Review: American Assassin

Starring Dylan O'Brien and Michael Keaton

Review: mother!

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, and Channing Tatum

Review: Wetlands

Starring Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbage and Heather Graham

Review: It

Stays Afloat with Genuine Frights and Haunting Performances

9/22/2017

'New Mutants' Will Be Like 'The Shining' Meets 'The Breakfast Club'


Based on everything we've heard about Simon Kinberg's New Mutants film, the mutants of the X-Men will be going someplace they've never been before: the realm of horror. That was always obvious when one of the villains was revealed to be the Demon Bear, who was part of the horror-centric "Demon Bear" storyline from the 1980s, and now Fox CEO Stacey Snider has more details on the film's tone, comparing it to a genre classic.

"Great effort has been put into making sure they’re differentiated. New Mutants is about these teenagers who are just coming into their powers. It’s like watching mutants go through adolescence and they have no impulse control, so they’re dangerous. The only solution is to put them in a Breakfast Club detention/Cuckoo’s Nest institutional setting. It protects the people on the outside, but it’s strange and combustible inside. The genre is like a haunted-house movie with a bunch of hormonal teenagers. We haven’t seen it as a superhero movie whose genre is more like The Shining than 'we’re teenagers let’s save the world.'"

I would've loved for it to have a satirical horror tone similar to 2011's Detention, because I think the franchise could use more humor. The whole thing with the students being locked away in an institution to protect the outside world doesn't make much sense (Isn't that the entire point of Xavier's school?? You mean they're more dangerous than Jean Grey or Cyclops??), but trust Kinberg has a rational explanation.

New Mutants opens April 13th 2018. [Variety]

9/21/2017

Review: 'Brad's Status', Ben Stiller Shines In Observant Midlife Crisis Comedy


"The world hated me, and the feeling was mutual", laments Brad Sloane (Ben Stiller) at one point in Mike White's dramedy, Brad's Status. Well damn, that's the kind of observation you might expect from somebody who has been beaten down by life, not an upper-middle class guy who runs his own non-profit, lives in a reasonable Sacramento home, has a beautiful wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and a son Troy (Austin Abrams) who may be getting into Harvard. So what's Brad's deal? Well, it's his status as a rung below his old college buddies who are firmly part of the 1%. Compared to them, he feels like a failure.

Woe is the white man, see how he struggles.


Brad's Status pretty much begs for you to hate it, and hate Brad, who doesn't realize how good he has it. He's got everything a normal, sane person could ever hope for, but the combination of boredom, midlife crisis, and Troy's college admissions has him going over the sum total of his life. All of Brad's pals are hugely successful, meaning they're rich. Nick (played by White himself) is a successful filmmaker whose $9M home is featured in magazines; Billy (Jemaine Clement) sold his tech company and retired at 40 to a far off island where he lives with two young women; Jason (Luke Wilson) married into wealth and runs his own successful hedge fund; and Craig (Michael Sheen) is a political pundit with close ties to the White House. They make Brad's poor little non-profit operation seem sad by comparison.


The film follows Brad and Troy during a trip to Boston to check out colleges, with Harvard at the top of the list. But really, this is about Brad and his moping...moping about money, his marriage, and eyeing everyone around him with jealousy. That extends to his son, who he looks at with a mixture of pride and envy. Envy that Troy may find greater success than he ever did, while at the same time Brad goes overboard in trying to impress his son. Brad's Status isn't exactly funny in the way most Stiller movies are. It finds nuggets of humor within the minor life observations White reveals about Brad, like that for all of his jealousy, he'd call on his friends in a heartbeat if their success could help him. He has a tendency to daydream about the awesome lives everyone but him is leading, like a really pathetic Walter Mitty.


Brad's stunning lack of self-awareness, and Stiller's pitch-perfect portrayal of it (think Greenberg, only softer), is what keeps the film enjoyable. It's hard not to laugh when the ever tone-deaf Brad whines that white guys are getting the short end of the stick at Harvard because they aren't foreigners with sob stories, or legacy kids. Taken at face value, Brad' Status would be intolerable and Mike White ripped for telling such an elitist's tale of perceived persecution. But White's not an idiot, and our chagrin is reflected in the young people Brad encounters. Troy is repeatedly put off by his father's antics, but the best scene of the entire movie is when college student Anaya (Shazi Raza), who longs to follow in Brad's footsteps, calls him out on his privileged bullshit. As he unloads on her about how tough he's had it, she doesn't buy it for a second. "Do you actually know anybody who is poor?", she asks as Brad gets defensive at her assertion, without really answering her question. Of course he doesn't. He's so busy competing with his friends that he's totally lost perspective on the world around him.


A different movie might have Brad learning some kind of lesson at this point. Maybe come to grips with how life has worn down the ideals he once held. But I applaud White for not taking Brad's Status down that route, which often leads to false sentimentality. We get the point. We don't need it spelled out for us or sweetened for easy digestion.

Rating: 3 out of 5



Review: 'Shot' With Noah Wyle Completely Misses The Target


Shot takes a look at the lives of three different people as it explores the consequences of an accidental firing of a gun. Noah Wyle, plays Mark Newman, the man who is accidentally shot. Sharon Leal, plays Phoebe, Mark's soon-to-be ex-wife. Jorge Lendeborg Jr, plays Miguel, the teenaged boy who accidentally fires the gun.

I knew fairly on what it was that I was getting myself into with this movie. The already noticeable and horrible editing within the first 5 minutes told me that this movie would provide nothing short of an interesting movie-watching experience to say the least. What I didn't know was just how interesting said experience would be.

This movie was horrible. This movie was boring. This movie was a sad excuse for what a not good, or even great, but semi-decent movie is, and I had to sit and watch the WHOLE thing. My experience for his movie from beginning to end went as follows:

"Wow, this is bad."
*nervously chuckles* "Ok... This is really bad"
"Ok. This is worse than 'really bad'"
"Who actually signed off on this?"

From the constant checking of the time to see how much more of the torture that I was going to have to endure, to the laughing at moments in this movie that I am almost sure were not meant to be comedic, and to the oscillating feelings of anger, confusion, and at times sadness, I really could not wrap my mind around the fact that someone saw the "finished" product and thought, "this needs to be seen by the public.:"

As already stated, the editing was the first thing that I noticed about this movie. I wish that I could say that my initial feelings surrounding it had gotten better or, at the very least, stayed the same, but that was not the case. Because the movie is supposed to revolve around the story of 3 individuals, something like transitions are essential to not only the continuation of the story, but to also lessen any confusion that the viewer may have in regards to exactly which story it is that they are viewing. However, from the get-go, they came off as being a sloppy, lazily put together, afterthought, and there were times where I was genuinely confused as to the weird and abrupt ending of one scene to the weird and abrupt beginning of another.

There was also this editing of side-by-side shots of two different scenes that were scattered throughout the movie that were poorly done, weirdly placed, and truly unnecessary. There was one moment in the movie that showed two scenes side-by-sidewhere we see, on the left side of the screen, one scene of Mark lying on the gurney, being treated for his injury, and on the right, Miguel looking confused under an underpass. What was the point of the side-by-side? Why do need to see two scenes at once? How does this serve the overall narrative? I gave up about half way through in trying to answer those questions because it happened too often throughout the movie.

Was it really necessary that we see Mark having to wait for the drugs to kick in? Was it really necessary to see Miguel randomly preparing dinner? Was it really necessary to see Miguel constantly running around the neighborhood with no ending destination, when seeing one, maybe 2 scenes of that would have sufficed and driven the point home faster? No, not really, and it really is a shame that this movie relied so heavily on this kind of editing, one in which at times tremendously works against moments where a simple back and forth between scenes would have given off the tension that the filmmakers were trying to go for.

The acting was another extremely sour point for this movie. When Mark initially gets shot and we see him lying in the ground, it didn't come off as someone in terrible agony after a bullet entered his body as much as it did someone that because of their having to wait in a line for the bathroom is in uncomfortable pain due to a full bladder. Sharon Leal, as Phoebe, Mark's soon-to-be ex-wife, gave what could possible be considered to be at the last a decent acting job if the overall movie was considered to be at least decent, but it's not. Her acting more so comes off as being at times over the top and often times incredibly misplaced. Miguel, both the character and actor who played him were just bad. I mean, in all honesty we really don't get much from him besides a lot of running and walking around his neighborhood, but when we do get a little taste of what it is he has to offer, it's nothing to write home to your grandmother about.

The writing and overall direction for this movie I would have to say it it's biggest flaw. I thought going into this movie that it would be a commentary about gun violence in America, but, alas, like pretty much everything else with this movie I was sadly mistaken. Besides maybe a line or two that really came off as another afterthought, and the ending message about gun violence violence statistics, which really solidified the idea to me that this movie was more of a propaganda piece for some anti-gun violence organization than a simple movie with a message, the movie, unfortunately, completely misses that ball.

There was also this random line that speaks to race relations and the criminal justice system that seemed more comedic to me and as if it were trivializing a very important issue today more than anything. It was as if the writers thought, "Ok, this is a really hot button issue today, so let's try to figure out a way to fit into the story," and then said, "Ok, yeah, let's just slide it in here when the boy wants to turn himself in for a crime that he actually committed and is instead discouraged by his aunt because he's 'brown'. Yeah, that works" *pulls out hair*

Sitting and have to watch this movie was one of the more tortuous events that I've had to experience within recent times. I hated every minute of it, so, definitely be sure to check it out when it gets released. *Enter Cady Heron* No, I'm totally kidding. Avoid this movie at all costs.

Rating: 0 out of 5

Tom Hanks Will Play A Grumpy Old Man In Remake Of 'A Man Called Ove'


Remaking foreign hits is just sorta what Hollywood does. Admittedly, we don't always support these movies when they arrive on our shores, but far too often remakes lose something in translation. Already there are a few of these redos on the way with new versions of The Intouchables, Toni Erdmann, and Force Majeure on the way. And now you can add one more, except this one will have Tom Hanks in it so that makes it okay.

Hanks will star in a remake of Swedish hit, A Man Called Ove, about a cantankerous old man who becomes unlikely friends with his new mixed race neighbors. Hann Holm directed the Swedish adaptation of Fredrik Backman's book, which went on to be  nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars last year.

So the source material is strong and Hanks is as beloved as ever. Do we really want to see him as a grumpy old man, though? No writer or director is attached yet but expect that to change soon. [Deadline]

Wes Anderson's 'Isle Of Dogs' Trailer: Man's Best Friend Goes To Japan


The last time Wes Anderson ventures into the world of stop-motion animation he gave us Fantastic Mr. Fox, a film that holds up to, if not surpasses, anything seen by the experienced folks at Laika. It's a tremendous film that showed animation may be the perfect vehicle for Anderson's exuberant storytelling, adding an extra dimension that live-action can't match. Basically, I'm excited to see what Isle of Dogs has to offer, and intrigued by the first trailer.

Featuring the voices of F. Murray Abraham, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Greta Gerwig, Jeff Goldblum, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Kunichi Nomura, Edward Norton, Yoko Ono, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Tilda Swinton, Akira Takayama and Frank Wood, the film takes place in Japan where a dog overpopulation has forced the government to quarantine them on an island. An entire island of talking dogs with celebrity voices? Yes please.  Here's the synopsis:

ISLE OF DOGS tells the story of ATARI KOBAYASHI, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

A few years have passed since The Grand Budapest Hotel became Anderson's biggest mainstream hit, and audiences who took a gamble on him then will be looking for an equal followup. Animated talking dogs should be enough to lure in the family crowd, I think. Isle of Dogs opens March 23rd 2018.

Review: Emma Stone & Steve Carell Serve Up Aces In 'Battles Of The Sexes'


Battle of the Sexes,  a light but powerful account of the 1973 tennis spectacle between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and chauvinist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) could easily have been a drag. When King battled and handily defeated the past-his-prime loudmouth Riggs, it was a monumental moment in the advancement of women, not only in sports but in every area they were treated as inferior. But 44 years later, with a sexist blowhard not unlike Riggs in the White House, and women still paid less than men for equal work, that the film is still so timely could be a downer.


Fortunately, it isn't. Battle of the Sexes, with its commitment to vintage period aesthetics and vibrant performances from Stone and Carell, is a real winner that serves up rare insights into the events leading up to the match. In fact, the film is at its best when the lens is tightened on the personal factors that led to King and Riggs' showdown.


King's story begins after she's already a Grand Slam champion, but tired of being offered 1/8th the prize money men receive by the USLTA (United States Lawn and Tennis Association), she bucks the good ol' boys' club and launches, along with World Tennis Magazine founder Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), the Virginia Slims tournament as part of the WTA (Women's Tennis Association). Whether she wanted to or not, King immediately became the face of women's liberation in the realm of female sports, a title that became all the more complicated because of her personal life. While happily married to the angelic, fiercely loyal Larry King (Austin Stowell, and no not the CNN Larry King), she was also beginning to explore her first lesbian relationship with hairdresser Marilyn Bennett (the always-terrific Andrea Riseborough). Keeping it hidden in the closet would be a betrayal of the feminist ideals she espouses, but to reveal it could easily mean the end of her marriage, the end of women's tennis, and a bigger spotlight on the growing media circus.


That circus had the perfect ringmaster in Riggs, a tennis Hall of Famer now in his '50s and bored of being out of the spotlight. A gambling addict with a beautiful, rich wife (Elisabeth Shue, always a welcome presence) tired of his shenanigans and get-rich-quick schemes, he nonetheless is inspired by a random comment to challenge King to a man vs. woman tennis match for big dollars. King flatly denies him for reasons that should be obvious, but her ambitious, homophobic rival Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) agrees. When she is easily defeated, to the delight of piggish males everywhere, King feels backed into a corner. She agrees to the match, but on her terms.


There are a lot of tennis balls in play for directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who have balanced comedic and dramatic elements to great effect before with Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks. At times it seems like the screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) is unclear of where its energies should be placed. The most interesting storyline by far is Riggs' closeted personal life and the emotional/physical toll it takes on her, which is contrast by her charismatic public persona in which she openly defies powerful sports figures, like sexist tennis legend and commentator Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman). Riggs comes across like a calculated buffoon, and certainly not the pig (He's literally given one as a gift) he portrays himself to be. Played by Carell, Riggs is someone we come to sympathize with, as he too is putting on a brave, if clownish, public face to hide private troubles. Of course, when the guy is on television swatting tennis balls while herding goats, or traveling with a harem of scantily-clad women, he's obviously taking the role of heel to heart. "I'm going to put the show back in chauvinism!", he bellows to an eager crowd. That audience would swell to more than 100 million TV viewers worldwide when the actual game took place, an incredible feat that showed the power television could have on social movements. TV is a visual medium, of course, and the image of Howard Cosell draping his arm creepily over the shoulder of female commentator Rosie Casals (Natalie Morales) while he praises Bobby Riggs...well, it speaks volumes.


The match itself is lovingly recreated and effectively detailed, so that you can almost smell the grass court of the Astrodome. Having watched videos of the match, it's not terribly compelling without the circus atmosphere or the social importance that had been built up. Dayton and Faris capture that feeling, though, so that every shot, every point, has devastating significance.


With her short brunette hair and glasses, Stone resembles King better than one might think. More importantly, she captures King's outwardly enthusiastic persona, which hides her hopes for privacy as she deals with a crumbling marriage and burgeoning homosexuality. Maybe it was all of that time making chauvinism funny in Anchorman, but Carell is a perfect fit for Riggs. Other than Riseborough who provides an elegant counter to Stone, the other supporting performances aren't so great. Despite a few good zingers, Silverman is distracting as the too-slick Heldman, while Alan Cumming is a comical misfire as King's magical Bagger Vance of a stylist, dispensing whispered words of wisdom at every emotional crossroads.


The sexism depicted in Battle of the Sexes is so blatant that it's hard to imagine the world ever worked that way. Well, it still does, just in a more subtle way. Or maybe, considering Mr. "Grab 'em by the pussy" is in the White House, maybe it isn't so subtle. Perhaps we should take the point to be that Billie Jean King's victory was merely a skirmish, and that there are other games still to be won.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


No, Marvel's 'Inhumans' Hasn't Been Axed Already


I'm not going to waste a lot of time on this because it's just too stupid. No, Marvel's Inhumans, which looks awful and had a bad IMAX run a couple weeks ago, has not already been canceled by ABC. Why would anybody think such a thing?

A poster promoting the September 29th TV premiere is the culprit, because one specific part of is says "Complete Series." That has led some to think the show has been canned, and that this first season will be the only season. The thing is, previous promo images have also referred to it as a "complete series", using much the same artwork. It most likely refers to the fact that a truncated version of the first two episodes debuted in IMAX, and now the complete season will begin airing on network TV.

That said, do I expect an Inhumans season two? Hell no. Unless people tune in to watch because they're curious if it's a trainwreck, I doubt the ratings will be very good. The negative stigma is attached and dug in like an Alabama tick, and yep I said that in my Jesse Ventura voice.

Damon Lindelof's Rumored 'Watchmen' TV Series Ordered By HBO


Let's keep it real: Zack Snyder's Watchmen adaptation never stood a chance. I think it's a very good effort to bring Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' classic graphic novel to the screen, but it was always meant to be a TV series. It's the only way to bring such a dense, complex story to fruititon in the manner it deserves. And that is finally going to happen.

HBO has ordered a pilot episode and backup scripts for Damon Lindelof's Watchmen series, first rumored a few months ago. Lindelof confirmed it with a clever Instagram post yesterday...

A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on


What's so clever about it? Fans of Moore's Watchmen comic will recognize the statue as the same one given to Night Owl after he retired from being a costumed hero.

But will those same fans show their gratitude to Lindelof? It's way too early to tell where his Watchmen will go, or who will star in it. Can they just go ahead and bring back Jackie Earle Haley as Rorshach? Lindelof has had a mixed bag career up to this point, but he really clicked with HBO on The Leftovers. They're going to need that same creative chemistry if this is going to work, too.

Review: 'Stronger' Starring Jake Gyllenhaal And Tatiana Maslany


What does it mean to be a hero? It's a question that is often asked in Hollywood biopics, and answered in a way that is either unbelievable or superficial. To go any deeper into the question is to get at what isn't so pretty, and doesn't always make for the most uplifting of stories. The truth is that being a hero is the last thing on the mind of the one being put on a pedestal.


Stronger, the second awards season film in a year to tackle the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, could have easily been one of those thin, surface-level dramas, and some of the marketing kind of looks that way. Ironically, one would need to look beneath the surface to see that it has more to offer than easy manipulation and archetypes. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman, whose name might not  be familiar but you surely know his photograph. The image of him, bloody and with his legs blown away by the explosion, was displayed in newspapers and televisions the world over. Bauman was a normal Boston guy; blue collar job at Costco, a large and boisterous family, and a girl in Erin (Tatiana Maslany) that he was trying to win over. It was his latest attempt to win her heart that brought him to the marathon that day, holding a big dorky sign cheering her on.


The explosion is seen sparingly, mostly through horrific flashbacks. In the immediate aftermath, we see how Jeff is able to put aside the immediacy of his situation by aiding in the manhunt. His accounts of the bombers was crucial in their apprehension; it also added to the "Boston Strong" mystique that would surround and haunt him ever since. Here was this regular, everyday Boston guy who just got his legs blown off and he's catching terrorists. But when all of that was over, Jeff had to face the hard reality of a life he would basically have to start over from scratch, with the eyes of an entire city watching him.


And that's the tough part, isn't it? While learning to rely on others for literally everything is hard enough, having to put on a brave front for a city that sees you as the epitome of Boston toughness is another. John Pollono's script, adapted from Bauman's memoir, doesn't shy away from every difficult moment. More importantly, it goes deeper into the moments we did see, like his public appearances at hockey and baseball games, to show what kind of impact they really had on him. Mostly, the film gets down to the relationship between Jeff and Erin. It's a difficult situation, for sure. Is she coming back into his life because she feels obligated? And now that she's in, what would it look like for her to leave? Jeff is presented as a fully-rounded guy with more than enough flaws to spare; flaws that kept Erin away from him in the first place. There are a lot of dark days ahead and the question, "Is this worth it?" lingers over their every moment together.  In some ways the film is as much about Erin as it is Jeff.


 It's another tremendous performance by Gyllenhaal, who seems to get better the more physical the role. While he didn't have to pack on the pounds or become rail thin to play Jeff, his body language and posture speaks volumes. You can see it in every scene where Jeff is uncomfortably in the limelight, surrounded by eager fans looking for autographs. Their comforting words do more to sooth themselves than they do Jeff, and Gyllenhaal makes you feel the weight of his anguish. And, to be fair, he turns up the wattage in those puppy dog eyes, too. We know Jeff will always be forgiven for whatever stupid thing he's done in the dark of despair because, darnit, whose going to refuse those eyes? Maslany, in her biggest post-Orphan Black role, has just as many complexities to deal with as Gyllenhaal does. Erin's feeling for Jeff pre and post-explosion give the film a well-roundedness that is sorely needed.


If there are problems with Stronger they stem from Jeff being so normal that his story comes across as unexceptional. That's not to say what he endures in the quest to walk again is minor; certainly it isn't the case. But the obstacle he faces is to not backslide into the unreliable "can't finish what he started" guy he was before the explosion. On the other hand, that Jeff is just a regular guy is what makes Stronger easy to relate to. Life has dealt him a bad hand, and while Jeff may want to wallow in self-pity like many of us would, it's when he helps others cope with their grief that he becomes truly heroic.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


'Peter Rabbit' Trailer: Domhnall Gleeson & James Corden Engage In Garden Warfare


I'm a big fan of Domhnall Gleeson; he starred in Frank, one of my favorite all-time movies. But man, he sure seems to be spreading himself thin lately. From roles in mother!, the awful-looking comedy Crash Pad, and Tom Cruise's American Made, he also has biopic Goodbye Christopher Robin and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And next year is looking busy, too, with us now getting our first look at him in the trailer for Peter Rabbit. No, he isn't the rabbit, but he might wish he was.

The live-action/CGI hybrid of the classic tale stars Gleeson as Mr. McGregor, who engages in a feud with the titular bunny, voiced by James Corden. The cast is great on this one with Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, and Elizabeth Debicki lending their voices, and Rose Byrne as a kindly neighbor. The film is directed by Will Gluck, who last scored a family-friendly hit with Annie.

This doesn't look too great, but then I'm holding every one of these movies to Paddington's high standard. Likely it will be perfectly fine.