker. Without giving away too much of the plot, after being coerced into working for a crime boss (a vicious Kevin Spacey), a young getaway driver (a fantastic Ansel Elgort) finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. That’s all I will say about the plot and the rest is waiting for you to experience on the big screen. Alongside, the exceptional writing is the star-studded character development. Elgort plays Baby, a getaway driver, who through his charm and “Kubrick look” will win your heart. Spacey plays Doc, a vicious mastermind behind the planning and execution of the ongoing robberies.
Doc calls Baby his lucky charm because he has used him for multiple heists. Lilly James plays Debra, a young waitress and Baby’s girlfriend. James evolves perfectly into her character and doesn’t run into the cliché girlfriend role. Jamie Foxx plays Bats, a psychopath who would creepy out even your average, everyday psychopaths. John Hamm plays Buddy, the handsome criminal who you don’t want to cross. Eiza González plays Darling, Buddy’s dame and faithful partner in crime. Wright takes his time with each character showing us their strengths and weaknesses throughout the film. Baby Driver also has a killer soundtrack that packs in a punch.
Songs like Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl, Easy by The Commodores, B-A-B-Y by Carla Thomas, Debra by Beck, Every Little Bit Hurts by Brenda Holloway, Hocus Pocus by Focus, Radar Love by Golden Earring and Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up by Barry White. Needless to say, Baby Driver delivers and is not only one of the best films of the summer, it’s one of the best films of the year. Masterfully crafted and well-executed, Baby Driver will leave you wanting more after the credits roll. It receives all 5 stars from me and in time will go down as a new American classic. I had a blast from the opening scene until the very last and I hope you do as well. Yes, the coolest movie of the summer has finally arrived. Check it out now!
Baby Driver is rated R (Restricted). For violence and language throughout.
The most catastrophic film to hit the theaters this summer. This review will be short, painless and straight-to-the-point. Transformer: The Last Knight is this year's worst film and receives zero stars from me.
149 minutes… think about that? With the constant crashing and scrapping of sluggish metal, at the end of this disastrous film my head was about to explode. Yes, The Last Knight is that bad. It’s Michael Bay’s (Transformers franchise) worst Transformers movie to-date. Worse than Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon, and Age of Extinction combined. I know, it’s hard to believe but the incompetent franchise has sunk to a new low. There’s not fun, no heart and no point to the very existence of this film. The Last Knight is thinly plotted and bloated with special effects to the state of grotesque.
Here’s the ludicrous plot: Autobots and Decepticons are at war… again, with humans on the sidelines. Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. A.K.A. cue King Arthur battle sequences with ancient metals of junk and a Stonehenge shindig, full of Bay’s most famous trademark… blowing crap up. Actors Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro and Stanley Tucci get lost amongst the chaos. Alongside, Bay’s controversial trademark makes multiple appearances throughout this mess.
What's that you ask? The controversy is Bay’s relentless camera focus on women and objectifying them. Haddock is the unfortunate soul here who gets bombarded by Bay’s uptight and perverted camerawork. In the end, it’s not just me who has gotten very tired of this topsy-turvy franchise. Over time, the stats have proven that audiences around are also becoming weary. The Last Knight’s opening weekend in the U.S. was a franchise low, bringing in only a mere $69.1 million in the first five days. The Last Knight was down a stunning 31% from 2014’s Age of Extinction. This proves even more that Bay’s tired and bloated franchise will hopefully see an end. In all, Bay’s fifth outing came, squabbled and sunk. Who are we kidding? Of course, it’s not good.
Transformers: The Last Knight is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some innuendo.
The dead may be alive, but this mummy should have stayed buried…
One of the worst summer blockbusters to-date, period. The Mummy (2017) lacks the campy-fun of Brendan Fraser’s '90s cheese fest and remains hallow of any monster-movie thrills from the original 1932 classic. A bad start for the Dark Universe series, The Mummy will leave viewers with a bad aftertaste of anger and disgust. Universal might have gotten ahead of themselves for planning an entire extended universe without waiting on the final results of their first entry. The Mummy is so-bad that it makes Brendan Fraser’s '90s cheese fest look like a monster-masterpiece.
Alex Kurtzman's (Transformers and Star Trek) reboot is a mess from the very beginning. Bloated with bad special effects and a ludicrous plot, actor Tom Cruise had no chance in saving the film from utter disaster. The plot follows an ancient princess (a so-so Sofia Boutella) who’s awakened from her crypt beneath the desert. With her power, she’ll bring malevolence and terror that defies human comprehension. The narrative in retrospect, is so chaotic that it should have remained dead.
The Dark Universe is off to a rather shaky start, but Universal is still planning on having multiple films apart of this franchise. Films like, Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invisible Man and many more similar monster-flicks. The Bride of Frankenstein is already scheduled for February 14, 2019… we’ll see if the Universal will be able to pull a 180° by then. All-in-all, if you’re looking for a summer disaster filled with hamstrung actors (Cruise, Boutella, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson and Courtney B. Vance), bloated CGI and terrible dialog, then this is the movie for you. For the rest of us with a brain, go in peace and stay far away from this rotten tomb.
The Mummy (2017) is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.
14 years later and Johnny Depp is still sailing upon his voyage in murky waters.
While Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales had its moments, nevertheless; the film resulted in another been-there-done-that goofy adventure. Depp’s famous Captain Jack Sparrow still amuses us with his time on the big screen. Whether its robbing a bank or fighting zombie sharks (yes you heard that right), Captain Jack can still put a smile on your face. As for the rest of the film, Pirates 5 sails into murky waters full of bloated CGI backed by a shaky narrative. Not even a switch in new direction from directors Espen Sandberg and Joachim Rønning (Kon-Tiki), could help the film succeed.
Javier Bardem's undead pirate wasn't enough to set sail for the franchise. Instead, Bardem’s incarnation, Captain Salazar, becomes the most underwhelming Pirates villain to-date. Keeping the plot to a bare minimum, Captain Jack (a cheeky and sometimes drunk Depp) searches for the trident of Poseidon while being pursued by an undead sea captain (A.K.A. the underwhelming Bardem) and his crew. Since the Pirates franchise took off in 2003, it has grossed $4 billion worldwide. Sadly, the series as a whole has had its constant ups and downs. Although, none of the sequels (Dead Man's Chest, At World's End, On Stranger Tides and Dead Men Tell No Tales) could ever live up to heights of the first installment (The Curse of the Black Pearl).
Pirates 5 does have its moments, like the fun chemistry between Sparrow and Barbossa (the grand Geoffrey Rush) or both Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley respectively respiring their roles. All-in-all, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a harmless sequel to the already bloated franchise. When in doubt, viewers should just watch the original. For me, I saw it as a double feature with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 at a Drive-In movie theater. So, maybe I’m not being as harsh on the film as I should? Either way, I was more anxious for Guardians 2 to start up as soon as Captain Jack’s latest sail ended.
Check out one of the coolest Drive-In movie theaters I've ever been to below! Named one of the Top Ten Drive-Ins in USA TODAY.
49'er Drive-in Theatre
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content.
The Fate of the Furious is nothing more than a continuation the franchise’s fueled trademark, consisting of over-the-top action and thrills.
You already know what you’re getting into before you go in, so The Fate of the Furious A.K.A. Fast & Furious 8 shouldn’t disappoint hardcore fans. It’s been 16 years since the first Furious film was realized and since then, the franchise has become Universal’s highest grossing franchise of all time. The $5.1 billion franchise has gone through many loopholes to get here, nevertheless; these beat-up cars keep on driving. F8 has grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the thirtieth film to gross over $1 billion, the second highest-grossing film of 2017 and the eleventh highest-grossing film of all time. The film grossed $532 million worldwide during its worldwide opening weekend, setting the record for the highest-grossing worldwide opening of all time, ahead of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($529 million).
Taking on the director’s chair this time around is director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton). Your traditional speed cast returns consisting of Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell. Actors Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren and Scott Eastwood also join the ride. The plot goes along the lines of this: When a mysterious woman seduces Dom (Diesel) into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before. Cue, cheeky dialogue, fast cars, submarines and lots of explosions. When Dom and his crew take the cars on ice, you know that you’re in for a real treat. F8 is pure action escapism, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
The Fate of the Furious is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is nothing more than lively popcorn entertainment. Director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) returns his band of space misfits to the big screen, in a colorful and explosive sequel.
Quill’s (a charismatic Chris Pratt) Awesome Mixtape #2 is just as good as it’s predecessor’s tunes that fueled the theaters back in 2014. Vol. 2 displays a packed plot with dazzling visuals that will leave viewers anxious for more. Gunn’s sequel is almost as fun as his triumph in 2014, as we continue to follow our heroes on another space-operatic adventure through the cosmos. Gunn keeps the plot rolling with sharp dialogue and cheeky humor. New beats include "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra, "Fox on the Run" by Sweet, "Lake Shore Drive" by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah, "The Chain" Fleetwood Mac and "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass.
Continuing to expand the Marvel Universe, Quill is accompanied by his friends consisting of Gamora (a fierce Zoe Saldana), Drax (a wild Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and the adorable Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Baby Groot's innocence and goofy sense of nature will steal your heart. Trying not to dwell into spoiler territory, the Guardians advance their journey through the cosmos as they discover the mystery of Quill’s true parentage. A.K.A. the bombastic Kurt Russell as Ego. That’s all I’ll say. Cast members that also shine in the sequel include Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff and Sylvester Stallone. Vol. 2 might not be as fresh as Vol. 1, nevertheless; its thrills and visuals are more than enough to keep audiences entertained for now.
Check out and listen to Awesome Mixtape #2 below!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.
The Circle is one of the most disappointing movies of 2017.
This lackluster film hit the theaters a few weeks back and while it assembles an impressive cast (Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan and Ellar Coltrane), nevertheless; The Circle is not able to overcome its half-hearted themes. We follow a woman (Watson) who lands a dream job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, only to uncover a nefarious agenda that will affect the lives of her friends, family and that of humanity. The film floats an intriguing premise, but lands it with a gigantic thud. Actor’s Hanks and Watson failed to overcome director James Ponsoldt’s (The Spectacular Now) botched direction. This so-called technology thriller ends up being a sloppy mess with ham-fisted finishing touches. The future is scary, but The Circle is not…
The Circle is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For a sexual situation, brief strong language and some thematic elements including drug use.
Get Out is a social critique that's laced with racial tension and packaged in a horror/comedy duo. It’s the best film of 2017 thus far.
I know that I’m late to the party, but Get Out is a thought-provoking thrill ride seamlessly weaved through the mastermind of Jordan Peele (Key & Peele). Peele’s directorial debut could go into the books as one of the most successful first tries ever achieved on film. Get Out will have your heart pumping with your hands on the edge of your seat from the first frame until the last. Spiraling around the story of a young African-American man (the terrific Daniel Kaluuya) who visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (a wonderful Allison Williams) mysterious family estate. Peele unleashes racial paranoia in an effective horror/comedy mash-up.
Get Out not only parallels real world events, but also captures the fears of what real black men and women face every single day. In my opinion, Peele’s first film receives all 5 stars for its sheer brilliance in writing, acting and directing. Get Out’s scarefest will surely leave viewers shaken and stirred. A searing satire that's scary enough on its own terms. In a twist, Get Out finds its tension in black people's fear of white people's fear of black people. Furthermore, I’ll let you enjoy the rest of this madness on your own.
Get Out is rated R (Restricted). For violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.
Kong: Skull Island is eye candy grandeur, filled with the nostalgia of the ‘70s and classic rock 'n' roll hits.
You’ve seen this all before, but Kong continues to show us why he’s still “king of the jungle.” In Kong: Skull Island, we get a fast-paced story fueled with more monster mythos. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ (The Kings of Summer) newest incantation of the mighty ape never lives up to the original classic. Yet again, this version of Kong never tries to. Vogt-Roberts pumps the story full of homage to past war films like Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.
Backed by the film's anti-war message, cheeky dialogue and a soundtrack to die for, you’re in for an adventure. Kong's rockin’ tracklist consists of songs like: "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", "Time Has Come Today", "White Rabbit", "Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress", "Down On the Street", "Paranoid", "Bad Moon Rising" and “Run Through the Jungle.” Vogt-Roberts also grabs a stellar cast consisting of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson and John C. Reilly. Kong: Skull Island is an action-packed fest full of brainless fun. Brewed with vivid portraits of the Vietnam era, this Kong packs in a punch and delivers a blow.
Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language.
Let the magic begin! Beauty and the Beast has stormed to theaters with a force of heart, nostalgia and new faces. Your invitation awaits here, while we return back to the castle as familiar guests.
You’ve seen this all before, nevertheless; a “Tale As Old As Time” continues its legacy as the magical gem it has come to know and be. Like clockwork, Disney continues their effort to remake all of their original animated classics into live-action features. Over the years, there have been highs (Cinderella and The Jungle Book) and there have been lows (Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent) with the remakes. Luckily, director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls and Mr. Holmes) retelling of the tale comes out as a high. Condon doesn’t overdo it with the CGI here and instead focuses more on the musical score and character development in this newest adaption.
The little ones will be widely entertained for the full 129 minutes, as will the adults. Now, of course, the live-action remake will never succeed the heights of the original animated classic that soared to theaters over 25 years ago. Back in 1991, the animated version broke a record with begin the first and only animated film to receive a Best Picture nomination. The film also won two Oscars for Best Music, Original Song and Best Music, Original Score. Likewise, 2017’s live-action remake has broken five box office records over its opening weekend. This includes: top domestic opening of all time for a film rated PG, No. 7 launch of all time for any movie, biggest debut of all time for a female-fueled film, biggest domestic bow in almost a year and biggest opening for this genre of Disney live-action remakes.
Condon’s film has already taken in $750 million worldwide and is currently eyeing the billion-dollar club. But enough talk about records, let’s shift our focus to the music and performances. No doubt, that the musical score transcribed wonderfully over and I am pleased to say that all of the performances done by the cast (live and voice) did an outstanding job. While Emma Watson’s Belle is no Paige O'Hara, fear not; Watson continued to show us her fierceness and the range of her singing chops. Dan Stevens (former Downtown Abbey star) does a fantastic job fitting into the beast’s shoes. I saw a lot of “Matthew Crawley” mannerisms expressed in Stevens' emotions throughout.
Josh Gad plays a quirky/gleeful LeFou (no controversy here), while Luke Evans steals the show as the egotistical Gaston. Evans’ version of Gaston was spot on and his acclaimed performance stole the spotlight for me in almost every frame. Lastly, the voice cast (Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci) filled in the rest of the cracks for the film. Their voices were flawless as the cursed furniture wooing Belle with “Best Our Guest” and many more delightful songs.
The visuals will stun you, as will the costume design full of piazza and wonder. Beauty and the Beast may fault on familiarity, but it’s one that offers a faithful retelling to the beloved source of material. The enchanting cast with beautifully crafted songs are a glitter to one’s eye. Song likes “Belle", "Gaston", "Be Our Guest", "How Does a Moment Last Forever", and "Evermore" will steal your heart to the very last beat. In the end, Beauty and the Beast’s re-invitation has been well received.
Beauty and the Beast is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For some action, violence, peril, and frightening images.
At Last, we have finally reached Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the claw-shredding hero. In Logan, we get that final goodbye helmed through blood, sweat and tears.
Jackman returns in a final outing as a beaten and bruised Logan wondering the deep south in 2029. This near future dystopian gives us a glimpse in the mutant barren world, as we follow Logan (the never better Jackman) and Professor Charles Xavier (the mesmerizing sir Patrick Stewart). Logan’s claws don’t work like they use to and his healing powers are getting slower by the minute. While, Charles has grown older and wearier in his telepathic abilities.
Charles is also suffering from Alzheimer's disease, which is making his telepathy ever more dangerous. Make no mistake, Logan will tear through your heart and bring tears to your eyes as we see our beloved heroes pain be revealed on screen. Earning every right of a hard 'R' rating, Logan is a bloody, brutal and bleak depiction of life. Director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine) returns for the third chapter in The Wolverine series, delivering a grand superhero experience that redefines the genre.
Loosely inspired by the Old Man Logan comics, Mangold’s movie feels more like a superior western film, filled at the center with heart and soul. As we continue in isolation, Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban (a fantastic Stephen Merchant) and an ailing Charles. But Logan's legacy abruptly ends when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request--that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl (newcomer Dafne Keen) to safety. The plot then sets the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.
As many ups and downs that the X-Men franchise has been through in the last 17 years, Logan marks as a franchise high for the series. It’s the most real, raw and brutal force superhero film you’ll seen on the big screen. The dialogue is crisp and the action is razor sharp. Emotions running deep through your veins, director Mangold’s film plays like a road-western high running off into the sunset. Hugh Jackman came, saw and conquered the man with claws right down to the very last frame. Sadly, like every hero realizes their time is short and all have an end. In Logan, we get just that and a fulfilling conclusion to the Wolverine.
Logan is rated R (Restricted). For strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.
John Wick: Chapter 2 continues the series winning streak of more gut-punching fun.
Full of thrilling non-stop action and grand choreographed fight scenes, John Wick: Chapter 2 comes to the theaters with a bang! Director Chad Stahelski (John Wick) returns to the director’s chair for another explosive outing. Alongside him is actor Keanu Reeves who plays Wick and has never been better. Legendary hitman Wick (the fantastic Reeves) is forced back out of retirement by a former associate, Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), plotting to seize control of an underground international assassins' guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome to square off with some of the world’s deadliest killers. John Wick: Chapter 2 does what any action sequel should, double down on the escapism and fuel it with stylized violence. In the end, Wick is here to stay and will have every action junkie out there applauding by the very last frame.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is rated R (Restricted). for strong violence throughout, some language and brief nudity.
And the Oscar goes to...
"My reaction to the Oscars snafu from last night. Through all of the confusion, I believe that Moonlight and La La Land still came out on top. La La Land took home six Oscars, including Best Director for Damien Chazelle. Chazelle also made history last night by becoming the youngest director to win an Oscar at age 32. Moonlight also shined brightly by taking home three Oscars, including Best Picture.
Mahershala Ali also became the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar. Both films have proven time-over-time this season that they were worthy of winning these top awards. Shout out to some major class to Producer Jordan Horowitz, who showed grace and kindness to the Moonlight team. Horowitz also handled the weary siltation very well as did the rest of the teams for La La Land and Moonlight. Jimmy Kimmel added humor to an awkward moment and you could tell that Warren Beatty genuinely felt bad for the Oscars mistake.
Human error happens, but unfortunately it embarrassed La La Land, while also putting a damper on Moonlight from getting their raw moment of glory. Nevertheless, both films took home top honors and both represent a different kind of art to the films. La La Land brought back a dying genre of original musicals to Old Hollywood, while Moonlight shined a light on important stories too rarely seen in cinema. Both need to be seen by the masses and both will go down as new American Classics." - Arnold At The Movies.
Jackie is like portraits of glamorous trauma seeping through the paint.
After witnessing one of the craziest Oscars experiences in recent memory from last night, Moonlight and La La Land are surely still be buzzing in everyone’s head. But lets not forget some of the other potent films from this season, one of them being Jackie. Only nominated for three Oscars, Jackie failed to take home a single award from last night. However, director Pablo Larraín’s (No) film was one of the best from 2016. Jackie will visually and symphonically haunt you by the end of its cut throat montage. The film looks through the eyes of Mrs. Kennedy (Natalie Portman) herself. Portman gives the role of the lifetime as she fully transforms herself into the First Lady in red. It's a stunning and refreshing depiction from a woman's prospective.
Jackie is rated R (Restricted). For brief strong violence and some language.
Moana’s tap-dancing numbers, lush animation and three-dimensional characters will draw you into Disney’s latest Oscar nominated hit.
Moana takes a fresh look on the family-friendly genre, fueled with girl power throughout. In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui (voiced by a fantastic Dwayne Johnson) reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, Moana (voiced by a magnificent Auli'i Cravalho) answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right. Nominated for two Oscars, Best Animated Film and Original Song – “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana’s rich narrative and unforgettable journey is all the more rewarding. While, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s soundtrack helps blend the stories oceanic myths to its full potential. Singing from beginning until end, you’ll fall in love with everything about Moana.
Moana is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements.
La La Land is, hands down, the movie of the year! It's sheer perfection as it refuels a dying genre. It's my favorite film of 2016.
I'm a sucker when it comes to musicals, but La La Land will sweep you off your feet with its music, dance numbers, performances, direction and vivid beauty. The film pays tremendous homage to past musicals such as Singin' in the Rain (1952), The Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951), Mary Poppins (1964) and West Side Story (1961), applauding their past perfections in every way. Breathing new life into a bygone genre, writer and director Damien Chazelle’s (The Oscar winning film Whiplash) original musical is the reason why we go to the movies. La La Land’s irresistible tap-dance numbers will have the audience singing from beginning until end.
The movie event of the year has finally arrived and it proved so by winning a record-breaking seven Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director - Motion Picture, Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Ryan Gosling), Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Emma Stone), Best Original Score and Best Original Song (City of Stars). La La Land tells the simple story of Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in the city of stars. This original musical will explore the everyday life of joy and pain, while pursing your dreams.
These grand musical numbers that composer Justin Hurwitz orchestrates include Another Day of Sun, Someone in the Crowd, A Lovely Night, City of Stars, Planetarium and Audition (The Fools Who Dream). Gosling and Stone’s chemistry radiates throughout the film as we see their love and heartbreaks as passionate artist. Gosling has never been better and Stone is magnificent has she showcases her acting chops. Tapping my toes while I watched this enchanting picture will bring out the very best in you. I guarantee it.
Movies like this don’t come around very often and La La Land is a movie worth cheering for. Simply wonderful, this all around crowd-pleaser deservers all five stars. Filled with nostalgia and a rhapsody of love, La La Land is the film to beat this Oscars season. Chazelle was a born to be a filmmaker as he draws you in with its moonstruck romance. La La Land is a throwback to the Golden Age of musicals as it takes love and turns it into bittersweet moments. I’ve already seen this masterpiece twice now and I can’t wait to see it again. “The city of stars has never shined so brightly."
La La Land is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some language.
Marvel continues to artfully balance its universe stuffed of superheroes with strong visuals, great performances and breathtaking action sequences.
Directed Scott Derrickson (Sinister) continues the MCU’s reign of hero power that started back in 2008 with the first Iron Man. Derrickson brings a list of A-class actors (Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg and Benedict Wong) to the table supported with smart writing and wondrous special effects. In the bargain, we get yet another origins story but that’s okay because it helps the audience emotional establish and connect with their protagonist. This is something the DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad) has been failing at since the dreary days of 2013.
Our story begins with a disgraced former surgeon named Stephen Strange (The never better Cumberbatch), who becomes a powerful sorcerer under the guardianship of a mystic force known as the Ancient One (a fantastic Swinton). Also addressing the controversy around whitewashing the Ancient One, Derrickson felt that the Ancient One was more of a title rather than a person. Additionally, this was also intended to avoid the risk of portraying any negative racial stereotypes, as the appearance of the Ancient One in the comics is based around the Tibetan Monks. So with Derrickson changing the character to avoid controversy he still received some controversy.
Nevertheless, Swinton gives us a smashing performance as the powerful sorcerer from beginning until end. Actors McAdams, Mikkelsen, and Ejiofor also help support the leads with their wit and brawn throughout the film. Doctor Strange delivers proud MCU entertainment throughout and gives the audience a sneak peak of more to follow. It has been confirmed that Strange will be in Thor: Ragnarok coming out this fall. This will be even more of a treat to see Chris Hemsworth and Cumberbatch’s chemistry working together on screen. Doctor Strange is grand popcorn entertainment infused with eye-popping effects and geek boy thrills. In a year filled with multiple superhero films, Doctor Strange comes out on top.
Doctor Strange is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence.
Delivering one of the most real dramas of 2016 filled with full-bodied characters, Manchester by the Sea will destroy your heart and soul.
When watching Manchester by the Sea, director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me and Margaret) will open a volt to your insecurities about life, love and loss. It’s a film so emotionally raw that you’ll be weeping like a sad puppy by the end. Boldly confidant, Lonergan absorbs the struggle of losing someone dear to your heart in this fallen world and at the center of it all is actor Casey Affleck. Affleck gives us one of his most painstaking performances to-date as a heart-sicken man recovering after the sudden death of his older brother Joe (a terrific Kyle Chandler).
Lee (Affleck) also comes into more shock when he finds out that Joe made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Newcomer Hedges gives us a tor de force performance of a son dealing will grief and adjustment to life after the death of his father. Patrick is a spirited 16-year-old forced to tackle the past and his father’s legacy. One of the most tear-jerking moments comes when Patrick realizes that his father can’t be buried until the spring because of the extremely cold winters up in Massachusetts. This leads Patrick to have a mental breakdown in the kitchen when frozen food falls out of the freezer and onto the floor.
Your heart will break for Patrick by relating to a moment in time when we all felt at our most vulnerable. Lee also has his demons still haunting him in Manchester-by-the-Sea (the town), which brings up old memories and heartaches. While there, Lee runs into his ex-wife Randi (a powerful Michelle Williams) who tries to let bygones be bygones with Lee. Affleck and Williams share many crucial moments on screen with each other where they both dig into their past tragedies. Both Affleck and Williams are definite Oscar contenders this season. Affleck, for sure, has my vote for Best Leading Actor of 2016.
Besides the emotional attribute, Manchester also delivers on the vivid beauty of scenery shots throughout the film. Lonergan’s newest masterwork deserves 5 out of 5 stars, as it will emotionally impact you in the days that follow. As I was leaving the theater, I over heard two friends talking about the film and what they thought about it. One of the friends said, “It was sad, just really sad.” Yes, Manchester by the Sea is a sad film, but it’s much more than just that. Manchester is a real film filled with real people as it reflects on life’s most disturbing flaw … death.
Manchester by the Sea is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout and some sexual content.
Flawed on every level, this star-studded package of sappiness makes Collateral Beauty plunge into a state of hilarity.
Universally panned by critics, Collateral Beauty makes the Hallmark Channel look like Best Picture. Yes, that’s how bad this film actually is. While the film is well-meant, nevertheless, Will Smith’s latest dud is fundamentally weak. The star-studded cast consisting of Smith, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet are completely wasted throughout the entire film.
Grinding my teeth raw, here’s the plot: When a successful New York advertising executive (Smith) suffers a great tragedy he isolates himself from life. Though his friends are concerned and try desperately to reconnect with him, Howard (Smith) seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. Director David Frankel’s (The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me) film is a wannabe tearjerker that lacks all emotional depth itself.
Take Manchester by the Sea, a film that gets it right when it comes to displaying tragedy and emotional turmoil in one’s life. Manchester, by all means, is a far superior film when it comes to filming heartache and loss through the lens of a camera. I would rather watch Manchester by the Sea over-and-over again any given day, before sitting through another showing of Collateral Beauty. The cynical nature rooted within Smith's film will not entertain but frustrate. Collateral Beauty is one of 2016’s worst films and will leave you wanting to wash that bad stench off yourself afterwards.
Collateral Beauty is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements and brief strong language.
"Tell the judge I love my wife." Astonishing from beginning until end, Loving is a well-crafted historical drama that pays homage to Richard and Mildred Loving. The film's sensible approach in storytelling blossoms its relevance in today's world.
Being in an interracial marriage myself, I had a close calling towards Loving. My wife Glynis, who is of Peruvian decent, and I were fully engulfed with Richard and Mildred’s captivating story of love and equality. Before our show began, we had the rare experience of sitting next to a couple who were longtime friends of lawyer Bernie S. Cohen (played by Nick Kroll in the film), who helped the Loving’s overturn the anti-miscegenation laws nationwide. It was a treat talking with them and how they were incredibly excited to see Kroll’s performance of a historical friend.
Once the film began. I was astonished with its vivid scenery director Jeff Nichols (Mud and Midnight Special) precisely played throughout the film, along with the strong performances by both Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as Richard and Mildred Loving. Nichols avoids the sappiness and focuses on the importance of context rooted within this story. Richard being a white man and Mildred being a black woman could not legally marry in 1958 due to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. Upon Mildred discovering that she is pregnant the two decided to travel to D.C. to legally tie the knot. Soon afterwards, the Loving’s are arrested and forced by the judge not to return to Virginia for a suspension of 25 years.
The Loving’s decided to move to D.C. trying to continue a normal life. In 1963, after Mildred witnesses the March on Washington on TV she is inclined to write to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy for help. That leads the Loving’s to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where they meet lawyer Bernie Cohen (played by a humble Kroll). Cohen decides to confer with constitutional law expert Phil Hirschkop (played by Jon Bass) and the two take on the Supreme Court. While the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia is a main focal point planted within the story, Nichols’ heart and soul is really grounded in the Loving's relationship with each other. Richard and Mildred's tenderness and affection for each other will melt you away.
Nichols takes an understated direction in telling a real-life tale and fully blossoms it too life. Nichols was able to accurately tell the story by relying heavily on Nancy Buirski's documentary The Loving Story, which captured many details of the Loving's private lives: "We had this beautiful documentary footage unearthed from the mid-'60s where we got to go into their home and see them and watch them," Nichols said. Because of the Loving’s and the Supreme Court’s decision in 1967 to overturn anti-miscegenation laws nationwide, many interracial couples can embrace the full notion of all love is created equal. My wife and I have, ever since we've been together and this past June we got married. "We may lose the small battles but win the big war."
After the film was over, my wife nicely whispered “Tell Bernie thank you for us” to the couple sitting next to us. Loving is one of best and still most relevant films of 2016. Due to the importance of my marriage and the film’s arousing message it deserves all 5 stars. Nominated for two Golden Globes, hopefully Loving doesn’t get over looked this Oscars season. Loving paints of radiant portrait of how far we’ve come in America and yet - how far we have left to go. The Loving’s painful and heartfelt journey will truly capture your heart. Love inspires everyone.
Loving is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic elements.
Shot twice as fast as the previous record (Peter Jackson’s 2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 48 fps), Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will go down in the books as another failed attempt for the higher frame rate obsession.
Director Ang Lee’s (Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi) heart might be in the right place, but sadly these experiments and innovations are merely a distraction. The film used an unprecedented shooting and projection frame rate of 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution. This is five times the normal frame rate, which is usually shot in 24 fps. Lee’s ambition is high, but the overall project comes up a bit scattershot.
The film is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (played by Joe Alwyn). Billy and his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad have been hailed as a hero and bringing brought home for a victory tour after a painful Iraq battle. Through a series of flashbacks seen through Billy’s eyes, the film reveals what really happened to the squad during battle. During a halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, Lee grapples with contrasting the realities of the Iraq conflict with America's celebration back home.
Nevertheless, the film has heart and honors our fellow soldiers throughout our country. Unfortunately for me, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk never comes full circle and is engulfed by its visual paintings flashing before your eyes. Actors Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin do their best to save the film, but never succeed. If anything, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk will go down as 2016’s glorious technical misfire.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is rated R (Restricted). For language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use.
Seen through the eyes of one man’s story, Moonlight welds together a beautifully crafted character study of lives too rarely seen in the spotlight.
Director Barry Jenkins’ (Medicine for Melancholy) eight years in the making masterpiece finally has come alive and it’s a story worth telling. The film is based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unproduced play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue; luckily Jenkins was able to get this story told to the world. Moonlight travels to new cinematic highs as we view the heartbreaking story of a young man's struggle to find himself. Moonlight is told through three different chapters of Chiron’s life played by actors Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes.
Jenkins breaks up each act with a being title (i. Little, ii. Chiron and iii. Black) showing the audience what stages of life Chiron is in during that time. Each chapter is a work of art handily crafted by Jenkins himself. Throughout the film we see Chiron grappling with pain, love and his own sexuality. Moonlight is a timeless story our own human connection and finding your self-discovery in this world. Through this chronicle life of a young African-American man from adolescent to adulthood, we see Chiron trying to find his place in the world while also growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Hibbert is an extraordinary actor for such a young age. With very little lines in the film, Hibbert’s body language will truly move you. Chiron aka “Little” for his meek personality and size, befriends an adult named Juan (the powerful Mahershala Ali). Juan tries to be a brighter influence in “Little’s” life as his mother (the magnificent Naomie Harris) continues to consume herself with drugs and alcohol. Though, only shooting her role in a matter of just three days, Harris’ heartbreaking performance will leave you stunned.
One of the most moving scenes in Moonlight is when “Little” asks Juan if he is gay and how will you know? Juan simply tells him “you’ll know.” From there, we travel with Chiron throughout his teenage years and young adult life as he’s trying to discover himself. Actors Sanders and Rhodes all excel the role of Chiron and both bring out the human inside of him. Moonlight is a revolution to the film industry as it helps shine a light in both the African-American and LGBT community. Nominated for six Golden Globes, Moonlight is an active contender this Oscars season. Barry Jenkins’ newest masterpiece truly is “the story of a lifetime.”
Moonlight is rated R (Restricted). For some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout.
Arrival is just has awe-inspiring as past science fiction films, such as Metropolis, Star Wars or even Alien. It's sophistication in writing and drama took me by complete surprise.
Hands down, Arrival is the must-see science fiction experience of 2016. Director Denis Villeneuve’s (Prisoners and Sicario) engaging sci-fi flick will get your brain thinking and your blood boiling. Based on Ted Chiang’s short story, Story of Your Life, Arrival digs deep into its thought-provoking themes until the final frame. Actors Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner give terrific performances throughout the film, while supporting actors Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg help provide solidarity to the film. The score, alone, is a moving work of art as we hear composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s (Sicario and The Theory of Everything) embellishing score grab the audience in and never let go.
The plot begins when a mysterious spacecraft touches down across the globe, leading the entire human race into mass panic. Now, elite teams, lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Adams), are brought together to investigate the mysterious spacecraft. As mankind threatens on the verge of global war, Banks and military theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Renner) must race against time for answers and communication. Spoiler free, Arrival grapples with so much more that in the end it will catch you by complete surprise. Beautifully shot and excavated, Arrival was worth every cent of my ticket price.
Of a thinking person’s world, Arrival is the holiday movie waiting for you unwrap and enjoy. The film has already made its mark in the Oscar race and definitely has a ticket for Best Picture worthy. Nominated for 10 Critics Choice Awards, Arrival has kicked off its holiday season in a very grand way. After watching Villeneuve’s newest tour de force, I am happy to report that Blade Runner 2049 is in good hands (going to be directed by Villeneuve). So “Why are they here?” I’ll let you find out and decided.
Arrival is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For brief strong language.
Into The Inferno boasts its beautifully shot scenery, filled with rich culture of some of the world's most mythical volcanoes.
Netflix’s newest documentary about the legends and myths of volcanoes around the globe heats things up a bit. Directed and narrated by Werner Herzog (Into The Abyss and Cave of Forgotten Dreams) takes viewers from the comfort of their homes and into the great mystery of the volcanic. Herzog and volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer embark on a journey to Indonesia, Ethiopia, Iceland and North Korea, capturing the beauty and wonder of volcanoes.
Herzog and Oppenheimer speak with scientists and indigenous peoples alike, as they try to comprehend the complexity and deeply rooted relationship between mankind and the great fire below. Herzog, as usual, artfully blends history and philosophy throughout the documentary giving audience of all ages a rare cinematic experience. Into The Inferno is a journey worth seeking.
Into The Inferno is Not Rated (NR).
Netflix’s newest documentary, Amanda Knox, is an absorbing and complex biopic that reels you in from start until finish. The murder of Meredith Kercher is one of the most haunting stories in the last decade.
"Either I'm a psychopath in sheep's clothing, or I am you …” I’ll let this line spoken directly from Amanda Knox herself sink in throughout this review. One of the most provocative cases in the last decade, documentarians (Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn) speak hand-to-hand with Knox who was convicted and eventually acquitted for the 2007 death of another student, Meredith Kercher, in Italy. Grey slatted and pasty faced, Knox examines her story to the audience telling it in strange fashioned.
In 2007, Knox was an American exchange student traveling to Perugia, Italy. Young and sexed-obsessed, Knox met a boy named Raffaele Sollecito. In Knox’s own words, “they were lovers.” Though, they had only known each other for a matter of a week, Knox exclaimed they could spend a lifetime together. When suddenly on November 1, 2007, Knox’s roommate (Kercher) was found stabbed to death in her room. This eventually led police of Perugia to arrest Knox, Sollecito and third-party Rudy Guede. The whole case turned the world upside down and was a feeding frenzy for tabloids. Headlines sprang and readers everywhere ate it up.
The “Foxy Knoxy” headline was a worldwide sensation. Knox was found guilty at the end of the first trial and then later acquitted due too a messy forensics investigation by the Perugia police … oh the madness! So is Knox a cold-blooded psychopath who brutally murdered her roommate or a naive student abroad trapped in an endless nightmare? I’ll let you be the judge and watch the documentary yourself only on Netflix. In a dog-eat-dog world, this true-crime case takes an eerie look at the inner demons inside the media and the very people around us. Amanda Knox is a documentary for the ages as we take the full 92 minutes to self-examine her underneath “sheep's clothing.”
Amanda Knox is Not Rated (NR).
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