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.
The Nice Guys blends nostalgic ‘70s vibes with a charming, leading duo (Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling) and gives the audience hilarious results.
One of the freshest comedies you’ll probably see all year, The Nice Guys takes a dying buddy-cop genre and refuels it. Director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Iron Man 3) throws sex, violence and laughs at the audience with nostalgic ‘70s culture running through their blood. When you think of the buddy-cop genre the most popular film that comes to mind is Lethal Weapon starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
Back in the ‘80s, Lethal Weapon helped refine the action genre while also immersing laughs throughout. Since then, films have tried to grab that same successful formula as that Lethal Weapon had, but none could match. The Nice Guys is probably the closest film that hits the same sweet spot that Lethal Weapon triggered years ago. Crowe shows us his first comedy chops, while Gosling is just flat out funny as the goofy private eye. Their irresistible chemistry hits a summer sweet spot we have all been waiting for.
It’s Los Angeles, 1970 something, and we are introduced to a mismatched pair of private eyes (Crowe and Gosling) who are investigating an apparent suicide of a fading porn star. It’s a comedy L.A. noir filled with groovy music, slapstick humor and violent shoot em’ up scenes. The leading pair are a real hoot that add structure to the film, alongside Black’s slick direction. And the real star that steals the show is actress Angourie Rice, who plays Gosling’s teenage daughter. Rice is sharp, sassy and trying to succeed as a younger private eye just like her dad.
The Nice Guys is one of the best comedies of the year because the jokes are funny, the leading pair soar and the popcorn charisma taste so good. A guilty pleasure that will delightfully entertain from beginning until end. This crime caper is funny as hell and hits that perfect blend of comedy and action. They say, “nice guys finish last” … not in this circumstance.
The Nice Guys is rated R (Restricted). For violence, sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use.
An offbeat buzz ride, The Lobster is one of the strangest movie-going experiences of 2016.
Prevailing through this short of strangeness will lead to greatness. The Lobster is definitely an acquired taste, but it’s one that every viewer should try once. Built on satire and loneliness, The Lobster brings us down to its bizzaro world. Director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth (Kynodontas) and Alps) sets his vision in contemporary Western society full of real people in strange situations.
Dry humor and absurdity are what make The Lobster so intriguing. Set in a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days or are transformed into an animal and sent into the woods. Yes, this is the plot and it’s completely crazy, but original. Actors Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw and John C. Reilly all rise to the occasion, excelling The Lobster to even further heights.
As the title hints too, if Mr. Farrell doesn’t find a mate within 45 days then he will be transformed into a lobster. Why a lobster, you ask? “Because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much.” This is Mr. Farrell’s reasoning behind that very creature and that’s all you need to know. The Lobster is not everybody’s cup of tea, however, if you manage to get through this absurd trip the rewards are even greater in the end. I guarantee it.
The Lobster is rated R (Restricted) For sexual content including dialogue, and some violence.
Director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman and Valentine's Day) releases another hokey holiday film that’s as flimsy as a Hallmark card.
Mother’s Day, Marshall’s latest film, is not a tribute to mother’s. Instead, it’s an insult to everyone and their time. This star-studded failure (Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, Britt Robertson and Timothy Olyphant) is filled with candy eyed nonsense that sticks with you longer than it should. Garry Marshall has never been a strong director and his track record shows … Pretty Woman, Exit to Eden, Dear God, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries, Georgia Rule, Valentine's Day, New Year’s Eve and now Mother’s Day.
With the exception of Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, every other film Marshall has made has been rather flimsy and shallow. These films don’t deserve a theatrical release, more like a Direct-to-Video and or Lifetime Movies release. Yes, they’re that bad. Mother’s Day is the cinematic equivalent of last-minute gift wrapping, poorly executed. His films lack effort and heart. They always have and always will. Please, Marshall don’t ruin anymore holidays. As masterful Paul McCartney once wrote and sang, “Let It Be.” No three words could be more true with Marshall's career.
Mother's Day is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For language and some suggestive material.
Director John Carney (Once and Begin Again) returns to his musical roots fueling the audience with '80s pop vibes. Sing Street will slap a smile on your face while singing its heart out, it’s one of the best films of 2016.
It's the '80s, The Beatles are history and in Brendan Lalor's own words, "No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins." Sing Street is a feel-good optimist that sends out musical vibes to this generation and brings them back to Dublin in the ‘80s. Probably one of the best soundtracks you’ll here this year, Sing Street fuels your bones with musical ecstasy. Original music by the band Sing Street was composed by writer/director John Carney, ‘80s veteran composer Gary Clark and Adam Levine. All of them pour passion and tribute to the ‘80s in a very nostalgic way.
Sing Street is also upheld by a fantastic cast consisting of Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Karl Rice and Ian Kenny. I’m a sucker when it comes to Carney films, he grabs me in with his upbeat musical tunes. Once will always be my favorite of his. It’s a film so captivating you’ll have to watch it over and over again just like listening to a record. Once showed the audience a blend of love and music back in 2007. In 2014, Begin Again was a charming film of music escapism. While it didn’t hit the high notes as Once, nevertheless, Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley’s duo was irresistible.
Now, fast-forward to 2016 where Carney releases his third feature film and again it’s about musical escapism. Sing Street takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a boy named Conor (a very talented Walsh-Peelo) who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents' relationship and their money troubles. Conor is also trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school with rough and tough students and teachers. But Conor finds his silver lining in the mysterious and beautiful Raphina (A wonderful Boynton). Trying to win her heart over Conor invites her to star in his band's music videos, but there’s a problem: he's not part of a band … yet.
Raphina agree so Conor must find himself a band fast and begin his teen music career. After Conor finds his lads, he also immerses himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting music videos. Sing Street is hip and cool and his have you dancing down the streets by the end of the film. In a world full of music, Carney grabs you from the chaos and puts you in the spotlight. You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer and most importantly you’ll sing you heart out! The score also features famous bands like The Cure, A-ha, Duran Duran, The Clash, Hall & Oates, Spandau Ballet and The Jam.
This movie is irresistible from beginning until end. It deserves recognition and needs to be seen by music lovers everywhere. Sing Street hits the high notes and shows us Carney’s ability to craft his greatest hits album and I can’t wait to listen too its sweet tune again. Sing Street revives your feelings for the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll and sends tunes throughout the theater. Conor and his lads are futurist living in a dog-eat-dog world and they’re only survival is to continue writing and playing music. At last, “Boy meets girl, girl unimpressed, boy starts band” … fill in the rest.
Sing Street is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) For thematic elements including strong language and some bullying behavior, a suggestive image, drug material and teen smoking.
An unnecessary prequel/sequel to its predecessor slog (Snow White and the Huntsman), Winter’s War is lazy, bloated and buries its promising cast in the snow.
In 2012, Snow White and the Huntsman was a complete misfire. Casting Kristen Stewart as Snow White was a mistake along with its problematic script. Never did I think that out of this slog would come a sequel … well I was wrong. The Huntsman: Winter’s War plays as a prequel/sequel and adds nothing new to the clumsy franchise. Nothing felt complete nor fun throughout this fairy tale adventure yet again.
The screenplay (writers Craig Mazin and Evan Spiliotopoulos) felt like a rehash from Disney’s Frozen without the catchy songs. Freya the Ice Queen (Emily Blunt) and her sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron) hate everyone and want to conquer the Enchanted Forest. It’s only up to the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and his secret lover Sara (Jessica Chastain) who can stop them. Theron who kicked ass in Mad Max: Fury Road is completely wasted for her role along with Blunt, who proved her acting chops in 2015’s Sicario.
Hemsworth also squanders as the Huntsman and needs to go back to just swinging his hammer. While the CGI only distracts and doesn’t add structure to the story. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan loses his footing halfway through the blizzard, hurting this fable from succeeding in every way. It’s eye candy visuals isn’t enough to uphold the film as Winter’s War buries its promising cast in the snow. In the end, this film should have just taken the quick way out and eaten the poisonous apple.
The Huntsman: Winter's War is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For fantasy action violence and some sensuality.
The Jungle Book is marvelous as it is engrossing; this rare remake is a feast for the eyes of all ages. The newest Disney Masterpiece has finally arrived.
Behold, a beautiful creation of filmmaking that sets a new standard for CGI. The Jungle Book has finally arrived. The film captivates you with an all-star voice cast consisting of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken and the late Garry Shandling. These diverse actors bring joy to the movie and breath life into their respected characters. Director Jon Favreau (Elf and Iron Man) crafts the film with elegance and skill.
He even gives author Rudyard Kipling’s incredible story justice it deserves. The remake actually improves upon the predecessors (The Jungle Book, 1967), proving that not all Hollywood remakes are for cash grabs. In this reimagining of the classic collection of stories, Favreau uses visually stunning CGI to create the community of animals surrounding Mowgli (a terrific Neel Sethi), a human boy adopted by a pack of wolves. However, not every animal is pleased of Mowgli’s appearance and differences to the animal community.
He is known as the “man cub.” Cue the villainous tiger named Shere Khan (a fierce Elba). Shere Khan forces Mowgli out of the village guided by his guardian, the panther Bagheera (a comforting Kingsley). Bagheera is Mowgli’s shepherd and is trying to guide him to safety to the “man village.” Along the way, the Mowgli meets an affable, lazy bear named Baloo (the comedic Murray), as well as a snake with hypnotic powers (a seductive Johansson) and an orangutan (a downright wonderful Walken) who wants to harness the power of fire. Nyong'o, Esposito, and the late Shandling also help lend their voices to this adventurous tale.
Favreau even pays tribute to the original animated film, as he plays “The Bare Necessities” in a honorable river scene. Families will be thrilled with the new adventure that truly takes your breath away. If you see it, I advise you to go all out and see it on the IMAX in 3D. The Jungle Book is one of the best family outings of 2016, as it grapples with friendship, adventure, diversity and equality for everyone. This digitized world is a complete awe factor and will inspire future CGI films. The Jungle Book won my heart over from the very first shot. The film is dazzling, unforgettable and captures that sense of wonder. Adventure is out there and The Jungle Book is waiting for you to join.
The Jungle Book is rate PG (Parental Guidance). For some sequences of scary action and peril.
This low-budget, sci-fi extravaganza from director Jeff Nichols (Mud and Take Shelter) will completely captivate you.
Less is more. Midnight Special is a rare low-budget film that rewards itself purely based on its own ambition. If you strip everything away from Midnight Special it’s merely a chase movie. Add a touch of sci-fi, a talented cast and “BAM!” you’ve got Midnight Special. Director Jeff Nichols’ newest feature film adds beauty to its simplicity.
It also holds the spirit of Spielberg throughout. Without giving too many spoilers away, Midnight Special’s story is about a father (a terrific Michael Shannon) and his eight-year-old son (the mysterious Jaeden Lieberher) who go on the lam upon discovering that the boy possesses mysterious powers. Roy (Shannon) is trying to get his son to safety and out of the hands of a religious cult (one he use to follow) and the government. Actors that also standout in this film are Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard.
Nichols explores moral themes between a father/son relationship and he does so through the eyes of his talented cast. This also marks as the fourth collaboration between Nichols and Shannon. My advice, is to go see this film with an open-mind and hopefully you'll take something away from its overall theme. I went to see Midnight Special completely blind and I’m glad that I did. Our heroines, in the film, will help guide the audience through a dark journey until they finally reach the climax. In the end, this is a movie that will linger with you long after it’s over.
Midnight Special is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned) For some violence and action.
The Little Prince is a marvelous piece of artwork skillfully painted in homage to the original hit book (1943).
One of the most colorful and extraordinary films of the year and unfortunately many people will not get the chance to see it on the big screen. The reason being is that Paramount Animation choose to drop the film indefinitely. The good news is that Netflix later picked up the film and will release sometime in 2016. The Little Prince is an animated feature based on the best-selling novel from 1943. It's a novella from the most famous work of the French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
The Little Prince also is the fourth most-translated book in the world and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France. Translated into more than 250 languages and dialects (as well as Braille), selling nearly two million copies annually with sales totaling over 140 million copies worldwide, The Little Prince has become one of the best-selling books ever published. It’s a fascinating story of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss.
The book shares with us the author’s own memoir as he recounts his aviation experiences in the Sahara Desert. The tale is philosophical and also includes social criticism throughout. This poetic tale is brilliantly illustrated with watercolors, by which a pilot stranded in the desert meets a young prince fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. Now, fast-forward to the present day as director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda) captures that classic tale with a few modern twists added into it.
The story follows a little girl (voiced by Mackenzie Foy) who lives in a very grown-up world with her mother (voiced by a wonderful Rachel McAdams), who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator (voiced by the brilliant Jeff Bridges), introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince (voiced by a fascinating Riley Osborne). The movie blends mesmerizing stop-motion with beautiful computer animation.
The stop-motion scenes in the desert were mostly created using paper, even the Little Prince was made out of paper clay. This gives the film a sense of wonder and awe as it captures the essence of the classic tale. The Little Prince is also backed by talented voice assemble (Bridges, McAdams, Osborne, Foy, Paul Rudd, Bud Cort, Marion Cotillard, Benicio del Toro, James Franco, Ricky Gervais, Paul Giamatti and Albert Brooks). The elements from the novel are woven into an original narrative, but have no fear the novels original story and theme isn’t lost. The Little Prince is a beautiful movie experience that deserves to be seen.
The Little Prince is rated PG (Parental Guidance). For mild thematic elements.
Hardcore Henry's first-person, shoot 'em up style will give you a headache throughout in this video game-like experience.
Bloody ambitious to a fault, but in the end Hardcore Henry still failed to deliver a fun movie-going extravaganza. Nearly entirely shot using GoPro Hero3 Black Edition cameras, Hardcore Henry tried a little too hard to softly revolutionize the film industry. It would have been better as a 15-minute short feature, but instead the studio went all out with a full-length film.
The action, action and more action becomes tedious by the end and you’re sure to get one hell of a headache from the usage of the non-stop GoPro. Hardcore Henry is better written as a video gaming experience. There’s a reason why first-person features appeal better to the eye as video games than as movies. The storyline is rather thin: a first-person action film from the POV of Henry, who's resurrected from death with no memory. He must save his wife from a telekinetic warlord with a plan to bio-engineer soldiers.
Really, the only exciting aspect from the movie was actor Sharlto Copley and his prestigious ego throughout the film. He’s badass, as he captures the raw essence of what being a lunatic truly is. Hardcore Henry had some impressive thrills throughout, but not enough to satisfy the normal action junkie craving. It’s also not a film for viewers who get motion sickness easily. Hardcore Henry hurdles you through bloody twists and turns until you’re black and blue in the face. Ouch!
Hardcore Henry is rated R (Restricted). For non-stop bloody brutal violence and mayhem, language throughout, sexual content/nudity and drug use.
Well, The Boss is better than Tammy but that’s not saying much. Once again, Melissa McCarthy’s comedic talent is wasted.
Last summer’s parody smash, Spy, seemed to be a new era for actress Melissa McCarthy, then The Boss decided to make an entrance. Let’s make this clear, McCarthy is funny and she always has been. Ever since her career starter with Gilmore Girls, McCarthy has made a name for herself. She's excelled in well-written comedies such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, St. Vincent and Spy. However, she’s also been flustered in poorly-written comedies such as Identity Thief, The Hangover Part III, Tammy and now The Boss.
As soon as McCarthy hits a comedy reign there’s always been a film to follow that knocks her back two steps. The Boss is thinly-written and poorly executed to be called a true comedy. McCarthy still is able to bust out a few zingers, but not enough to save the film itself. The Boss is a baggy mess of inconsistent gags that overshadows McCarthy’s pure talent as an actress and it’s a damn shame. Fingers crossed this summer’s Ghostbusters (2016) won’t let her down.
The Boss is rated R (Restricted). For sexual content, language and brief drug use.
At last, the most disappointing movie event of the year. This stellar cast is ultimately letdown by a weak narrative and lack of direction. Sorry DC fans, but if the future of filmmaking begins looking like a visually incoherent wet dream, god help us all ...
DC tries to prevail by bringing two of the most iconic superheroes in comic book history to the big screen for a superhero slugfest and they most definitely disappoint. No, this is not a guy who is bias towards anything DC and cheers for only Marvel movies. Be advised, this is an honest review from a disappointed fan of both Batman and Superman. While, I did enjoy Man of Steel and thought that the movie had great potential for future Superman films, BvS takes everything MoS built on and crumbles it. The first half of Man of Steel was great, showing us Superman's origin in a more modern and gritty way.
However, the last half of the movie was a mixed bag for me because director Zack Snyder (Watchmen and 300) completely tossed the script out the window and decided to obliterate Metropolis. Man of Steel didn’t soar to perfection, nevertheless, Mr. Snyder got the job done. This is the Superman that fans have been waiting for. Wishing that Mr. Snyder would have gone with director Christopher Nolan’s (Dark Knight Trilogy) pitch of keeping Superman in his own universe; the studio (Warner Bros.) got anxious and decided to take the Marvel route and extended their universe as well. Instead, of giving our heroes their own movie leading up to a big reunion, Warner Bros. grabbed the two most iconic characters and threw them into one film to set up the Justice League Part 1 and 2 (2017 and 2019) respectively.
So after the events of Man of Steel where General Zod (Michael Shannon) almost decimates Metropolis (resembling a 9/11 terrorist attack), Superman (Henry Cavill) is there to save the day and has no other choice but to kill Zod. The world is now in chaos and wonder from this new god-like figure. In BvS, we begin with that same fateful day in Metropolis, but are introduced to Bruce Wayne (The gripping Ben Affleck) fleeing throughout the city trying to save people who are inside his building (Wayne Towers). Bruce doesn’t make it in time and his building crumbles from Superman and Zod colliding through it, killing whoever is in there.
Wayne is stunned and left in disarray, leaving him with rage towards this new god-like presence. Affleck excels as the Cape Crusader, giving the audience one of the best portrayals of the man in black. He’s gripping, like a time bomb waiting to explode. He’s been at the job for 20 years in Gotham and is now halted at a burning fuse full of anger and rage. On the flipside, we get Clark Kent A.K.A. Superman, who is trying to adjust to his new life on our planet. However, people are scared and the court system wants Superman to pay for his crimes so justice can be served. But how do you convict an alien? Superman is also struggling with the fact that Batman is taking the law in his own hands. Mr. Snyder decides to infuse his film with politics and concern, leaving the viewers in a super-politico frenzy.
What frustrated me with Batman V Superman was Mr. Snyder's incoherent direction and David S. Goyer's (Man of Steel) lack of structure in a script. When the narrative is as flimsy as the title itself, you know you’re in trouble. There was very little dialogue in the film and way too many long visually draining shots of actors staring into the camera. It didn't work for me and dragged its ass on for way too long. I get that this was Snyder’s way of showing tribute to the comics, but some aspects like this don’t work or look good on film. This stellar cast is letdown by the very people working behind the camera. This self indulgent bore of a movie has no room for fun nor class. Gloom and doom is DC’s new approach at making a superhero film. Nevertheless, Gal Gadot stole the show when she crash in as Wonder Woman. It’s too bad that she only had 16 lines in the film itself. I am very hopeful for her solo film in 2017, fingers crossed that she can revive this downhearted franchise.
Then there’s also the ultra villain known as Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), who is thrown into the film. He’s a cross between psycho and Mark Zuckerberg, but by the end he’s just more of a nuisance. And when the audience finally gets the the big battle of Cape Crusader v Man of Steel, do we even care? It doesn’t live up to what's promised and is cut off to short to fight another threat lurking around named Doomsday. Which, brings us back to Mr. Snyder’s expertise at blowing shit up again with bloated CGI. It’s been four years since Mr. Nolan wrapped up his critically acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy and sadly when DC needs him most, he’s moved on to bigger and better opportunities. Nolan knew how to craft a film with characters that we actually care about and stories worth telling with actual depth in narrative. There was coherence, structure and entertainment, which is something BvS didn’t have.
From the long gloomy shots to the pointless dream sequences with bat-figure people; BvS came to 2016 trying to conquer the demons but ends up wrestling with its own demons. BvS was a bumpy ride from start to finish. When it dazzled it dazzled, when it dragged it dragged. To me there were some mostly exciting scenes in the movie, but nothing satisfactory in the end. For better or for worse this is what Mr. Snyder has given us and for right now we have to deal with it. Fingers crossed that Suicide Squad will be good! Batman V Superman is a film that forgets about its own heroes and smothers them in a whirlwind of effects-driven action. Damn you DC.
BvS is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.
Photographer Reuben Krabbe is determined to capture a photo of a skier in front of the 2015 solar eclipse in Svalbard. The odds are small, the risks are high, this is Eclipse.
Winner of the Best Film: Snow Sports of 2015 and the final film I watched at the BANFF Mountain Film Festival in St. Louis; Eclipse was the best film of the night for me at the Hi-Pointe Theatre. It was beautifully shot and skillfully captured in the snowy hills of Svalbard. This 31-minute slow-burner will keep you anxious until the very last snapshot.
Bad weather, a sketchy guide and skiers wanting to just ski made the pressure boil to a point of no return. Photographer Reuben Krabbe is determined to capture a photo of a skier in front of the 2015 solar eclipse and it’s a beaut to watch. Filled with wit and determination, Eclipse was the best film of the night for me as it captured the moment one frame at a time.
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