Review: Phantom Thread

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi goes Soaring into Uncharted Territory

Review: I, Tonya

Starring Margot Robbie

Review: Wonder Wheel

Written and directed by Woody Allen

Review: The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro

12/16/2017

Critics Love 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi', But Audiences Are Split


While there has been a continued over-analysis of Rotten Tomatoes and its impact on box offices, mainly because studios need a scapegoat for their own failures, I've maintained one position on the whole thing: Rotten Tomatoes scores don't mean shit.  We put too much emphasis on critic scores when audience scores are just as important, and there are too many hit movies with low scores to draw any kind of correlation. All of this is a long-winded way of getting around to the news that audiences don't seem to be digging Star Wars: The Last Jedi all that much.

Rian Johnson's film has been universally praised by critics, who as of this morning have it at 93% Rotten Tomatoes score. My own score factors into that, as well.  But audiences have it at only 56% approval, which is actually considered "Rotten" and much lower than The Force Awakens (88%) and Rogue One (87%).  So what does it all mean?

I think we need to get a little bit of distance before that question can be answered. If this leads to bad word of mouth that blunts its box office, then we'll know the audience reaction was legit and had an impact. That could have far-reaching ramifications, especially for Johnson's upcoming trilogy. Expectations might have been too high (the constant comparisons to The Empire Strikes Back couldn't have helped), or fans just didn't dig what Johnson did with the characters.  I seriously hope it isn't the latter. 

It's worth noting that most of the time the reaction is flipped. Critics will rip apart a blockbuster film while audiences tend to be more lenient. Case in point: Justice League, which audiences have at 80% while critics have it at 40%. How'd the box office do for that one? Not particularly well.

We'll see how things go when the first weekend numbers come through, but my gut tells me this will have no long-term impact. 

12/15/2017

Ryan Reynolds Keeps Trolling The Disney/Fox Deal And It's A Wonderful Thing


The best thing about Ryan Reynolds' Twitter feed right now? It's damn hard to tell whether he's being himself or being the infamous Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool. And as you probably guessed, he has some less than reasoned, rationally considered thoughts on the new Disney/Fox deal that will send Deadpool and the rest of the X-Men franchise into the Marvel Universe...

Dude, you just keep being you.  Reynolds has been risque in his public comments on the deal for a few weeks, including this hilarious tweet from a week ago...


I think fans would die if they could somehow set Deadpool 3 in the Magic Kingdom, and now it could actually happen! Eh, that might be a bridge too far for the Mouse House, even if they let the franchise stay R-rated.

Deadpool 2 opens June 1st 2018.

The Russo Brothers And 'It' Director Andy Muschietti Team On 'The Electric State'


What happens when the directors of Avengers: Infinity War, the writers of two Captain America movies, and the director behind this year's stellar adaptation of Stephen King's IT all come together? We're about to find out, and the potential for this project is off the friggin' charts. The Russo Brothers have picked up the rights to artist Simon Stålenhag's illustrated novel, The Electric State, which Andy Muschietti is in talks to direct and produce.

Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who worked with the Russos on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, will adapt the book, basically a series of illustrated images that form a complete narrative. Here is the synopsis:

In late 1997, a runaway teenager and her yellow toy robot travel west through a strange USA, where the ruins of gigantic battle drones litter the countryside heaped together with the discarded trash of a high tech consumerist society in decline. As their car approaches the edge of the continent, the world outside the window seems to be unraveling ever faster as if somewhere beyond the horizon, the hollow core of civilization has finally caved in.

The Russos will be producing as well, and I like how they've taken their Marvel experience and used it to expand their influence around Hollywood on projects like this. Obviously there are going to be a ton of eyes on this one. Muschietti's work on IT showed what a powerful visual director he is, making him a perfect choice for director. Hopefully this comes together without too many problems. [Deadline]

Review: 'Beyond Skyline' Is the Wacko Sci-Fi Martial Arts Movie You Need Right Now


I came for an alien invasion flick and a kung-fu movie broke out. Beyond Skyline is the, well, let's just call it unexpected sequel to 2010's sci-fi movie, Skyline, a surprisingly enjoyable mid-level hit that starred Eric Balfour. Eric Balfour! I can't remember the last time I saw Eric Balfour and he's the last person anyone would expect to lead a hit movie. The film was directed by the Strouse Brothers who poured every dime into some dazzling special effects that went along with a truly weird story about millennial in a high-rise as alien invaders begin zapping humans into the sky. The teasers were some of the year's most visually striking, I might add. It ended oddly, there was some legal mumbo-jumbo that came out of it, and for years there was nothing to indicate there would be another movie.


Beyond Skyline somehow boasts the extraordinary beat 'em up skills of Frank "I would've been the Punisher ten years ago" Grillo, plus Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian of The Raid 1 & 2, the best martial arts movies...well, ever. The last movie anyone would ever expect to find these three together in is Beyond Skyline, and yet their improbable presence is the least bizarre thing about it.


Beyond Skyline finds the Strouse boys as producers and the original movie's co-writer Liam O'Donnell making his directorial debut. And he's got some wild ideas on how to keep this franchise going, namely by giving us what isn't a traditional sequel at all, but a story running parallel to the original. A side-quel, if you will.  This is the nuttiest major sci-fi movie I've seen in ages, and it's absolutely worth every minute. This Alien meets The Raid meets trash cinema concoction stars tough guy Grillo as tough guy LA cop Mark Corley, on leave after his wife's death and wallowing in misery. We first meet him as he's bailing his rebellious son Trent (Jonny Weston) out of prison, just in time for the alien attack. Just as before people succumb to the invaders' "hypnosis' immediately upon eye contact, before being zapped into a hovering warship. Millions are gone in the span of minutes, but Mark and Trent manage to hook up with a handful of survivors, including subway conductor Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) and a blind man played by friggin' Huggy Bear himself, Antonio Fargas.


Through plot mechanics so illogical they defy description, this motley crew somehow ends up on one of the starships which then crash lands in the middle of Laos (!!!), strange because the blind guy happens to be a Vietnam vet, where they encounter an underground resistance that seems more interested in fighting them than the aliens. Of course, with this hokey script it's just to give us a brief throwdown between Grillo and Uwais, for which we should be grateful because it's kinda cool even if nonsensical.


But it's not as nonsensical as the rapidly-growing alien/human hybrid child Mark delivered on the ship and now has to protect.

Told you this thing was nutty.


That's really just the start of it, because the film morphs crazily into a sci-fi fight flick in which Grillo and Uwais stand toe-to-toe/fang/weaponized claw with brawling extraterrestrials who are just as skilled in the ways of screen combat. Stand mouth agape as Uwais pulls off some of the same elbow & knee combo strikes you've seen from him in other movies, minus Gareth Evans' killer choreography, while avoiding having his brain sucked out from his skull. If you remember the insane ending of the previous movie then you'll have an idea where this one is going, but even then it sets up a wider universe and future movies that you won't believe could actually happen. Beyond Skyline is beyond goofy, the dialogue is cornball, the acting suspect, but you won't have seen anything else remotely like it and that is reason enough to want to see more. Bring on Above & Beyond Skyline or whatever the next movie will be called! I'll be there for it.

Rating: 3 out of 5

'The Polka King' Trailer: Jack Black Runs A Polka Ponzi Scheme


Sometimes it's really hard to gauge what movies to see while you're scrambling around Sundance. Plenty of them have big names attached but you know there will be one or two star-studded films that just won't click with the festival crowd. That was apparently the case with The Polka King, a title that virtually guaranteed nobody would be packing into those chilly tents for the screening, even with Jack Black in the lead role. I totally forgot it was at the festival earlier this year, and suddenly here is the first trailer for its upcoming Netflix release.

Jack Black stars as Jan Lewan, the real-life Polish swindler who set up a Polka Ponzi scheme that defrauded the people of Pennsylvania, all in a strange pursuit of the American Dream.  The film is directed by Maya Forbes, who had another oddball Sundance entry a couple of years ago with Infinitely Polar Bear. Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver, and J.B. Smoove co-star.

In some ways this looks like a northern version of Black's stellar performance in Bernie, but something about this trailer feels off. There's probably a reason for the discernible lack of buzz for this one, however I'd like to see and judge for myself.  Small note: I did meet the real-life Jan Lewan at Sundance while on the bus in Park City, and he was every bit the big personality he appears to be in the movie. 

The Polka King hits Netflix on January 12th 2018. 

'Every Day' Trailer: Angourie Rice Gets An Unusual Soulmate


It's about time Angourie Rice got her own movie to lead. She broke out last year as Ryan Gosling's quick-witted daughter in The Nice Guys, which led to notable roles in Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Beguiled. Now she's the romantic lead in the unconventional teen love story, Every Day, about learning to look beyond things like race and gender.

Directed by Michael Sucsy (The Vow), the film stars as 16-year-old Rhiannon, who falls in love with 'A', a bodyless entity that assumes another person's form each day. The connection Rhiannon feels to 'A' is so strong that she feels it no matter the body it possesses. Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Owen Teague (IT), and Ian Alexander (The OA) are just a few of the actors who get to play Rhiannon's soulmate. The film reunites Rice with her Spider-Man: Homecoming co-star Jacob Batalon.

Also starring Maria Bello, Debby Ryan, Michael Cram, and Colin Ford, Every Day opens February 23rd 2018.

Review: ‘Ferdinand', A Fun Family Flick That Grabs You By The Horns


The 1936 children’s book “The Story of Ferdinand” is a timeless one.  Released shortly before the Spanish Civil War, the story focused on a pacifist bull who was more interested in smelling the flowers than engaging in brutal bullfighting against a vain matador.  Walt Disney even did a short film back in 1938, Ferdinand the Bull.  The message of the story has resonated over the years and the book has continued to capture the hearts and minds of people over the years.  It’s actually surprising that a modern retelling of the story didn’t come out sooner than 2017.  But in a year marked with partisanship and aggression across the world, now’s the perfect time for such a retelling.

Director Carlos Saldanha took the original story, and gave it some extra padding and character development (as well as some stellar animation) in Ferdinand.  The young calf (John Cena) is raised on a farm to be bred for bullfighting.  All the bulls old and young on the farm dream for the glory of facing off against the Matador.  However, Ferdinand just wants to smell the flowers.  He even does so in secret, not to come off as weak in the eyes of his fellow bulls (who not only pick on him because of his frail size, but also because he doesn’t want to fight), and most of all to impress his father (Jeremy Sisto).  Ferdinand even pleads with his father if there is anything else he can do as a bull beside fight.  His father, although supportive, knows the lay of the land and tries to impart words of wisdom and love for his son, before he goes off for his own fight against the Matador, never to return.


Through a bizarre sequence, Ferdinand does get his wish for a different life as he escapes the farm and finds his way to a flower farm where he spends his time under the loving care of Juan (Juanes) and Lily (Lily Day).  There, he’s not a brute to train up and fight.  He’s just a loveable pet of Lily and spends all his time either with her, smelling the flowers, or getting into common bickering with the family dog Paco (Jerrod Carmichael).  For a peace-loving bull like Ferdinand, this is the life, as long as he remains on the flower farm.

The movie is split into two main parts.  One, where he’s enjoying the tranquil life on the flower farm with his newfound human (and dog) family, the other is when he (through yet another bizarre circumstance) has to go back to the ranch and once again be forced to be a fighter.  There’s a reason the family kept the (now grown and HUGE) bull on their farm in secret.  His presence welcomes strife as people at large don’t know or accept him the way they do.  After causing a ruckus, he’s sent back to the farm to become a fighter.


Now, all the young calves that he spent his childhood with are now big bulls themselves.  Ferdinand, the gentle giant, meets new animals on the ranch, as well as deal with his childhood rival Valiente (Bobby Cannavale).  Lucky for Ferdinand, he has a Lupe (Kate McKinnon) and old goat (and most of the comic relief), who’s determined to be his manager.  Still not wanting to be a fighter, Ferdinand has to figure out a way to avoid becoming the Matador’s (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) opponent of choice.


Like Coco, the movie Ferdinand is very steeped in culture.  While not all of the voices in the film are Spanish (after all, they have David Tennant playing a Scottish bull and a series of German horses), the film is hip deep in Spanish culture.  After all, the film takes place in Spain and is very much involved in bullfighting culture.  Unlike Coco, this film will not leave you crying your eyes out for the rest of the afternoon as it has a much lighter and more relaxed tone throughout the film.  The film does go into dark territories at times, as the bulls only have two choices: be good enough to fight the Matador (and most likely die in the ring), or go to the slaughterhouse.  There is a sequence at the farm’s meat factory where Ferdinand uses his brute size to rescue one of his friends doomed to be hamburger meat.

While there are no songs sung by the impressive celebrity cast, there is a pretty good soundtrack, including “Home” by Nick Jonas that shows Ferdinand growing up from a young calf to the gentle giant he is as an adult.  The animation is stunning as well.  As Ferdinand goes on his two journeys, you get to see some breathtaking shots of the countryside.


The film has a great amount of comedy.  Ferdinand’s fish out of water sequence when he goes into town for the first time is laugh out loud funny.  There is also a “dance off” between the bulls and the horses that somehow found a way to incorporate Pitbull into it.  Kate McKinnon as Lupe, a trio of hedgehogs (Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, and Gabriel Iglesias), Bull the bull (Anthony Anderson) and Peyton Manning of all people lend their voices for some great scene to give you a great laugh.  Cena, of course, continues to ooze charisma as the titular character.  Like Dwayne Johnson, the on and off again wrestler continues to have a good acting career.

While Ferdinand is based on a book from more than 70 years ago, the story remains timeless.  The film did some necessary padding to help flesh out the story to more contemporary times with a great amount of heart.  As this is the holiday season, and we all love a good feel good film, Ferdinand is a film that the whole family can enjoy.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pop! Obsession: Funko's 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Line Bring The Force To Your Home


Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in theaters now and most of you were probably up late checking out a midnight screening like any true fan would. What better way to make this glorious event even better than with Funko's line of Pop! Vinyl figures for the new movie, featuring all of the characters both old and new.

I'm pretty sure I have all of these, minus anything Porg. Our friends at Entertainment Earth have the widest assortment of Funko's Star Wars: The Last Jedi figures at the best prices anywhere on the web. If you're a fan of the light side of the Force you can get Rey and her trusty lightsaber or Luke Skywalker looking like he's been holed up in a cave somewhere. If the dark side is more your speed then Kylo Ren, either in his personalized Tie Fighter or carrying his vicious red lightsaber can be yours. New characters like Rose and Laura Dern's Admiral Holdo have been included in this wave of figures, as well.

If you're as Pop! Vinyl obsessed as me, the best places to go are our friends at Entertainment Earth. Our friends have the deepest inventory of Pops, including exclusives, at the best prices anywhere on the Internet. When you click on any of our below links and make a purchase we get a small commission that helps us keep the lights on, at no cost to you at all.  Every little bit helps, and we thank all of you continue to support us and our sponsors. Thanks!


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'Good Time' Directors And Jerrod Carmichael Team For A '48 Hrs.' Remake


The Safdie Brothers have been plying their trade on the indie circuit for years, but it was with 2014's powerful Heaven Knows What that the rest of Hollywood started to take notice. Then with this year's surprising Palm d'Or-nominated crime drama Good Time they fully broke through, and offers for much bigger projects started to roll in. Now the directing duo have taken on a project that, under normal circumstances, would make us all groan distastefully, but under their guidance could be pretty exciting.

Benny and Josh Safdie will direct a remake of the buddy cop classic, 48 Hrs., the film that helped turn Eddie Murphy into a megastar. Josh will co-write the script with usual collaborator Ronald Bronstein, joined by comedian Jerrod Carmichael (The Carmichael Show, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and you have to wonder if perhaps he's being groomed for Murphy's old role.

Walter Hill directed Murphy and Nick Nolte in the original 1982 film about a veteran cop and a street-wise convict who team up to catch a pair of cop killers within 48 hours. It's a stone cold classic and, like I said before, this type of story is usually awful news. We'll have to see where this lands on the brothers' schedules because next up for them is the Martin Scorsese-produced Uncut Gems. [THR]

Sandra Bullock's Team Assembles In First Poster For 'Ocean's 8'


Hopefully the release of this snazzy poster (with a great tagline) for Ocean's 8 means a trailer is right around the corner.  Seriously, check out that coat game. All of these ladies are on point. The film, which some have mistakenly called a reboot, is actually a sequel or a continuation of the trilogy of heist movies that starred George Clooney as high-class thief Danny Ocean. Only in this one we're following his thieving sister, Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock. She's joined in her team of crooks by Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, and Helena Bonham Carter.

What's the big crime these ladies are trying to pull off? All we know is that it'll take place at New York City's star-studded Met Gala, and will apparently get under the skin of Debbie's ex, played by Damian Lewis. Richard Armitage also has a role, and there will be celebrity cameos galore, including Matt Damon and Carl Reiner returning from the previous movies.

Directed by Gary Ross, Ocean's 8 opens June 8th 2018.