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).
Audrie & Daisy takes a harsh look at the painstaking recounts of two sexual assault cases through innocent eyes in this porn-addled boys world.
Netflix’s newest documentary shares the heartbreaking realities of sexual crimes that send ripple effects through families and communities across the nation. The documentary examines two teenage girls lives has they are broken from the aftermath of rape. Filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Island President, The Rape of Europa) take an in-depth look at the age of rape culture and cyber-bullying gone out of control.
Audrie & Daisy examines how our society encourages the horrible excuse of “boys will be boys" mindset. With this set of mentality, our culture allows young men to disregard other people’s innocence and sense of humanity. Both cases take place in 2012, the first being in Saratoga, California and the next being in Maryville, Missouri. Audrie Potts, sadly, committed suicide after events of her assault and online bullying. After Daisy Coleman’s assault her rural town of Maryville literally split into two sides. Some taking the boys side, while others supported Daisy.
At times infuriating, filmmakers show the horrors of sexual crime that goes unpunished because there are people who would rather blame the victims for what happened to them. While Audrie & Daisy gets a little messy in its editing and timeline, nevertheless, the film’s unflinching story and underlining message succeeds. Audrie & Daisy offers a redemptive message of compassion and hope. In the end, the documentary advocates a voice for women all around the nation to be strong and to speak out.
Audrie & Daisy is rated NR (Not Rated).
The 13th delivers stunning commentary of America's tangled racial history striking a cord with your inner self.
One of the best documentaries of 2016, director Ava DuVernay (Selma) goes full throttle into America’s past history and where we are now as a society. DuVernay’s documentary refers to the 13th Amendment of our Constitution, which reads "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States."
As we read and see there’s a surprising loophole written within the 13th Amendment, as DuVernay teaches us a history-lesson of indictment on "new slavery.” This term refers to the mass incarceration of African-Americans within the American criminal justice system and it’s a major wake-up call. The documentary starts off with the abolishment of slavery in 1865 as a rejoicing community comes to a new start of possibilities. Unfortunately, this is also known as the beginning of an era known as mass criminalization. This affected all minorities inside the United States, particularly the African-American community.
The documentary travels through time as we explore the horrors and progress of our society. DuVernay unveils a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men. The 13th is a powerful look at what it means to be a black man or woman in America. It will certainly make you rethink history and where do we go from here?
Calm and controlled, DuVernay also explores the movements that have helped progress our society like the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements. In the end, The 13th engulfs its audience with dense information and an underlining message of hope. Note to the Academy: The 13th is hands down one of the best documentaries of 2016 and deserves every bit of that Oscar. Go and watch it one Netflix’s right now.
The 13th is NR (Not Rated).
Before the Flood is an epic documentary two-years in the making as we follow Leonardo DiCaprio’s quest on the effects of climate change around the world.
Before the Flood is a very solemn film about the man-made effects climate change rapidly hurting our planet. Although, the documentary may not cover new ground, nevertheless, Leo’s message of urgency is one that every human should hear. Director Fisher Stevens (Crazy Love) coherently layers scientific evidence with facts throughout the 96-minute film.
On and off the film set of The Revenant, DiCaprio travels the world to examine firsthand the effects of climate change, while also learning how to prevent catastrophic damage that could make the Earth unsustainable for human life. During Leo’s journey, he speaks with leaders such as President Barack Obama, Pope Francis and Elon Musk. DiCaprio also makes a speech before the United Nations as he calls for greater action on this pressing issue.
Before the Flood is a compelling as it is important for the sake of our planet. Viewers will take it or leave it before the film even begins, but for the sake of our environment try to watch with an open mind. You can watch the full-feature documentary right here or on YouTube by National Geographic. If you want to learn more about climate change or be apart of the cause go to https://www.beforetheflood.com/ “You are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it or we, and all living things we cherish, are history.” – Leo
Before the Flood PG (Parental Guidance). For thematic elements, some nude and suggestive art images, language and brief smoking.
The Accountant brings fun-filled action to the big screen, while also adding depth to the script with strong character narratives.
Ben Affleck’s newest feature film is a real doozy; The Accountant brings action junkies a new level of excitement to the cinemas. Director Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) and scriptwriter Bill Dubuque (The Judge) help infuse tension and paranoia into the film. Affleck’s acting is strong and subdued as he recalculates his daily routine of life in a small-town.
Christian Wolff’s (Affleck) day job is being a math wiz for a small-town CPA office. As for Wolff’s night job, he’s a freelance accountant for some of the world's most dangerous criminal organizations. The CPA gig is just a cover-up for Wolff as he bellies down in the underworld of crime. Wolff is also autistic, which plays a huge role in the plot and to his life on mathematics. O’Connor tightly allows the film to play to both Wolff’s strengths and weaknesses throughout. Also, trying to break Wolff’s true identity is the U.S. Treasury Department led by actors J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson.
Actors Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Lithgow help balance the character depth throughout the film. O’Connor grapples with many twist and turns as he weaves character's stories to help piece the plot together. At times, The Accountant can seem outlandish; nevertheless, the actor’s performances and nicely packed action sequences help prevail the film to satisfying results. The Accountant jumps in during an exciting time at the cinemas, leaving viewers thrilled for more to come.
The Accountant is rated R (Restricted). For strong violence and language throughout.
“To save a life is to save all of humanity;” this is The White Helmets humbling message as we follow the lives of volunteer rescue workers in the midst of the Syrian civil war.
Watching this documentary-short is emotionally devastating as director Orlando Von Einsiedel (Virunga) brings the civil war to reality through the screen. Running at a short 41 minutes, The White Helmets leaves no room for breathing. Instantly, we are thrown into the chaos of the streets of Aleppo, Syria and Turkey as the violence intensifies. Following these volunteer rescue workers as they put everything on the line to save civilians whom are affected by the war.
This moving and provoking film will leave you in tears wanting to watch more. Netflix compellingly tells these real stories happening overseas, right now, in the world today. Everyday, there are bombs dropped all over Syria as the White Helmets bravely gather to rescue the civilians from turmoil. Director Von Einsiedel’s decision of using shaking cam allows the audience to fully grasp the realities of these events depicted. The White Helmets is a humbling portrait of the power of the human spirit and is more than just a movie … it’s real life.
Since the creation of the White Helmets, the group has saved more than 62,000 people from the attacks in Syria. To learn more about and possibly support the White Helmets go to https://www.whitehelmets.org/ “We don’t always know what will make history. This could be the thing that multiplies the movement of support for the White Helmets and forces world leaders to act to stop the bombs raining down on Syrian families. 141 White Helmets have been killed saving lives. For them and for every Syrian civilian, let’s watch this film, share it with our friends, and demand support for the White Helmets and their message of peace.” – Netflix
The White Helmets is Not Rated (NR).
Emily Blunt comes prepared to deliver a prestigious performance, while the rest of the film derails halfway through due to a muddled direction and narrative.
Based on the psychological thriller by British author Paula Hawkins, Girl on the Train has been praised as the “Next Gone Girl.” Unfortunately, for the film that doesn’t seem to add up. Leaving the book aside, director Tate Taylor (The Help and Get on Up) doesn’t do the film any justice as he lurks into dull flashbacks and exploitative melodrama. The one aspect the film did succeed from was Emily Blunt’s outstanding performance as Rachel Watson.
Rachel, an alcoholic and a recent divorcé, spends her daily commute fantasizing about a perfect couple living in a house that her train passes every day. Until Rachel sees something out of the ordinary and from there a mystery unfolds. With not spoiling too much of the plot, Girl on the Train tries to carefully unveil it’s scandal of entanglements slowly throughout the film. What may have been the book’s silver lining is instead the film’s Achilles heel because director Tate Taylor fails to cohesively bring together the books mysteries as a whole.
Taylor’s envision for the film comes out scatterbrained, leaving actors Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez in a rut. There were, however, moments that did grab your attention all thanks to Blunt’s impeccable performance. In the end, Girl on the Train comes and goes leaving viewers stranded on the tracks. The film is Gone Girl without the thrill, but Blunt was still able to shine through all of the narrative whoopla. Nevertheless, the film’s premise intrigued me enough to want to read the best-selling book on a cold fall day.
Girl on the Train is rated R (Restricted). For violence, sexual content, language and nudity.
Backed by a tremendous performance from actor Tom Hanks and the steady hands of director Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven and American Sniper); Sully is a moving tribute to an everyday hero on that cold January day.
Is there anything that Mr. Hanks can’t make great in Hollywood? He’s the male form of Meryl Streep, as he incarnates every one of his performances like clockwork. From Sam Baldwin to Forest Gump to Captain John H. Miller to Michael Sullivan, Sr. to Charlie Wilson to Captain Richard Phillips to Walt Disney and now to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. Hanks is an exceptional actor who has matured overtime. His performances can be raw and nerve-racking, to calm and sweet.
In his newest incarnation, Hanks plays Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger a pilot who successfully executed an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. After roughly 100 seconds in the air from New York City's LaGuardia Airport, Canadian geese strike the plane taking out both engines. Sully soon realizes that there isn’t enough time to reach another airport for an emergency landing. Sully makes the executive decision to land the plane in the Hudson River. There were 208 seconds from when the US Airways Flight 1549 jet sucked geese into its engines at 2,818 feet above LaGuardia to the moment when Sully brought the craft down onto the Hudson. News media’s flooded the scenes, calling it “Miracle on the Hudson.”
“I’ve delivered a million passengers over forty years, but in the end I’m going to be judged by two hundred and eight seconds.” The movie, however, is an hour and 36 minutes long. This is where director Eastwood’s keen eye and visionary detail comes into place. Eastwood weaves Sully’s story from past to present and back throughout the entire film. We begin the film with Sully waking up from a nightmare in his hotel room the day after the emergency landing. In this dream Sully is imagining himself fatally crashing the plane into a building in Manhattan. Waking up from this nightmare, Sully has to piece together the events of what took place the day before. Hanks’ skill has an actor come full circle here in his ability to fully engulf the audience with Sully’s pain that he is feeling.
From there, it’s a battle between Sully along with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (a wonderful Aaron Eckhart) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Throughout the film Eastwood weaves the flight back into play, giving the audience pieces of the emergency water landing until we see the whole picture. Sully is more than your average story of an everyday hero who just so happens to save 155 souls on board. It’s about the battle fighting within Sully as he sheds shelf-doubt and fear inside a man who never really defined himself has a hero. Digging deep with your inner emotions, Sully is a soaring tribute to the crew and passengers of US Airways Flight 1549.
“No one warned us. No one said you were going to lose both engines at a lower altitude than any jet in history. This was dual engine loss at twenty-eight hundred feet followed by an immediate water landing with one hundred and fifty-five souls onboard. No one has ever trained for an incident like that.” Sully is superlative work from its star and director, giving the audience a comforting reward at a night at the movies.
Sully is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For some peril and brief strong language.
Hell or High Water shows us the virtues of old-fashioned filmmaking throughout, giving us full-embodied characters to actually care about in this solidly crafted film.
One of the richest and most rewarding films you’ll see all year. Hell or High Water is an extraordinary picture built on a small scale for movie buffs. Director David Mackenzie (Starred Up) takes us out to West Texas in this modern day western. Except, there’s no Eastwood buffoons whipping around their .44 Magnums nor is there a parade of gun slinging cowboys from Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt. Instead, we get a smart and well-paced film following its notorious characters from beginning until end.
The phrase "come hell or high water" typically means, "do whatever needs to be done, no matter the circumstances". This is the case for the plot; we get a divorced dad (an excellent Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother (the devilish Ben Foster) resorting to desperate schemes of bank robbery in order to save their family's ranch. But this is no ordinary robbery; its well planned and thought out. Giving Texas Rangers Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham a run for their money to catch them. Bridges helms the films charisma, as he slings his cutthroat jokes one after another.
While, Birmingham quietly steals the movie as a biracial Native American/Mexican surviving the harsh chaos of a white man's world. During this film we see the beauty of a hopeful Americana through the exquisite shots and scenery. Mackenzie’s framework is slow and steady, giving the audience a painted portrait of the deep west. Mackenzie evokes us into his world of pathos, as we see the wonder of the horizon rise and fall during the tense circumstances.
In a world full of CGI junk, Hell or High Water is a crucial film in need of dying genres. A mirroring example of cops and robbers, Hell or High Water fully embodies its protagonist and antagonist making it one of the freshest films of 2016. It receives the highest of highs, 5 out of 5 stars. So go out and see this modern western masterpiece and soak every last frame in.
Hell or High Water is rated R (Restricted) For some strong violence, language throughout and brief sexuality.
A thrilling fact-based filmed upheld on the shoulders of a tremendous Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Overall, Snowden is a decent biopic thriller on 2013's National Security Agency (NSA) illegal surveillance leak by the man himself Edward Snowden. Gordon-Levitt does an outstanding job at his Snowden incarnation and it was also good to see Oliver Stone (Platoon, Natural Born Killers and JFK) back in the director's chair. Those familiar with the story know that the film follows Edward Snowden, an American computer professional who leaked classified information from the NSA to The Guardian in June of 2013.
At times, Snowden is a little too safe in its direction and layout of the story; nevertheless, Stone still manages to make an absorbing biopic. His skills allow him to dig deeper beyond the scandal, laying out all of the facts in a honorable dramatization. The film really begins to soar thanks to the provocative performance from Gordon-Levitt. His voice alone is terrific and captures the pure essence of Snowden’s humanist. So after a four-year hiatus, Stone returns to the screen to deliver yet another American story.
Though without its flaws, Snowden will definitely get people thinking and talking about surveillance, privacy and the structure of our government. So call him what he is: a whistleblower, a hero or a traitor. Edward Snowden saw flaws in our government and presented them to our democracy. Stone saw those very flaws too, while also seeing Snowden’s gifted mind as he presented them onto the screen.
Snowden is rated R (Restricted). For language and some sexuality/nudity.
Morgan comes to the table claiming it’s a sci-fi whoazer, but instead it’s nothing more than a rehash of far greater sci-fi films.
The first time I saw a trailer for Morgan, instantly what came to mind was Ex Machina and sure enough I was right. Where Ex Machina thrilled audiences last summer, this time around Morgan foils. This star-studded cast consisting of Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Brian Cox, Toby Jones and Paul Giamatti failed to comprehend the lackluster source of material. The plot follows a corporate risk-management consultant who must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.
The only thing more robotic than the script in this movie is the acting. Which leads us to our final disappointment of the film and that’s the directing. First-timer Luke Scott fails deliver anything new to the table, while there are a handful of hand-to-hand actions sequences their unfortunately boggled down due to choppy editing. Far better sci-fi’s have helmed past Morgan, films like Blade Runner, Alien, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Metropolis and Ex Machina. In the end, just stick with the classics.
Morgan is rated R (Restricted). For brutal violence, and some language.
Well-acted (Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander) and elegantly shot, The Light Between Oceans will tug at your heartstrings from beginning until end.
Director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines) continues to craft his films with skill and beaut. The romantic period drama is written and directed by Cianfrance and is also based on the 2012 novel by M. L. Stedman. While, his most recent film does have its flaws, nevertheless, Fassbender and Vikander will capture your heart. Still, this is by far his most beautifully and profound film he has shot to-date. This melodrama layers stories within stories on the coast of Australia during the early 1920’s.
The story unveils to us a lighthouse keeper (a fantastic and grim Fassbender) and his wife (the beautiful and powerful Vikander) struggling to start a family. After two miscarriages, it seems hope is lost for the Sherbourne’s until one day when Tom (Fassbender) and Isabel (Vikander) spot a rowboat adrift and discover a helpless baby trapped inside. The father inside the rowboat is dead, but Isabel sees this opportunity as their silver lining to raise the child as their very own. Tom is hesitant and wants to report it, but Isabel convinces him if he does then they won’t be able to ever adopt the child. Emotions running high, Tom agrees and they name their baby Lucy.
Seasons pass and change, as Lucy grows older. The layering of stories beings when Tom realized that Lucy’s birth mother (a terrific Rachel Weisz) is still alive and searching for her. Tensions and heartbreaks begin to fall apart, as do all Cianfrance films. The beauty we see layered within this film is through the chemistry of the actors and their very own emotions that spark ours. The Light Between Oceans is one of the most visually dazzling films I’ve seen this year alone. The cinematography illustrates the vast allure of the ocean and coastline. Kudos to Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (Macbeth and True Detective) for capturing the breathtaking scenery of the Western Australia coastline throughout the film.
So will Tom and Isabel keep their secret hidden or will Hannah (Weisz) find out her child is still alive? There’s a whirlwind of emotions pouring through your blood as Isabel and Tom grapple with decisions. The scene that truly broken my heart was when Isabel broke down crying on the bed and yelling at Tom that Lucy is her daughter. Vikander nails the raw human emotion of this very scene and steals the show throughout. Flawed, thought provoking and elegantly crafted, The Light Between Oceans is a box of tissues waiting to be opened.
The Light Between Oceans is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For thematic material and some sexual content.
Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Matt Damon reunite again on the big screen after a nine-year hiatus. Jason Bourne delivers spy-tingling thrills in this post-Snowden era.
Jason Bourne hits all of the highs that fans have come to expect from the franchise, which is this sequel’s biggest selling-point. Greengrass being back in the director’s chair will leave viewers breathless by the end of the film. Cynics can take a hike, has Jason Bourne delivers and is one of the best films of the summer. During this time of back to school and stale popcorn, fear not, Bourne is back after years of hiding and is ready to battle the U.S. government once again.
The Bourne trilogy is one of the freshest and exhilarating spy series to come to the big screen since it first debuted in 2002. Forget the cheap cash grab that came a few years back A.K.A. The Bourne Legacy. The disappointments of that fourth film are unraveled here thanks to Greengrass and Damon’s reunion. Damon returns to the role as the amnesiac assassin that made him an icon, still in hiding after the events of Ultimatum. After exposing the Operation Blackbriar and disappearing, Jason Bourne has finally recovered from his amnesia and has isolated himself from the world. Bourne is trying to live in peace by getting his knuckles bloody and bruised in illegal fighting rings. It takes Bourne's former Treadstone contact, Nicky Parsons (an excellent Julia Stiles), to get Jason back on the map.
Trying to expose the CIA’s black ops program, Parsons discovers a strange tie between Bourne’s father and Treadstone. Parsons also learns that the new CIA director Robert Dewey (an evil Tommy Lee Jones) is building his own shadow government with the help of compromised tech kingpin Aaron Kalloor (a terrific Riz Ahmed). During an austerity riot in Greece, Parsons comes in contact with Bourne and shares with him the new information. With all of this cyber terrorism weaved in-between the script, Greengrass doesn’t forget to convey the nerve-wrenching action scenes. In a Ferguson-like sequence, viewers are engulfed on the streets of Greece with riots and chaos.
Ace cinematographer Barry Aykroyd (The Hurt Locker) will leave you speechless as Bourne and Parsons zip through the fiery streets of Greece on a motorcycle. Noble actors to also look at in the film are Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander as Heather Lee, the head of the CIA Cyber Ops Division and Vincent Cassel as the Asset, a Blackbriar assassin working for the Iron Hand program. With Jason Bourne, you get a sense of realism and awe throughout the film. Greengrass cuts back on the CGI and unveils truly special effects. With that, we get some of the most breathtaking car chase scenes ever put on film.
The Vegas strip climax will go down in the books as one of the greatest chase sequences ever to be executed. IMDb has reported that “The Las Vegas car chase sequence took five weeks to shoot and at the end, the sequence wrecked 170 cars.” In the end, it was all worth it. This chase scene, alone, took me by complete surprise and shattered my conscience. Jason Bourne comes at a time where summer blockbusters can be muddled and the popcorn has gone stale. Refueling the franchise back to it’s finest form. This for some people can be its greatest flaw and I completely understand. Nevertheless, Bourne is back and ready too rumble.
Jason Bourne is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.
Continuing the post-reboot highs, director Justin Lin (Fast Five) takes the Enterprise even further into space with exhilarating space-opera thrills. It’s ‘Beyond’ entertaining.
While providing both homage and excitement, Star Trek Beyond fuels the franchise with more popcorn fun. In 2009, director JJ Abrams rebooted the dying series with new life and adventure. Star Trek came in full throttle, sleek style and a new alternate universe. In 2013, Abrams continued in the director’s chair and released the summer blockbuster known as Star Trek Into Darkness. Into Darkness wasn’t as fresh as its predecessor, nevertheless, the film took the audience by surprise with breathtaking action and set pieces. In the end, Into Darkness set up captain Kirk (a fantastic Chris Pine) and his crew for their five-year mission into deep space.
Add in the new director, Justin Lin, with nonstop action and vivid style and you get Star Trek Beyond. The plot is rather simple this time around, but the homage is grand to past Trekkies and old glories. Captain Kirk (Pine) and the crew (consisting of actors Zachary Quinto, the late Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Zoe Saldana) of the Enterprise encounter an alien warrior race when marooned on a distant planet after the destruction of their spaceship. The main villain goes by the name of Krall (an incredible Idris Elba) and he’s out for blood.
But the real acting chops goes to Sofia Boutella, who plays Jaylah. Boutella nails the heart and soul of the alien scavenger. While Beyond can’t fully capture the freshness and sleekness of it’s first two predecessors, fear not, Lin still manages to pull off an impressive sci-fi episode in retro speed. Lin uses his skill in the camerawork and direction to hurl the audience through space, captivating their minds with fear and nostalgia. Beyond also pays tribute to the original cast (consisting of James Doohan, Walter Koenig, DeForest Kelley, Majel Barrett, William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, the late Leonard Nimoy, and George Takei) of the Enterprise and will slap a smile on the face of any Trekkie. I guarantee it.
Scriptwriter/Actor Pegg even goes a step further by giving Sulu (Cho) a boyfriend in the film. This is a nod of respect to the beloved George Takei. All in all, Star Trek Beyond comes right in time when the summer blues start to kick in. Beyond fuels your bones with a sense of excitement and pleasure. In this post-reboot era, the Trekkies continue to soar! I’m eagerly excited for future adventures to follow. “For Anton,” live long and prosper.
Star Trek Beyond is rate PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
The 13 year wait with our beloved sea friends has finally arrived! Finding Dory takes advantage of its beautiful animation and charming characters, giving us more heart than ever before.
A visual splendor, Finding Dory is a sequel that works from beginning until end. Its thought-provoking themes adds yet another exciting chapter to our sea community. Backed by talented voices (Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West and Sigourney Weaver), Dory and her pals swim to perfection.
The film takes place one year after the events of 2003’s Finding Nemo, Dory (voiced by a fantastic DeGeneres) finally remembers her long-lost family is out in the ocean somewhere waiting for her. Cue Dory’s request to embark on another journey through the deep blue. Dory, of course, is hindered due to her short-term memory loss and needs Marlin (voiced by a sensational Brooks) and Nemo to help find her parents. Along the way, Dory and her pals ride the underwater current to California, fight off giant squids and endlessly listen to Sigourney Weaver’s voice at the Marine Life Institute. From start until finish, the Weaver joke never gets old.
On the journey, Dory reunites with her childhood friend Destiny (voiced by a vibrant Olson), a near-sighted whale shark. She also befriends a cranky East Pacific red octopus, named Hank (voiced by an excellent O’Neil) and a Bailey (voiced by a hilarious Burrell), a beluga whale who temporarily lost echolocation due to a concussion. While Finding Dory will never fully capture that pure moment of bliss like Finding Nemo did 13 years ago, nevertheless, it’s still a grand Pixar sequel for the books. With highest respects, Finding Dory hits all of the emotional highs we, as an audience, have come to love in a Pixar film.
While the impressive and beautiful animation captures the mystery and wonder of the ocean; this film alone stands as a tentpole for future animated films to follow. I was over joyed to experience the warm welcome of Dory and Marlin again. Who knows, maybe in ten years we’ll be back to the big screen again finding Marlin. As for now, we are dazzled with this exciting second chapter and take in ever ounce of delight this film has to offer. As Dory continually tells the audience throughout both films to “just keep swimming,” I will also tell you, as a world, to do the same.
Finding Dory is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For mild thematic elements.
Love & Friendship is a lush period drama filled with comedic roots from head to toe. It’s one of the freshest films to hit the screen in 2016.
Kate Beckinsale soars in the role of Lady Susan Vernon Martin, a beautiful young widow visiting the estate of her in-laws. While there, Lady Susan is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) -- and herself too, naturally. Quick, sly and witty are only a few attributes that apply to Beckinsale in this runaway film. Austen originally wrote the book in 1794 when she was 20, but it remained unpublished until after her death.
Love & Friendship is a comedic romp for English buffs and fans of British pop culture everywhere. The costume and production design are visually stunning alone. It exceeds moments of pure beauty as it captures your heart on screen. Director Whit Stillman (Damsels in Distress) takes Austen’s clever story and expands it onto film, hitting moments of true bliss. Backing Beckinsale’s charm are actors Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Justin Edwards, Stephen Fry and the hilarious Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin.
Bennett completely stole the show for me as he captures the ignorance of a man blithering away on a multitude of topics. Elegant can’t even begin to describe this delightful outing director Stillman has made for us. Love & Friendship is a comedy of manors on this speechified adventure. I’ll be rooting for it coming this awards season as it’s bound to grab a few prizes. Fingers crossed this isn’t the last time we see Lady Susan on the big screen. In the end, this was an Austen gem uncovered from the very pages of literature. Classic.
Love & Friendship is rated PG (Parental Guidance) For some thematic elements.
20 years ago, Independence Day blew audiences away using old fashioned effects. Now, Independence Day: Resurgence is nothing more than a bloated concoction of alien junk. In the end, Director Roland Emmerich’s (ID4, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012) stale popcorn flicks have gotten really old.
In 1996, Independence Day hit theaters leaving audiences everywhere fueled with popcorn excitement. The 4th of July summer flick embraced its patriotism and explosions, oh the explosions. Now, I’m not a huge fan of big bangs and little plot but in this case Independence Day worked thanks to its terrific cast and old school visual effects. Man vs. Alien, that was the simple plot and audiences everywhere ate it up.
Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith were hilarious together on and off the screen. Smith even punches an alien in the face, Oorah! Fast-forward to present day, Smith is dead because he didn’t want to appear in this lousy sequel and Goldblum is just old. Here’s the plot, after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. So two decades later and director Emmerich makes basically the same movie with better special effect … come on. This sort of filmmaking is lazy and nothing more than an easy cash grab.
Pairing Goldblum with a fresh Liam Hemsworth is not the same as Smith’s original chemistry. The visuals are impressive as ever, but that can’t save this film from the end-of-the-world stakes. The dialog is cheesy and the emotional heft is nowhere to be found. The dull, brainless sequel shows a major decline for Fox Studios in the past two decades. The first Independence Day slapped a smile on your face. Now, two decades later Resurgence rips that smile from existence. You know the saying: “the bigger they come, the harder they fall.” Same applies for Independence Day: Resurgence. Rest in peace Will Smith.
Independence Day: Resurgence is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language.
At the hands of the gifted director Duncan Jones (Moon and Source Code), Warcraft is still a complete and utter misfire. Filled with bloated CGI, sluggish characters and a flimsy story this film is strictly for geeks only. Outsiders you’ve been warned.
Director Duncan Jones will live to seize another day. For now, though his newest film is a complete misfire and utter waste of your time. Warcraft is nothing more than a scattershot adventure of Orcs vs. Man. This is yet another example of why video games fail to deliver satisfaction to the big screen. The story follows an Orc horde invading the realm of Azeroth. Now, a few human heroes and dissenting Orcs must attempt to stop the true evil behind this war. A.KA. bloated CGI sequences with actors thrown into the middle of the chaos.
Jones tries his best to craft the battlefield, but fails to bring justice to the flimsy story. This lumbering adaptation was obviously made for fans of the game only. For me, I found it very hard to care about paper-thin characters and a convoluted plot that felt more like a first chapter in an endless, tedious saga of movies full of noise. In the end, Warcraft is a code you can’t crack which makes it frustrating for viewers alike. Apparently, this is only the beginning for more films to follow … God help us all.
Warcraft is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For extended sequences of intense fantasy violence.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows ditches the dark and gritty tone of its predecessor, but stays just as stupid and in the end is another empty shell.
Incredibly dumb and juvenile, TMNT: Out of the Shadows is a film for 11-year-old boys with zero attention spans. These type of comic book flares are relentless to the point of torture. Nevertheless, TMNT: Out of the Shadows is somehow a slight improvement upon its predecessor, but that’s not saying much from a CGI fest of talking turtles. The charm and heart from the ‘80s cartoon hit has simmered. Now, we get another pointless sequel of giant turtle crashing into things with Megan Fox (playing the beloved April O’Neil) helmed as their companion. Please God, help me.
Loud and obnoxious, Fox runs into action while the camera focuses more on her body than her brains. Director David Green (Earth to Echo) continues the reign of childish impulse of good vs. evil. This time around, Shredder joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (an awful Tyler Perry) and henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady (actors Gary Anthony Williams and Sheamus O'Shaunessy) to take over the world, yawn. Now, the Turtles (actors Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard and Pete Ploszek) must stop them and confront an even greater nemesis … Kraang (actor Fred Armisen). Sadly in the end, TMNT: Out of the Shadows is nothing more than a glorious hot mess of turtle dung.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sci-fi action violence.
Completing the First Class trilogy, X-Men: Apocalypse blends resonant themes with strong characters even if it stumbles from a few too many mutant fatigues.
Apocalypse thrills and entertains, but does lack depth from previous X-Men entries. Nevertheless, director Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2 and Days of Future Past) completes his master making timeline of the X-Men universe. Sure, it does lack narrative depth but it’s a hell of an emotional roller coaster all the way to the end. Suck on that cynics. All of the characters have grown and deepened since we first took that journey with them back 2011’s First Class.
We’ve been with them during the Cuba missile crisis in 1962 and during the Sentinels launch of 1973. Now, it’s 1983 and with the emergence of the world's first mutant, En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (a brilliant Oscar Isaac), the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan. Yes, the film is another evil being wanting to accomplish world domination for the mutant race. With the simple plot, Singer focuses on a visual splendor backed by an emotional resonance from each character. All of our favorite actors return to the screen consisting of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Lucas Till, Josh Helman and Hugh Jackman. Newcomers Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Alexandra Shipp all perform well as younger incarnations of Jean Grey, Scott Summers/Cyclops, Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler and Ororo Munroe/Storm.
Singer hits all of the staples in this film, there’s the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, there’s Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver’s super speed evacuation scene, there’s Jackman’s cameo scene as Weapon X and there’s McAvoy’s evolution of Professor X. Throughout the destruction of the film Singer cranks the volume up to 11. Buildings crumble and X-Men unite! I get it, there’s an overload of action and a lack of narrative depth in this third outing for the First Class trilogy, nevertheless, Apocalypse rises from the ashes and obliterates the summer competition. With mutant fatigue clouding over Singer’s eyes, the only way to go from this chapter is up … hopefully. Yes, it’s a little underwhelming when compared to its predecessors, but in all honesty, fully satisfying every fan geek when wrapping up a trilogy is nearly impossible.
So take Apocalypse as a grain of salt and you surely won’t be disappointed. A vulnerable superhero franchise that’s been beaten up just keeps on standing. X-Men: Apocalypse is a clear setup for future films to follow in this puzzle piece timeline. Big special effects followed by outstanding performers helmed the path for the film. Apocalypse finds its comic book storytelling through an amidst of the chaos and rises. Don’t let the negative criticism get you down, this ninth chapter for the mutant universe hits some rocky moments but overcomes it all-in-all thanks to impressive visual set pieces.
X-Men: Apocalypse is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) For sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images.
The Angry Birds Movie is colorful and harmless for families, but all-in-all it’s just a 99 cent app turned into a $10 cash grab movie for Rovio and Sony.
Being an avid flipping-the-bird guru on my iPhone, The Angry Birds Movie is a bizarre and fast translation from the $1 billion smartphone game turned into a feature length film. These colorful birds are helmed by a talented voice cast (Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader as Leonard, Peter Dinklage, Sean Penn, Keegan-Michael Key, Blake Shelton and more) and vibrant animation, but lacks any narrative structure adapted from the smartphone app.
Sure, the film might knock some sillies out of you leaving viewers in the end mildly satisfied and nothing more. Want to find out why these birds are so angry? Well there’s an island populated by happy, flightless birds who are suddenly bombarded by mysterious green pigs. Now, it’s up to three outcasts – Red (Sudeikis), Chuck (Gad) and Bomb (McBride) to figure out what the pigs are really up to.
Unfortunately, these mad birds never take flight and instead of focusing on the plot, first-time directors Fergal Reilly and Clay Kaytis and writer Jon Vitti (Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Simpsons Movie) decide to throw as many gags/pop culture references at the audience as they can. Yes, it will keep the little ones distracted for a full 97 minutes, while you mindlessly destroy green pigs on your smartphone. In the end, The Angry Birds Movie is a harmless and mildly entertaining translation throughout but not enough to fully recommend nor satisfy smartphone pundits from setting their devices aside.
The Angry Birds Movie is rated PG (Parental Guidance) For rude humor and action.
The most mature MCU film to-date, Civil War hits an emotional core with its audience about thought-provoking themes and old friendships trying to survive.
More like Avengers 2.5 disguised as Captain America 3, nevertheless, the Cap is back again and ready to put up a fight. This action-packed blockbuster nails all of the summer highs. Director’s Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Solider) continue to craft Marvel’s expanding universe into a well packaged superhero outing. Civil War also begins the third wave of the MCU, starting eight years ago with the prestigious Iron Man (2008).
This time around a political interference within the Avengers' activities causes a rift between former allies Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Rogers is wanting to stay vigilant and out of the hands of government contact, while Stark is wanting to keep his superhero pals in check. Tensions arise and friendships are lost. Now, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Lieutenant James Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle), Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany), Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Scott Lang / Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) must choose a side.
Team Cap or Team Iron Man? I’ll let you find out who chooses who. No spoilers here. Newcomers, Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland excel as Black Panther and Spider-Man. Boseman is fierce and strong as the vigilant panther, while Holland steals the show during the airport battle as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man! All of the writing deepens throughout the film and so do our characters. Blood for blood, Rogers and Stark will stop at no cost for their moral composition. Grand choreographed fight scenes mixed with resonant humor throughout.
Civil War stays fun and smart from beginning to end, unlike BvS which failed to deliver satisfaction earlier this Spring. If this is the Russo Bros response to superhero fatigue, then we are in good hands for future films to follow. Double-down on the storytelling with resonant characters followed by eye-popping effects and you have Civil War. This superhero extravaganza surely will cleanse your palette, as Civil War comes and conquers the 2016 summer blockbuster marathon. This film hits you where it hurts and messes with your Marvel subconscious. Captain America: [about Bucky] “He's my friend.” Iron Man: “So was I.”
Captain America: Civil War is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For extended sequences of violence, action and mayhem.
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