The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Directed by The Coen Brothers

Review: A Private War

Starring Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin

Review: Outlaw King

Starring Chris Pine

Review: Boy Erased

Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe

Review: Overlord

The WWII Nazi Zombie Flick You've Been Waiting For

11/19/2018

'Replicas' Trailer: Keanu Reeves Breaks The Laws Of Science


Things are finally looking up for Keanu Reeves' sci-fi film, Replicas. One of the hot buys at TIFF last year, it had a big debut at the New York Comic-Con a few months later. But after a year it had only a couple of teasers (of radically different tones) and no release date. Well, that changes with the brand new trailer, which reveals the film will arrive early in 2019.

Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, the film stars Reeves as a man who breaks all of the physical laws of science to replicate his family who has been killed in an accident. He'll stop at nothing, even if it means going up against the authorities, and as it turns out, the wishes of those he has brought back from the dead.  Kinda looks like a sci-fi version of Pet Semetary, all it needs is a creepy resurrected cat.

Also starring Alice Eve and Thomas Middleditch, Replicas opens January 11th 2019.

You Can See 'Aquaman' A Week Early If You've Got Amazon Prime


How excited are you to see Aquaman? Excited enough to want to check it out a week early? If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, the cash you're shelling out to receive free 2-day shipping can also be used to check out the film a week early on December 15th.

On that date, Amazon will hold special screenings of Aquaman in about 1000 theaters across the country. Prime members can purchase tickets to attend one of these events, so you can then brag to your friends that Jason Momoa granted you permission to come aboard early. In an Amazon promo vid Momoa calls Aquaman "the most badass movie of the year", which is totally a Momoa thing to say.

To see if Aquaman is showing early near you,  go here.

This is a smooth move for Warner Bros. to get ahead of a crowded December pack, while at the same time Amazon continues to set a foothold theatrically. They pulled a similar move with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and that went on to be one of the highest-grossing movies of the year. It makes sense for Warner Bros. to make use of Amazon's vast reach.

For those who haven't been assimilated by Amazon yet, Aquaman opens on December 21st.

'The Secret Life Of Pets 2' Trailer: Chloe Coughs Up A Way To Get What She Wants


Illumination is hoping The Secret Life of Pets 2 will match the $875M success of its predecessor, and so they are rolling out character-specific trailers one-by-one so you don't forget. After the first teaser focused on Max, who is now voiced by Patton Oswalt, the latest features the portly feline Chloe, voiced by the terrific Lake Bell. 

As a cat person myself, I see way too much in Chloe that reminds me of my own pet. Let's face it, cats are onery creatures who want what they want when they want it. In this case, Chloe really wants to wake up her owner, but the only thing that seems to work? Vomiting up a hairball. I know from experience that the sound of a gagging cat will break even the deepest slumber.  There's also a funny bit involving catnip, which is like crack cocaine for felines.

Also featuring the voices of Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, and Pete Holmes, The Secret Life of Pets 2 opens June 7th 2019. 

'The Intruder' Trailer: Dennis Quaid Terrorizes Michael Ealy And Meagan Good


Screen Gems has all but cornered the market on low-budget domestic thrillers, particularly ones that skew towards the African-American audience. Scoring solid box office with low-cost films such as Obsessed (A personal favorite; Ali Larter FTW!!), When the Bough Breaks, The Perfect Guy, No Good Deed, and more, it's no surprise they're also the home for The Intruder, which finds Dennis Quaid going psycho on a pair of new homeowners.

The homeowners in this case are Michael Ealy and Meagan Good, both familiar faces on the Screen Gems roster. Quaid comes into the picture as the home's previous owner, who has grown way too attached to just let it go. The film is directed by Deon Taylor, who last directed Halle Berry in Traffik and Mike Epps in Meet the Blacks. Um...make of that resume what you will.

On a different note, what the Hell is Dennis Quaid doing in this? I feel like he's slowly creeping down into Nicolas Cage/Bruce Willis territory but he's not a big enough name to command the kind of shitty movies they get. It's ironic because he's considered such a respectable actor that he's still pursued by major studios, except they want to put him in shit like this.  While I liked him well enough in Kin, it was a bit role (That in itself says something), and he hasn't done a really good film since 2012's Truth

The Intruder hits theaters on April 29th 2019, and it'll probably make between $60M-$75M and be a modest hit. 

Review: 'Creed II' Brings The Sweet Science For Another Hard-Hitting Round


The best boxing movies, and to me boxing movies are the best of the sports genre by far, are great long before anybody ever steps into the ring.  Most follow a similar structure and even a similar outcome, but it's the journey that matters, and the taking of life's punches that are more important than any blows suffered in the squared circle. If all of that resonates as it should, then the outcome of the battle means so much more, win or lose. It's something Sylvester Stallone has always mastered when it comes to his Rocky films, and continues to show with Creed II as Michael B. Jordan's Adonis Creed faces an opponent that is both predictable and yet not what we expected.


I'll admit, when it first became obvious, from a chatty Stallone himself, that the son of Ivan Drago would be the main antagonist of Creed II, it was worrying. Part of what the prior film so powerful was that it pushed the headstrong and arrogant Adonis away from the obvious path. But Stallone, along with co-writer Jule Taylor and incoming director Steven Caple Jr. have crafted a story that embraces the rich mythology of this franchise and expands it. The return of Drago (once again played by Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed Adonis' father Apollo Creed in Rocky IV, allows for an examination of family legacy from different angles: one fighter bent on revenge, the other redemption, and it's not always clear who is on what road.


The playbook is a familiar one. Adonis is on top of the world, a champion of the ring with the love of his city, his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson), and the support of his trainer, Rocky Balboa, whose clock just keeps on ticking.  But Adonis' high is blown when a sleazy promoter (Russell Hornsby) tries to engineer a fight with Ivan Drago's behemoth son, Viktor (real-life boxer Florian Munteanu), who has been brutalizing opponents in Mother Russia. It's a bout the whole world wants, and Adonis, feeling the pressure of his father's looming shadow, can't resist.


What makes this interesting is that Drago's return isn't marked by mere vengeance. Ivan Drago was basically ex-communicated from everyone he knew after losing to Rocky. His wife (Brigitte Nielsen, who makes a couple of small appearances) left him, and Ivan did nothing but train Viktor to fight. The boy seems to know nothing else other than fighting, as a means of redeeming his father and restoring their family name. But Viktor isn't cruel; he looks like he should be, but his motives are pure and his skill undeniable. Also undeniable? That he's about the size of a house, and looks like he could pummel Adonis into pulp.


Creed II has compelling drama hitting you from all sides. Adonis must go through the familiar beats, literally in this case, of being knocked off his pedestal and needing to be built back up to reclaim the throne.  This film, perhaps more than its predecessor, digs into Adonis' personal issues as a means of getting inside his head.  He's still racked with doubt that he'll ever live up to his father's legacy, while at the same time there's the need to be strong as he embarks on a new chapter with Bianca. Rocky takes something of a backseat here; not to say he isn't still important. His first encounter with Ivan Drago, which takes place at a face-to-face sit down at an Italian restaurant like a scene out of The Godfather, is absolutely brilliant. But we know Rocky's stance on this pretty early on; the weight of guilt he's carried since Apollo's death is something we've seen addressed in earlier movies, so it doesn't't need to be a focus here. This is Adonis' story, his journey, and if you thought it might include a montage or two...well, you know your boxing movies.


There was probably some concern when Ryan Coogler was unable to return as director; his chemistry with Michael B. Jordan is beyond reproach. But those who knew Caple from his little-seen Ohio drama, The Land, knew the film was in very good hands. Caple doesn't go too far in trying to put his own stamp on it, and yet he does anyway. When the action moves to the ring, that's when we see the differences play out. Caple may lack a little bit of Coogler's elegance but he makes up for it with whincing, visceral round-by-round physicality. By the time the final match comes around we're so invested in these characters that every blow hurts us as much as it hurts them. Jordan has improved in the ring, and I have no doubt Florian's presence helped that along. It certainly helped in the training department because Jordan looks jacked, and if you've seen Florian's workout videos you know that dude is a damned cyborg.  Stallone is so comfortable in the role of Rocky that he can probably do it in his sleep, and yeah, sometimes it looks like he actually is. But man, can he still deliver a somber, inspiring, comeback monologue with the best of them.


Much like Adonis himself, Creed II has a lot to live up to, and that's only going to increase with every new chapter of this epic boxing tale. They call boxing the "sweet science" because every fighter has a formula for success. If they can find it, and stay in it, they can't lose. Rocky found it long time ago and Creed II is a triumph for sticking with the winning formula.


Rating: 4 out of 5

'Piercing' Trailer: Mia Wasikowska Is No Easy Prey


Nicolas Pesce has a thing for people with an uncontrollable need to kill. He made his breakout debut at Sundance a couple of years ago with his disturbing horror, The Eyes of My Mother, about a woman who learns early on how to get her murderous thrills. And now Pesce is back with Piercing, which also debuted in Park City and centers on a different homicidal maniac, only this one gets more than he bargained for.

Christopher Abbott of James White and Girls fame, stars as a husband and father who leaves his family on what he claims is a business trip, but really he's going to a hotel where he can hire an unsuspecting prostitute and murder her. Unfortunately for him, the escort he calls, played by Mia Wasikowska, has a different idea in mind.

So this could be a classic "flipping of the tables" flick, with the woman getting the upper hand on a male predator, but under Pesce's guidance, something tells me it isn't so simple. Piercing hits theaters and VOD on February 1st 2019.

'Aquaman' Final Trailer Reveals Atlantis In All Its Glory


Enough has been said and written about the troubles of the DCEU, but you know what? None of that should matter when it comes to Aquaman. Taken on its own merits, the film has an incredibly talented director in James Wan; a stellar cast led by Jason Momoa and includes an Oscar winner in Nicole Kidman and an Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe. And while Aquaman may have been a punchline for much of his existence, those days are long gone. This version of the character, a rugged brawler who seems like an extension of Momoa's real-life personality, has the potential to be a breakout for Warner Bros. at a time when they could use it.

The latest trailer takes a deep dive (pun intended) into the aquatic world of Atlantis, where we see Arthur Curry (Momoa) as a young man before he became the hero we know him to be. More footage of him training with Nuidis Vulko (Dafoe) and being encouraged to leave his human side behind, plus a better look at Nicole Kidman as his mother, Queen Atlanna.  There's some Game of Thrones-level political intrigue at play, and I'm curious to see how that melds with the action we know Wan plans to bring to the table.

The final shot, with Aquaman in his classic costume holding his golden trident is really damned impressive. If Warner Bros. wanted to make a good final impression that was the way to go.

Aquaman hits theaters on December 21st.

'Once Upon A Deadpool' Trailer: For Those Who Like Their Homicidal Mercs More Family-Friendly


Hard to believe there was ever a time when a Deadpool movie didn't seem like a sure thing, right? Not only is Marvel's R-rated merc the biggest X-Men franchise ever, but he's so popular Fox is cranking out a PG-13 cut of a movie audiences have already paid for and releasing it over the Christmas holiday. The first trailer for Once Upon a Deadpool is here, offering a glimpse at the more family-friendly cut of Deadpool 2, featuring a framing device taken straight from The Princess Bride.

It's just amazing that we've come to this point at all. Fox is basically filling in a gap in the schedule with Once Upon a Deadpool, using new footage that Ryan Reynolds has confirmed was shot in secret, making it an extra little treat for those who already saw the wildly successful R-rated cut.  As an added incentive, the proceeds are going to charity, making this a true labor of love for those involved. Not that there isn't some business incentive behind this, as well. The brass at Disney are said to be watching closely to see how an all-ages Deadpool flick does, so they have something to go by once the Fox acquisition wraps up.

That said, I'm curious how many of you intend to check this out? Once Upon a Deadpool opens December 12th.

Review: 'The Marine 6: Close Quarters', WWE's Action Franchise Heads Into Uncharted Territory


Y'know, I've taken a certain amount of pride in being one of the few national critics who makes it a point to review every single one of WWE's The Marine movies. It is, for what it's worth, their flagship franchise and while they have all been pretty terrible up to this point, I'd be lying if I said they didn't hold a certain place in this critic's cold heart. Led by the G.O.A.T. of the WWE, Mike "The Miz" Mizanin, who has managed to only have his wife Maryse in one of his four outings, unexpectedly long-lived series takes a hard turn with The Marine 6: Close Quarters, and I don't think people are going to be prepared for it. I know I wasn't.

The Miz is back as ex-Marine now EMT Jake Carter, who has survived more shit post-military life than he ever could've seen while in uniform. This time Jake is teamed up with his former commanding officer, Luke Trapper, played by "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels while he still had some hair left on his head. Instantly, the whole dynamic is changed by giving Jake someone to banter with, and as anybody who has seen him on TV knows, the Miz and HBK are both better when they've got someone to jaw-jack with.  But the lighter mood is a ruse, because this is one grim friggin' flick.


While checking in on a veteran who has been squatting in a rundown building, Jake and Luke stumble on an Irish crime gang, led by WWE's resident lasskicker Becky Lynch, who have kidnapped the daughter of a juror to force him to decide in their favor on a trial. Being who they are, the two military dudes can't just let it stand, and so they must fight to save the girl and save themselves.

It's a typically barebones premise befitting of these knuckle-headed movies, but this one works better than others because of the performances by Miz, Michaels, and Lynch. In particular, Lynch seems to be bringing her current rebellious attitude to the role, and I could see WWE maybe pushing her in a separate series of movies all her own. Michaels seems to be having a ball, more than he has been in those lame faith-based flicks he's occasionally popped up in. And together with Miz, they actually kick a lot of ass. To the betterment of director James Nunn, the action is mostly hand-to-hand which plays to his actors' strengths. Previous films have relied too much on gunplay, including the atrocious predecessor which Nunn also took the camera for.


The violence is more brutal this time around, with hammers, blades, and worse coming into play. While that's to be expected, the twists and turns this film takes are not. I don't think anybody looks to The Marine 6 for shocking swerves but they go all-out and defy what years of action movie tropes have taught us. I was left floored by it, and honestly I don't know where these movies go from here. The Miz may have finally hit his stride in this role right at the moment when it's time for the franchise to go in a different direction. Whatever the WWE decides to do, The Marine 6 has me curious about what comes next, and that's something I've never been able to say about these movies before.

Rating: 3 out of 5

11/18/2018

Box Office: 'Fantastic Beasts' Dazzles With $253M Worldwide, 'Widows' Opens To $12M


1. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald (review)- $62.2M
It was a slightly smaller debut for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The $62M domestic haul trails the prior film's $75M, but it's doubtful Warner Bros. is too concerned...yet.  It's overseas grosses that power blockbusters like this nowadays, and worldwide the Harry Potter prequel has $253.2M with $191M of that internationally. That's a comparable number, and I suspect that'll hold for the length of the franchise, which JK Rowling has said would be five movies long. I'm curious whether the casting of Johnny Depp had any impact domestically, though. There was real disgust by a lot of fans and I have to believe some of that crossed over to more casual viewers who refuse to support the actor. He hasn't had a non-Jack Sparrow hit in ages, and films that have featured him prominently have all suffered. Could we see that role shift yet again (How about bringing Colin Farrell back??)
2. Dr. Seuss' The Grinch- $38.1M/$126.5M
3. Bohemian Rhapsody- $15.7M/$127.8M
The international appeal of Queen continues to pay dividends, as biopic Bohemian Rhapsody added another $45M overseas, on top of the $15M it added here, for a worldwide cume of $384M!! So we should probably shut up about this not being a complete enough story, or complaining about the band's members having too much influence. Clearly, they chose wisely in making a crowd-pleasing film and people are turning out in droves to see it.
4. Instant Family (review)- $14.7M
I was surprised to learn the Mark Wahlberg/Rose Byrne comedy Instant Family is actually pretty good. Not only did our reviewer dig it, but reviews overall have been quite strong, so I'm a little surprised by the middling $14.7M debut. Director Sean Anders pulled from his own personal life to tell the story of a married couple who decide to start a family by adopting three kids, including one rebellious teen, and getting more than they bargained for. My gut tells me this sticks it out and does solid business. This is the right time of year for this kind of all-ages entertainment, after all.
5. Widows (review)- $12.3M
I'm a bit perplexed by this one. Widows is the well-reviewed crime thriller from acclaimed director Steve McQueen, penned by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and starring an incredible cast of Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, and more. The film opened to just $12M in 2803 theaters, a disappointing number when you look at the level of talent across the board.  So what's the deal? Part of me thinks audiences were confused about what to expect. Is it an artsy prestige drama or a commercial heist flick with superior casting?  Whatever the case, without an Oscars boom Widows will go down as a disappointment. 
6. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms- $4.6M/$43.8M
7. A Star is Born- $4.3M/$185.8M
8. Overlord- $3.8M/$17.7M
I expected more from Overlord, Bad Robot's buzzy zombie-war thriller. Perhaps they SHOULD have made it a Cloverfield film? After two weeks the $38M picture only has $17M domestic and $32M worldwide, which is on the low end of J.J. Abrams-produced flicks.
9. The Girl in the Spider's Web- $2.5M/$13.2M
I think we can call it a day on Sony's adaptations of Stieg Larsson's Millennium novels. The studio famously hemmed and hawed whether to followup David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and that at least made $100M stateside and $232M worldwide. Not bad for an R-rated thriller nowadays. But the sequel, The Girl in the Spider's Web, which features an all-new, less starry cast led by Claire Foy, went the PG-13 route and has only managed $13M here and $26M overall. Oof.
10. Nobody's Fool- $2.2M/$28.8M