Review: The Mercy

Starring Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz

Review: Anna and the Apocalypse

Zombie Christmas Musical Delivers Holiday Cheer

Review: Ben is Back

Starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges

Review: Vox Lux

Starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law, and Stacy Martin

Review: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Directed by Andy Serkis


Review: 'Infinity Chamber', A Sci-Fi Film That Wastes Its Potential

Infinity Chamber starring Christopher Soren Kelly as the lead character, Frank, Cassandra Clark as Frank's love interest, Gabby, and Jessie Arrow as the LSO (Life Support Operator) computer system voice, Howard, was a movie that left me with a lot of questions and not the good kind. So, because of this I did something that I never do with reviews for this blog; I watched the movie twice. I thought maybe it had to do something with me. Maybe I tuned out one too many times. Maybe I checked Twitter one too many times. Maybe I was just tired. Either way, I decided to give the movie a second chance because I didn't want for the review for this movies to suffer because of my own actions, but, after watching it, in all honesty, it still didn't really help.

This movie had its heart in the right place. If I had to compare it to other movies of the past so that you could get a feel for what it's about, think if some of the ethical questioning of Her, met with the technology of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and then combined with the story structure of Source Code, you'd have this movie, but only if they were executed on the more amateurish side.

This movie had promise. With a plot like...

           "Infinity Chamber tells the story of an automated justice system in the future and the 
           tragedies that occur when the computer systems become flawed. We follow one
           prisoner who is falsely arrested and thrown into an automated prison to undergo an 
           intense interrogation program that forces him to relive the day of his suspected crime 
           over and over until the evidence is found to either convict or acquit him. During this 
           process, a war erupts in the outside world, leaving our hero trapped inside the prison 
           with a security system that refuses to release him. He must venture into his own 
           synthesized memory to find a way out and escape back to a world that may already 
           be gone."

...I was immediately intrigued. I love a good sci-fi movie and I am always interested in movies that spark conversations around the use AI systems. However, I must say that while watching it I found that the actual movie didn't live up to the hype, tension, and sinister feel that comes across in the synopsis. I thought going in that I was getting something more along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey where the technology goes rogue for some kind of selfish reason, and maybe that was wrong  of me to assume that. Nonetheless, assumptions aside, the execution of the actual movie still wasn't;t enough, in fact, it was the biggest disappointment and flaw of the movie. 

Just about from beginning to end I always had at least one question running through my mind; whether it was questions about what had just happened, what was currently happening and/or what the significance was of a certain object or plot point, I was more or less in a constant state of confusion throughout much of the movie, though the level of said confusion varied from scene to scene. Albeit, upon my second viewing there were things that were made more clear to me like the character's motivations and certain plot points, overall, I just felt like the filmmakers took the whole "show don't tell" technique a little too literally. They would show things, but majority of the time the explanation would be lost on me. Because of this when the climax happens or what could be considered one of the climaxes of the movie happens where we learn about Frank's background and true motivations, it doesn't really feel like a worthwhile pay-off because you're left scratching your head thinking, "When were we ever really shown or told that this was even a possibility?" The reasoning makes sense but if you even so much as blink, you'll have missed it.

There were also moments and things that I could tell you were of significance or had meaning to the movie, but if you asked me to explain what that significance or meaning was I wouldn't be able to. There was a picture that was shown quite a few times throughout the movie, and maybe this was me just totally missing it, but by the movie's end I was left still pretty confused as to what it was they were trying to convey or tell us with that specific picture. 

I thought the editing at times made the movie feel unfinished. There were moments where I could tell that there was more to a scene, but more than likely due to an attempt at cutting down the movie's run time, they decided to just go with editing out parts of scenes that may not have added a lot to the overall movie, but would have instead made it feel more cohesive. There were also moments where the dubbed over dialogue was way too apparent and made the movie feel sloppy.

The movie does feel a bit repetitive after a while, but I understand that it's more of a byproduct of the setting of the movie since one of the whole things about the plot is the fact that Frank is imprisoned in this tiny room. So, I won't fault the filmmakers too much for it, though, I will say that I've seen movies with even less setting changes that don't fall victim to that kind of repetitive feel. 

Overall, like I've said, this movie has potential. Though, you could liken it to past sci-fi movies, it still comes off as being original. Had the execution involved more explanations for key plot points and less repetition, and little things like editing and ADR been taken more seriously, this could've been a pretty decent movie.

Infinity Chamber is out now on VOD/Digital HD where you can stream it on iTunes, Amazon, Comcast, Spectrum (formerly Time Warner), DirecTV, and AT&T.

     Rating: 2 out of 5

'Gotham' Recap Season 4, Episode 2 - 'The Fear Reaper'

Episode 2 starts with Jim and the GCPD raiding the house that Jonathan Crane and the thugs were  making fear toxin in. Harvey and Jim see a menacing scarecrow next to the house and upon closer inspection see that there is a man in the scarecrow costume. He is clearly manic and under the influence of the fear toxin and screams “SCARECROW IS COMING.”

Scarecrow goes to visit his prior home of three years, Arkham Asylum, and warden Reed. We see the warden hurriedly burning documents in his office, trying to get rid of anything incriminating. Scarecrow shows up and accuses the Warden of locking him in a cell for three years subjecting him to constant ice baths and electroshock therapy. Scarecrow says that he managed to cure himself, he was afraid of the scarecrow so he became the scarecrow. Scarecrow then gives the warden a healthy dose of fear toxin right to the kisser and we see the warden’s biggest fears, clowns. The warden takes a gun and goes on a bloody rampage killing every clown in sight – which of course are actually all of the workers in Arkham. While the warden is clearing house, Scarecrow goes to the patient ward to recruit his army.

Cobblepot takes a trip to visit Jim at the GCPD demanding that Jim reveals the location of Jonathan Crane. He then demands that Jim finds and locks up Crane within 24 hours or admit to everyone that he failed and allow Penguin to clean the city up. Meanwhile. Selina and Tabitha each have received business cards from Barbara that say that ‘opportunity awaits.’ Last season we were led to believe that Barbara had died, and Selina and Tabitha were under that impression as well. Barbara may have a new haircut, be we know she has the same old crazy going on. Barbara’s new plan is to be the main weapon distributor for all of the street criminals in Gotham. Tabitha promptly rejects this plan, but Selina’s interests have clearly been piqued.

Jim gets word that there has been a breakout at Arkham and tries to round up some of GCPD’s finest to come with him. His colleagues are clearly not the biggest Gordon supporters and he receives no back up. Jim doesn’t seem like he was expecting much support, but unexpectedly Harvey also refuses to go and support his partner.  When Jim gets to Arkham, Scarecrow recognizes him and unleashes his army of Arkham patients and locks Jim in with them. Jim kicks some ass and takes some names and eventually the moment we’ve been waiting for happens – Jim and Scarecrow meet face to hay-mask.

While this showdown is occurring in Arkham, a more sophisticated ‘business’ meeting is happening at Barbara’s new digs. Cobblepot visits her and lets her know that in order to run her operation, she will “of course” need a business license and will be charged a weapons tax. Barbara lightly chuckles and gives Cobblepot an incredulous look, but he is far from joking. As he’s leaving, Cobblepot wonders aloud how Barbara managed to acquire enough funds to buy all of these weapons and set up shop.

Okay, back to the real action. Scarecrow uses some fancy scythe work to corner Jim and then gives him a helping of fear toxin. We now get to see Jim’s biggest fear – I’ll give you three guesses… yup you got it, not being able to save Lee. There is a harrowing scene with Lee in a bathtub full of blood blaming Jim for ruining her life. Scarecrow tries to manipulate Jim into thinking that Lee is asking him to hurt himself, but Jim’s pseudo superhuman badassness kicks in and he overcomes the illusion. He confronts Scarecrow again who can’t believe it proclaiming that “it’s impossible to defeat the toxin.” Scarecrow gets his insane cronies to attack Jim, but luckily Jim realizes that water nixes the effects of the gas and sets off sprinklers to stop the army of crazies from taking him out.

Oh and we get another Ivy sighting! Ivy feels disrespected and angry after being shunned by the newly forming femme fatale group of Selina, Tabitha, and Barbara. She decides that she needs to be given more respect so she visits the potion shop she went to earlier in search of ancient potions. Ivy uses her perfume to convince the owner to give them to her and she drinks them all, ignoring his pleading that they are too strong for her and might get into her DNA. We see Ivy start mutating a bit before the end of the scene. I’m sure that in the next episode or two we’ll be able to see the final product of all of this ancient potion chugging.

In the meantime it’s Christmas come early for Bruce. Not only does Alfred save him from getting shot by a thug when he tries to take on a whole group by himself, but Lucius Fox interrupts a conversation to bring goodies! Lucius is worried about Bruce’s injuries from “rockclimbing” so he wants to make to give him all the help he can. At the end of the episode we get to see Bruce try on his fancy new batsuit – oh wait just fancy new vigilante suit for now.

I am loving what they are doing with the Scarecrow story arc. Gotham’s version of Scarecrow is fantastic and the nightmarish visions from the fear toxin are perfect. I am looking forward to Ivy causing some trouble in the very near future. It's also refreshing to see the Batman storyline rapidly progressing. It looks like episode 3 will feature Jim trying to get Falcone to help him take down Cobblepot – which I’m sure he will be eager to do, it’s not like Jim murdered anyone close to him. Bruce and Selina’s relationship will also get another test next week when he witnesses her participate in a botched robbery – will he risk his life for a thief? We’ll find out next Thursday!

‘Fear The Walking Dead’ S3E12 Highlights: “Brother's Keeper”

Last week on Fear The Walking Dead, Madison and Walker continued their road trip with Strand in search of Daniel and Lola’s dam.  Daniel and Lola also were dealing with their own drama of being in charge of the world’s most precious resource in an area of endless desert, upsetting those who need it the most.  When they finally collided, Madison was able to broker an agreement between the Broke Jaw community and Lola: water for guns.  Meanwhile, on the ranch, the Black Hat people were not getting along with the Broke Jaw ones, and they all nearly came to blows over the discovery that they only had 3 weeks of water left and it was going to turn into “Lord of the Files” very quickly.  While they managed to avoid a confrontation, how long will that last?

This week focused wholly on Broke Jaw and a new threat (one they thought was banished) returned, and he brought some friends.  So how did this week’s episode of Fear The Walking Dead go?  Here are a few highlights.

The Return of Troy

Troy, who was introduced to us with serial killer tendencies at the beginning of the season, returns from his isolation this week.  He was banished for trying to stage a revolt against the Black Hat leadership, and in order to keep the peace, Walker and Madison opted to banish him.  Leaving him with a gun and a single bullet, he was as good as dead.  However, this week’s episode begins with him endlessly wandering the landscape, having been through hell in his isolation.  However, he still knows the land and comes across one of his family’s other properties, that happens to have a grenade launcher.  

At first, you would think that he’s just going to blow up Walker and assume leadership over the community.  No. He has a much darker plan in mind.  Having stumbled across a large horde of zombies, he opts to use the loud noise from the grenade explosions to lure the zombies towards Broke Jaw.  He’d rather murder everyone there since he’s been banished.  While he does sneak into the ranch to tell Nick (and his brother by default) that something bad is coming, he doesn’t seem to care for anyone else who will die in his quest for vengeance.

Nick and Jake Go To Stop Troy:

It’s no secret that Jake is the weak link of the Otto brothers.  He’s not a crazy racist like his dad, nor is he a psychopath like his brother, but he’s almost too green to be in the world of The Walking Dead.  Even Ofelia and Crazy Dog on the Black Hat side state that he’s too weak to be in charge.  They think that Nick would be a good replacement as their community counterpart.  Jake even thinks that Alicia was sleeping with him as a power play for her family to have leadership and leverage on the ranch.

Which is why it’s so surprising that upon learning about his brother’s possible return, Jack decides that Troy needs to be put down and opts to find and kill his brother.  Now rest assured, Troy needs to be put down, it just doesn’t seem like he’s the one that would have the stones to do it, which is proven right.  When the two of them finally catch up to Troy, he’s firing grenades to lure the zombies to the ranch.  The two Otto brothers engage in a fight and Jake seems ready to pull the trigger, but Nick tries to talk him off the ledge.  There Troy reveals to his brother the truth that Nick killed their father, not the suicide that everyone believes.  Surprisingly, Jake’s rage for his brother makes him not really care.  It does provide just enough distraction that Troy hits him, causing him to fall back, dangerously too close to zombies.  There he gets bitten in the arm.  Nick and Troy know he’s aa goner, but thanks to Troy’s sadistic experimentation, he knows that if he cuts off his arm, he just might save him.  Bye bye Jake’s arm!

We Got F-Bombs!

The funny thing about the world of The Walking Dead is, you can see the most creative and disgusting ways to kill a zombie, we can see someone gets beat to death with a barbed wire baseball bat, but don’t you dare have any harsh cursings on this show!

One of the big disappointment from Negan’s introduction on The Walking Dead is the fact that he is somewhat a shell of his comic book counterpart.  In the comics, Negan uses the word “fuck” as a straight up noun.  He barely goes more than two sentences without saying it:

Even though AMC is cable, it’s basic cable, so he doesn’t get to see him in all his glory.  However, fans who purchased the Blu-Ray/DVD for The Walking Dead got the chance to see an uncensored scene with Negan cursing like he did in the comics.

But we didn’t get to see/hear it on TV…. Until now.  AMC has decided that they were going to give fans of Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead a little more flexibility with their F-Bombs.  Recently the producers were told that they now can say “fuck” twice a year for their perspective shows.  Nick had the opportunity to be the first character in the Walking Dead universe to use that so coveted word.

Zombies Attack The Ranch

Thanks to Troy’s actions, they manage to come upon Broke Jaw.  Crazy Horse decided that now’s the time to bury the hatchet and he gives guns to the Broke Jaw people as they try to defend the ranch from the oncoming horde of zombies.  They use all the trailers to set up a barrier between the zombies and them, but of course, that fails and all sorts of mayhem ensue.  Countless people are killed, and there are a few close calls for Alicia, Ophelia, and Crazy horse, but they all manage to escape into the pantry underground.  They are all lucky that the zombies don’t know how to open shed doors, or the entire community would be gone.

Troy Sees The Consequences For His Actions

Sadly for Jake, he succumbs to his injuries and becomes a zombie in his brother’s arms.  Troy is forced to kill his brother, the one person he wanted to survive the massacre.  Troy, who was crazy before, is now broken.  He even asks Nick to kill him, which he tell him no as it’s now up to the two of them try and figure out a way to save the survivors of Broke Jaw still in the pantry.  

Next week, the people in the pantry have to stay alive while Nick and Troy figure out a way to save them.


'Charlie's Angels' Reboot Targets Kristen Stewart & Lupita Nyong'o

Both Kristen Stewart and Lupita Nyong'o have taken different approaches to franchise projects in recent years. Stewart's career took off with Twilight, but since it ended she's done everything in her power to steer clear, with the brief exception of Snow White and the Huntsman. After winning an Oscar for her breakthrough performance in 12 Years A Slave, Nyong'o has jumped straight for blockbusters with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Black Panther, and The Jungle Book.

Different roads or not, they both may end up in the same place as Variety reports they are being sought to star in Sony's reboot of Charlie's Angels. Elizabeth Banks will direct, having been attached to the project since 2015. Narcos writers Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro are taking over the screenplay, which will of course be based on the 1970s TV series (thankfully not the awful 2011 remake) about a trio of badass female crime-fighters who work for a mysterious benefactor. The series became a successful pair of movies in 2000 and 2003 that starred Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu.

Hard to believe that Stewart would want back in on a potentially divisive franchise, while Nyong'o has a ton on her plate already. Perhaps if Sony has a fresh angle on the material it could go a long way in drawing these talented women into the fold.

Sony Sets 'Men In Black' Spinoff For 2019

You know what the most annoying question that I get almost every day is? "Why is this sequel/remake happening?"  The reason is exactly why you think and is always the same.  Money. Cha-ching. In this latest example, Sony's continuing efforts to keep alive the Men in Black franchise. The fourth film, the first since 2012's Men in Black III, has been set for May 17th 2019.

So for now you can say "seeya later" to plans for some Men in Black/21 Jump Street crossover, which would have brought Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill into the sci-fi universe.  Sony has hired Iron Man writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway to pen a spinoff set in the Men in Black universe, but won't follow Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith's titular agents.  The goal is to basically do what Universal did with Jurassic World, so we'll see how that goes.

No director is attached yet, but this is all part of a major revamping effort by Sony, which includes Elizabeth Banks' Charlie's Angels reboot.

Review: ‘Don’t Sleep’ Does Very Little To Keep You Awake

Don’t Sleep begins exactly as one would expect – with a dream sequence. Zach (Dash Williams) is clearly in distress and in the middle of a nightmare. We come to find out that Zach, a young boy who suffers from chronic nightmares, has been avoiding sleep due to these recurring dreams. In these nightmares he is haunted by another little boy who happens to look eerily similar to him. Zach believes that this little boy may be coming for his soul. Zach’s mom doesn’t know what to do to solve these nightmares, and ends up taking Zach to a Psychiatrist (Cary Elwes) who doesn’t prove to be too helpful. The next night Zach is back in bed, suffering from another nightmare. When his mother comes to his room, he speaks in the typical movie demon voice. Insert a black screen with a Nietzche quote about demons and off we go!

The bulk of the film takes place 13 years after the opening few scenes. Zach (Dominic Sherwood) and his girlfriend Shawn (Charlbi Dean Kriek) are moving in together and are looking for the perfect place. They are shown a house that is on the market by its owners – Jo (Drea de Matteo) and Vincent (Alex Carter) Morino. Shawn tells Zach that the house is perfect and she feels safe there – so we know that there is no way she will be safe there. They end up moving in and shortly after that, the trouble begins.

From the get-go, there are weird interactions and strange behaviors seen by the neighbors and Zach himself. One of the first nights in the new neighborhood, Vincent’s father Mr. Morino (Alex Rocco) stands in the middle of the street just starring at Zach and Shawn’s house. Why? No one really knows. My best guess is he felt some negative energy or an ominous presence, or is being possessed himself, or is just simply kooky. Shawn starts noticing weird things like the bedroom closet door being ajar even though she remembers closing it. Before you know it, things go from bad to before as Zach starts seeing the little boy from his dreams in a hooded sweatshirt popping up and strange images flashing in front of him. As time passes, this little hooded menace causes more and more trouble throughout the neighborhood.

Horror movies aren’t typically known for deep plots and complex character development. That doesn’t mean they don’t feature them at all, unless of course you’re talking about Don’t Sleep which does indeed lack any legitimate scares, plot, or character development. Rick Bieber – whose fingerprints are all over this movie as he wrote, directed, and produced it – has created a jumbled mess. Don’t Sleep does not have any redeemable qualities and the movie just spirals out of control as it progresses. The concept is convoluted and it is never really clear what the hell is going on or why. This all leads to an ending that somehow manages to be even more of a disappointment than everything that preceded it. Steer clear of Don’t Sleep, trust me – it’s a nightmare.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Review: 'Thirst Street', French Romantic Comedy Gets A Twisted Spin

Maybe I'm in the minority, but when I think of crazy stalker movies I think of a film like Amélie . Yeah, the "cute" one with Audrey Tautou. There's nothing cute about it. She's crazy, right? Always meddling in the lives of others, until she becomes maniacally obsessed with that one guy? No thank you. Dress it up in pretty colors and '70s French sensibilities all you want, that chick is nuts. Thirst Street, the wry and twisted psycho rom-com from director Nathan Silver, clearly sees things the way I do, showing the dark side buried beneath the storybook fantasy.

Combining the heightened, whimsical stylings of European erotica with clever humor and a dash of Single White Female hysterics, Thirst Street is at first tough to get a handle on tonally. The film begins, like so many of those starry-eyed romances do, with a flight of fancy. Grieving and lonely flight attendant Gina (Lindsay Burdge) gets a tarot reading one day, promising that she will meet a very specific man and they will quickly fall in love. Increasingly detached and nomadic from depression and her career, Gina takes way too seriously a one-night stand she had with bartender Jerome (Damien Bonnard), while on layover in Paris. Well, it was a one-night-stand for him, anyway. For Gina, it was LOVE. We're not just talking about too many phone calls asking about your day. Gina quits her job and moves to Paris. Right across the street from Jerome's apartment. And then she gets another job. At the same place Jerome works.

At first her presence is a mildly pleasant surprise. Hey more hookups, and at least one really clumsy blowjob.  Until he finds out just how deep her commitment really runs, then things aren't so cheery. It doesn't help that his ex-girlfriend Clemence (Esther Garrel), a successful rock star back from touring, has re-entered his life. Gina quickly becomes a nuisance to them both.

Adding to the film's sardonic flavor is the perfect voice casting of Angelica Huston, who narrates Gina's descent into madness with a dry, murderous wit. She becomes more brutal, and thus funnier, as Gina begins to unravel. It starts with a jealous glance at Clemence, but grows until she has wormed her way into every aspect of Jerome's life. But it's more than just his dismissals of her that drive Gina over the edge. Thirst Street is also a comedy of clashing cultures, in which Gina's awkwardness with French customs leads to minor daily humiliations. She can't even do the kissing on both cheeks thing right. Her every attempt to fit in is as awkward and uncomfortable to watch as her unrequited passions.

It's not always easy to tell who Silver thinks our sympathy should lie, if with anybody at all. The source of Gina's obsession isn't made as clear as it could, which runs the risk of making her look like a cookie-cutter nutjob. However, it's in Burdge's performance that we kind of root for Gina, even though she is clearly insane, and dangerously so. Through her we come to feel Gina's growing desperation and isolation, without the character ever becoming sad or pathetic. The rest of the cast do a good job in mostly reactionary roles, with special credit to Bonnard for making Jerome someone we could relate to. It would've been easy to paint Jerome as a bad guy for not returning Gina's feelings, but he comes across as a guy looking for many of the same things she is...just in a more rational way.

Visually arresting with vibrant, expressive colors and a surreal atmosphere, Thirst Street resembles those French Emmanuelle skin flicks you weren't supposed to watch on Cinemax as kid. Masterful cinematographer Sean Price Williams (Queen of Earth) never lets the film slip too far into its dream-like haze, mixing in enough of a darker palette so that the nightmare is always close at hand. He helps keep every scene in Thirst Street just slightly askew, much like its tragic heroine.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

New 'Justice League' Character Posters Add A Little Color

I'm not going to get into everything from Vulture's piece about the behind-the-scenes troubles at DC Films. You got a taste of it with the news that fewer movies will seen as part of a cinematic universe, but the stuff about Zack Snyder and Justice League you can read for yourself there. Ultimately it doesn't matter, because Joss Whedon still needs to have made a movie comic book fans and casual viewers will dig. That's all I care about.

So let's keep it simple and look at the brand new Justice League character posters, instead. The images are pretty straight forward, featuring Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Once again they're still pretending that Henry Cavill's Superman won't show up, but that's okay. We can play along. We'll pretend we don't see his logo at the bottom of each image.

Here's the synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

Justice League opens November 17th.

Review: 'Flatliners' Starring Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, & Kiersey Clemons

Hey, cool! A remake that didn’t totally suck! Flatliners is the latest film to be run through Hollywood’s current reboot machine, and for the most part, this update kinda works. 2017’s Flatliners follows the same basic plot as the 1990 original: five young med students temporarily kill themselves and bring each other back to life in an attempt to discover what happens after death. That’s undeniably an interesting premise, and the 90’s one didn’t make great use of it, making it the ideal candidate for a remake. These are the kinds of movies we should reboot. Take a cool but underutilized plot and crank it up to 11 for our modern tastes. Be Mad Max Fury Road as opposed to the Robocop remake. That’s not to say that this new Flatliners is anything incredible, but it is better than the original. Keep in mind though that the first one was directed by Joel Schumacher (who made the still-hated George Clooney Batman movie). So, while “better” isn’t an especially high bar to pass here, the new film did pass it nonetheless.

Ellen Page (who is consistently fantastic in every movie she’s in) stars as Courtney, the young doctor who initiates the experiment with the help of her five friends (one of whom is Diego Luna!) After her experience, Courtney springs back to life reborn. She’s smarter, faster, more efficient. Everything she ever learned comes flooding back to her, as if parts of her mind had been unlocked. Naturally, her friends insist they flatline too, and things go south from there.

I loved the lab sequences. They actually put thought into the fake movie science the characters are using, which I really appreciated. The first film is so goofy and nonsensical about its logic, but this one takes it more seriously for a much better effect. I also loved how diverse the group of doctors were, another huge step up from the almost-entirely-white-dudes-in-lab-coats original. It’s visually interesting. The score has some really great moments. It had several clever little winks at the 90’s one scattered throughout its runtime. It was just a fun movie, particularly in the first half.

What disappointed me was the way the film strays away from its premise. I was hoping this would be one of the original film’s problems that would be corrected in the remake, but it remains just as riddled with holes almost three decades later. At the start of the movie, Courtney explains the idea of experimenting to find out about life after death, but the plot sort of abandons that core concept pretty quickly. Instead of being haunted by the experience of what they saw in the afterlife, the flatliners are all overcome with visual manifestations of their guilt. They each come back to life only to be hunted down by the sins of their past. While that’s an interesting idea, it’s not the one explained to us at the start of the movie.

Furthering my frustrations was the execution of these haunting scenes. All of the “horror” moments in the film fell flat. Literally the only “spooky” part that worked for me was the very last vision Ellen Page’s character has of her past, and that’s really due in large part to her performance in that scene. I preferred the moments when it was a scifi thriller, and not a jump-scare morality tale.

Additionally, almost all of the memories they feel guilty about involve death. There is so much accidental murder in these characters’ backstories, it’s ridiculous. I personally have four friends, and I don’t believe any of us are responsible for a death. According to the world of Flatliners, a couple of us definitely killed a guy. That’s rather weird. Luckily, the misguided scare sequences total only about 20 minutes of the 110 minute runtime. So at least there’s that.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Flatliners. It has a lot of problems, but it also has a lot of good elements in it too. For what it’s worth, it’s an improvement over the original. This could have been a lot worse.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Warner Bros. Is Pulling The Brakes On A DC Cinematic Universe

In a way the timing has been strange that Warner Bros. and DC Films would make wholesale changes to the DCEU just as Wonder Woman set them on the right course. But the last few weeks have seen a major shake-up. An entirely new banner of non-continuity projects was launched, with the first being an all-new Joker movie directed by Todd Phillips. It signaled, at least on the surface, a break away from the continuity binding the DCEU, and now we're finding out that is becoming the overall strategy.

In an extensive piece by Vulture, Geoff Johns and Diane Nelson reveal that there will be less of an emphasis on continuity, allowing their directors more freedom to tell the stories they want to tell. Being a "director-driven" studio has been a mantra for them lately, and they see this as a means of making good on that. Nelson says...

"Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn’t make sense, but there’s no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe. Moving forward, you’ll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who’s creating them."

“Some of the movies do connect the characters together, like ‘Justice League.’ But, like with ‘Aquaman‘ our goal is not to connect ‘Aquaman’ to every movie,” Johns adds.

It's a bold move, one that should quiet those who claim DC Films is merely aping the Marvel approach. Being saddled with that stigma hasn't made things any easier because they've been so disorganized. That lack of an overall strategy is one Johns admits to, at least partially...

"Some of the stuff is true, some of it isn’t true. When we talk about things or we’re making deals for people to develop scripts or whatever, sometimes, things leak; sometimes, things are misreported, and it’s frustrating. Because we do wanna go out there and talk about what our strategy is, and this stuff just muddies the water. There’s a lot of internal conversations going on about, How do we help kind of clean that up a bit?"

I'm not so sure this is the way to go about it. As I've often said, audiences craze simplicity, something that is easy to follow and understand. Marvel has been building the MCU since 2008 and there's nothing complicated about it. There's no reason DC Films couldn't do the same with a it more planning. To me this smacks of a desperate overreach that could cause more problems than it solves. 

Review: 'Literally Right Before Aaron' Starring Justin Long And Cobie Smulders

Earlier this year, a dark comedy called Ingrid Goes West was quietly released to theaters.  It was fantastic. It starred Aubrey Plaza as the titular mentally ill young woman who goes off her meds and decides to “reinvent” herself. She travels across the country and begins obsessively stalking a model she saw on Instagram, going out of her way to get as close to her as possible. In the process, Ingrid ruins the lives of just about everyone she meets. It got great reviews and it’s one of my favorite movies of the year.  Unfortunately, this is not a review of Ingrid Goes West. This is instead a review of its bizarro-world evil twin: Literally Right Before Aaron.

Literally Right Before Aaron follows Ingrid almost exactly, but with a noticeable difference. This movie seems to think its protagonist’s behavior is cute and funny instead of clinically insane. America’s sweetheart Justin Long stars as Adam, a down-on-his-luck everyman still grieving over his breakup with Allison (Cobie Smulders) almost two years ago. Things take a turn when she calls him to invite him to her wedding to her new partner Aaron. He’s shocked. She moved on and he didn’t. In fact, it turns out he dated her “literally right before Aaron” as one character explains to him. Get it? Like the title! With the encouragement of his equally sociopathic dude-bro best friend (John Cho), Adam travels to San Francisco to attend the wedding, and hopefully win her back.

Again, the key flaw in this movie (aside from how unfunny the ‘jokes’ are) is that it clearly doesn’t see anything wrong with Adam’s aggressively wrong (and casually misogynistic) point of view. To a normal person, his plan is self-absorbed and disturbing, and so is he. However, in the mind of writer/director Ryan Eggold, these traits apparently make Adam the perfect fit to be the protagonist of a romantic comedy, and an uninspired one at that. While the details make it sound insane, the actual core plot is extremely generic. Boy tries to “win back” his lost love from her new seemingly-perfect-but-actually-secretly-a-jerk boyfriend. It’s a pretty paint by numbers setup, it’s just that Eggold’s ‘wacky’ new twist is to have the boy be a literal sociopath and his plan is to break-up an actually fully functioning couple at their wedding. Romantic Comedy!

It’s not just Justin Long who’s crazy, though. It’s genuinely all of the characters. Nobody in this movie talks or acts like real people, and when they try, they legitimately sound evil. The meet-cute flashback? It’s two people with no chemistry ruining each other’s day. The scene where we’re supposed to see how quirky and fun Cobie Smulders is? That features Smulders and Long playing a game where they hypothesize how they would ruin the lives of the various strangers around them, an already terrible idea of fun made worse by her answer: She’d break up a man’s marriage and give him AIDS. Literally a thing that she says. To be funny. To make us like her. AIDS.

That being said, Luis Guzmán’s character (who is only in one scene) is pretty likeable. So hats off to Mr. Guzmán. This movie would have been better if it was about you.

What frustrated me most though, was how much potential it had. The cast is comprised of very talented performers. Cobie Smulders is great, John Cho is great, and both Kristen Schaal and Charlyne Yi are hilarious comedians who are completely wasted in this movie. Even Justin Long can have his moments in the right role (this was not the right role). The visual direction is pretty impressive. Many of the montages and flashbacks all have an indie music video vibe that was pretty cool to watch. It’s just the parts where there are characters and dialogue that make the movie awful. Excellent ingredients for a bad recipe. There’s no amount of references to The Graduate that can save you from that.

In short, the main problem with Literally Right Before Aaron is that it is an insane movie made by and for crazy people.

1 out of 5

Review: 'Victoria & Abdul', Starring Judi Dench And Ali Fazal

Films such as Victoria and Abdul are marketed as charming, cute, and feel-good, with some humor sprinkled in. “Look,” the promos say, “here’s a nice story about two unlikely friends who find solace in one another despite racism.” We’ve seen this kind of plot in many a film and it’s always cringe-worthy and seldom as charming as probably intended by the filmmakers. Based on the book, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant, by Shrabani Basu, what Victoria and Abdul fails to convey is the distinct point of view of Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Despite the fact that the film is based on his story, it's largely Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her household who take center stage. This results in a highly unfocused film that uses charm and humor to cover up its inherent racism.

Set at the beginning of the 20th century and several years into the reign of the British Empire over India, Abdul Karim, a clerk, is selected to present a medal to Queen Victoria (Judi Dench). Chosen for the simple fact that he is tall, he is joined by Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) on the journey from India to England. From the very start of the film, Abdul and Mohammed are mistreated. They’re talked down to, looked at as though they're insects, ignored and demeaned at every turn. However, Abdul doesn't let it get to him. He sees this opportunity to serve the queen (the Empress of India who ironically never visited the country over which she held power) as immensely gratifying, romanticizing, like many do, the oppressor.

Meanwhile, Queen Victoria, at 71 years old, is bored, sad, and tired of her life, as well as her son Bertie, Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard). Bertie is cruel and selfish, completely filling the shoes of the stereotypical bad guy. He wants the crown, plain and simple. Witnessing the ever-growing friendship between her and Abdul, he treats his mother like a senile old woman who's lost her marbles.Victoria, while a bit more sympathetic than the rest of her royal family, is still the epitome of privilege. At one point, she cries about it being “difficult to be the queen” and how lonely it can be to Abdul--who is her servant, has traveled thousands of miles, and has been separated from his family, mind you. Although she takes great interest in learning Urdu and the teachings of the Quran (and she later promotes Abdul from servant to teacher) it's still apparent how the dynamic is unbalanced and entrenched in the system of England's oppression and rule over its colonized countries. An example is when Victoria plays the victim after finding out that Abdul omitted information regarding some kind of mutiny against the crown in India. However, she doesn't bat an eye or seems regretful when she admits to Abdul that she wears a very special piece of jewelry that was stolen from the Taj Mahal by English officers.

The film is ridiculous in that it spends half its time on the nonsensical and not so much on anything meaningful. We're supposed to buy lines like, “you're more special to me than my own wife,” and believe that Victoria and Abdul’s friendship is full of intensity and depth when that's not the case at all. In fact, Victoria and Abdul spends half of its runtime mocking Abdul, his friend, his culture and playing it up for laughs. It doesn’t matter that Bertie, Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), and the rest of the manor are obviously meant to be racist and ignorant, it’s that the story is still more about them and their discomfort with the status quo than it is about Abdul’s journey. The material comes off as wildly offensive, clearly favoring the monarchy because the audience is meant to take pity on Abdul and congratulate Victoria for doing the same. The film had plenty of potential to deliver a more insightful story arc and to make use of Abdul's point of view, but director Stephen Frears and writer Lee Hall instead went for gimmicks and humor at the expense of Abdul.

Despite a terribly lackluster and infuriating execution, Victoria and Abdul did boast a strong performance by Judi Dench. It couldn’t save the movie (no talent could), but Dench paints the picture of a forlorn Victoria, yearning for something to put a spring in her step. She makes a grand speech to her entire household at one point and it’s really fantastic, but unfortunately her performance is greater than the movie itself. Ali Fazal’s earnestness lends itself believably to his character. He plays Abdul as very naive, but extremely grateful for his luck and opportunity. And while Fazal gives a good performance, it becomes extremely hard to watch as his character is constantly mistreated. Fazal most definitely deserves better than this film.

While it’s intriguing that this is based on a true story, Victoria and Abdul lacks any depth or heart, too busy with irritating and racist hijinks. This is especially the case in the film’s final act, when the household becomes enraged that Victoria has raised Abdul’s status; this is when Frears' attempts to mine the situation for comedy become the worst. It's infuriating that so much racism is packed into such a short amount of time and the antics are all so the audience can laugh at Abdul, while he's being humiliated left and right. The film very much needed more of Abdul’s perspective as it would have greatly elevated the film and enriched the story in many respects. Instead, Victoria and Abdul becomes just another example of a missed opportunity to spotlight the voice of a minority character in a story meant to be about him.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Jude Law To Join Blake Lively In Spy Flick 'The Rhythm Section'

The last time Jude Law played a world class spy guy it was opposite Melissa McCarthy in Spy, a film that confirmed to me that he should've been a Bond candidate at some point. But alas it wasn't and never will be. The closest he'll probably ever get is The Rhythm Section, a new spy thriller starring Blake Lively, from 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

Variety reports Law is in talks for a role in the film, without giving us an idea of his role. Lively will be the centerpiece, though, playing Stephanie Patrick, a woman who breaks out of her self-destructive spiral by turning assassin and seeking revenge for the deaths of her family in an airplane crash that was intentionally set. The film is based on the series of novels by author Mark Burnell, and presumably if it's a hit there will be a franchise.  Something tells me Law will be one of the men that sets events in motion.

Next up for Law is the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in which he plays a young version of Albus Dumbledore.

'The Leisure Seeker' Trailer: Helen Mirren & Donald Sutherland Go On A Road Trip

As we go barreling into the awards season, a film like The Leisure Seeker that stars Oscar winner Helen Mirren and Golden Globe winner Donald Sutherland should catch a lot of attention. Surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of talk about it coming out of Venice where it premiered, but maybe that will change now with the release of it first trailer.

The screen legends hit the road as aging married couple Ella and John, who flee their stifling lives for one last road trip in their old rust bucket of a camper, the titular "leisure seeker."  As John's memory begins to fade, the journey from Boston to Key West becomes about embracing their zest for life and love for one another.

Paolo Virzi (Human Capital) directs based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian. The lack of buzz is concerning, but this looks like a real charmer from two of Hollywood's greats. The Leisure Seeker opens January 19th 2018.

New Photos From 'Stranger Things' Season Two Promise It Will Get Crazier

In less than a month Netflix will transport us back to the Upside Down for Stranger Things season two. The anticipation is already running high after that awesome teaser from Comic-Con, promising more '80s-inspired scares and pop culture references. Just don't call it a sequel. Because Netflix won't like it.  Co-creator Matt Duffer tells EW...

"When we started describing it as a sequel, Netflix was like, 'Don't do that, because sequels are known to be bad. I was like, 'Yes, but what about T2 and Aliens and Toy Story 2 and Godfather II?'"

He's got a point.

While details remain slim, we know the season takes place a year after Will's return, but things haven't gone back to normal. Then again it's possible the otherworldly madness of last season IS normal for the town of Hawkins, Indiana. Will may be back, but something evil is still haunting him, and it may be worse than the demagorgon turned out to be. Nicknamed the "shadow monster", the creature first begins making its presence known to Will for mysterious reasons...

Ross Duffer adds...

“It’s all connected to this singular threat, which is tied into this shape that Will sees in the sky.

Matt says, “Each episode is building on the last one. It gets much crazier than it ever got in season 1.”

Stranger Things returns to Netflix on October 27th, just in time for a Halloween binge. Check out new photos below!


Denis Villeneuve May Direct Angelina Jolie In Long-Developing 'Cleopatra' Film

1963's Cleopatra remains one of the great, terrible Hollywood stories. The hugely expensive, extravagant tale set during the Roman Empire was made for its glamorous but controversial stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but it also nearly ruined 20th Century Fox in the process. Occasionally you hear about attempts to remake it in another huge Hollywood spectacle, and most recently it was David FIncher was looking to direct Angelina Jolie in a Cleopatra film that would be shot in 3D. He eventually dropped out five years ago, and the project has been dormant, but now Sony thinks they know the right director for the job: Denis Villeneuve.

The in-demand Blade Runner 2049 director is reportedly in talks to direct Cleopatra, although it remains unclear if Jolie is still attached to play the Egyptian queen. Villeneue already has a lot on his plate, to go along with his name mentioned for every major project in development. While he's been seen as a potential director for the upcoming James Bond movie, with Daniel Craig's full support, Deadline says that won't happen. Instead, they say Villeneuve will continue on with his adaptation of Dune, while working on Cleopatra at the same time.  Doesn't this guy sleep? 

There's already a screenplay in place by Eric Roth, Brian Helgeland, and David Scarpa, so that would seem to be in good hands. The only thing it needs now is an equally high-powered director and star, because I don't know if this Cleopatra happens any other way.  Here's a synopsis for the bestselling Stacy Schiff novel from which the film will be based:

Her palace shimmered with onyx and gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first and poisoned the second; incest and assassination were family specialties. She had children by Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most prominent Romans of the day. With Antony she would attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled both their ends. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Her supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order.