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


Box Office: 'All The Money In The World' Falls Short; 'Jumanji' Breaks Unexpected Record

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi- $52.4M/$517.1M
In barely over two weeks, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has already hit $517M domestic, making it the top U.S. earner of the year. Did I mention it hasn't even been three full weeks yet? Overall the middle chapter of this latest Lucasfilm trilogy has $1.04B, and it doesn't open in China for a few days yet.
2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle- $50.5M/$169.8M
The Dwayne Johnson effect is still...well, effective. The long-awaited sequel Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle had an obscene 39% jump from last week, same number of theaters mind you, for another $50.5M. Given the box office success of its stars Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan, part of me thinks this was inevitable. But reviving long dormant properties is no sure thing. Sony played it right, balancing the Jumanji nostalgia and star power to appeal to the widest possible audience. Of course, it helps that people actually like the movie, and at this point I'm thinking maybe it's time I go ahead and buy a ticket.
3. Pitch Perfect 3- $17.7M/$64.2M
Pitch Perfect 3 kept on singing in its second week, falling only 10% and earning $17.7M. It's creeping up on $100M worldwide which is a pretty good way to say goodbye to the Bella gals.
4. The Greatest Showman- $15.2M/$48.7M
Hugh Jackman's P.T. Barnum musical The Greatest Showman may have just pulled its greatest trick. The film jumped a massive 73% after a modest debut, earning $15M and bringing the domestic total to $48M.  That is a record-breaking hold for a movie in over 3000 theaters, and one of the best holds period for a major wide release. So right now its prospects are looking pretty good, especially if overseas numbers come through. If only it hadn't been so darn expensive.
5. Ferdinand- $11.6M/$53.8M
6. Coco- $6.5M/$178.9M
7. All the Money in the World (review)- $5.4M/$12.6M
There has been so much talk surrounding Ridley Scott's All the Money in the World, about Kevin Spacey, about the reshoots that replaced him with Christopher Plummer, to the speed in which those reshoots took place, that we forgot it actually has to perform. To that end, the film opened with a modest $12.6M since the Wednesday debut.  The $50M kidnapping drama should get a nice Oscar boost as Plummer and Michelle Williams are at least in the hunt, but let's hope all of the Spacey stuff isn't keeping people away.
8. Darkest Hour- $5.2M/$17.9M
9. Downsizing- $4.6M/$17M
Alexander Payne's sci-fi "comedy"(?) Downsizing is staying on the small-ish side with $4.6M and $17M overall. That's not great, and with a cost of roughly $68M I'm not sure Matt Damon's name will be enough to save it.
10. Father Figures- $3.7M/$12.7M
Speaking of movies that big name can't save, the apparently-dreadful Father Figures is a dud with only $12M in two weeks. It won't go up much further from there.

Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut Molly's Game (review) opened strong, earning $5.2M while only in 217 theaters. I'm curious to see if the Jessica Chastain-led drama can pick up some Oscar buzz and ride the wave to bigger numbers.

Daniel Day-Lewis's "final" film, P.T. Anderon's critically-acclaimed Phantom Thread (review), hit $531K in only 4 locations. A much broader expansion doesn't happen for two weeks which is when we'll really get a sense of how the film does.

And finally, Annette Bening's latest bid for an Oscar, the Gloria Grahame biopic Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (review), opened in 4 locations and earned $36K. This one may prove too under the radar for Bening to get her usual amount of awards attention, but she's really good as the Oscar winner and Hollywood Walk of Famer.


The Latest Movies You Absolutely Definitely Don't Want To Miss

The Latest Movies you Absolutely Definitely Don’t Want to Miss While Star Wars may be grabbing all of the headlines at the movies recently, let’s not forget that there are other movies that exist for those who prefer their flicks to be Jedi-free. Here are three selections that you absolutely, definitely don’t want to miss. 

The Post

In an age where the media has come to be known as the no.1 scapegoat - Trump blames it for “fake” news and his opponents blame it for Trump - The Post is a welcome throwback to a time when Americans were content with the freedom of the press. Set in 1971, the movie dramatizes real-life events when the Washington Post risked the prospect of being closed for its publishing of the Pentagon Papers, which were classified documents copied illicitly by Daniel Ellsberg. The documents proved that every president who assumed office since WW11 had lied about Vietnam. Publisher of the Post, Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), is an unassertive socialite who typically follows the lead of her editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). However, when the Post acquires the papers, Bradlee decides to publish them - despite the fact that it could draw the wrath of President Richard Nixon. Many of the reviews of The Post have overpraised it. Most of anything newsroom-related is too broad and the Josh Singer and Liz Hannah-penned script avoids tackling anything complicated. The movie grows into something more moving and richer when we follow Kay Graham, however. Streep’s performance, which provides exquisite depth and subtlety, culminates in a moment of decision, which allows the actress to reveal her character’s inner growth, learning how to take control and exercise her values in a world still dominated by men.  


The story dreams up an alternative reality in which individuals can be reduced to just a few centimeters tall and reside in artificial enclaves that enable them to live lavish lifestyles while using up limited resources. Paul and Audrey (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) star as a middle-class couple who are struggling financially and so decide to improve their lifestyles and downsize. When Audrey has a last-minute change of heart, the downsized Paul is forced to live his new life alone. He soon becomes involved with Eurotrash neighbour (Christoph Waltz) and his Vietnamese dissident house cleaner (Hong Chau). The first 40 minutes of Downsizing are wonderful and witty, as Payne establishes the premise, cleverly touching on a number of topical issues, such as American consumerism and the decline of the middle class. Its work and detail are brilliant but, after a while, the ambition of the movie begins to get in its own way. It begins by performing a balancing act between too many topics: underclass living and the state of the planet included. The movie’s heart is pure - it teaches the importance of learning compassion, but it’s just too over-preachy in places.

We’re Almost There

Before we tell you about the no. 1 movie that you absolutely don’t want to miss, you may be wondering about the latest flicks you can watch in the comfort of your living room. Fortunately, if there’s nothing in TV Guide to tempt you, Netflix has a whole host of movies recently added to its catalog for you to sit back and enjoy, such as Bright and Mr. Roosevelt. For those wishing for a movie break, there are plenty of other mediums of entertainment that are always fun, like the Xbox. There are no shortage of new games to try, with Wolfenstein II and Final Fantasy XV setting their respective worlds alight. If you like your games fun and simple though, there are numerous titles available at online casinos such as If you know how to play Solitaire, you’ll be fine with any of the 300+ games that include the likes of Fortune Panda and Deep Sea Danger.
Speaking of games, here’s our final movie that you won’t want to miss.

Molly’s Game

If you’re a fan of Aaron Sorkin, you will find it almost impossible not to fall in love with his directorial debut. The movie is based on a memoir by Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), which tells the story of a young woman’s journey from an Olympic-level skier to a host of high-stakes games for financial geniuses, Hollywood actors, and even Russian mobsters. After she is caught by the FBI, she receives help from honest lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who manages to see her basic decency. In typical Sorkin style, Molly’s Game shows the protagonist’s journey using snappy scenes, witty banter, and narration in spades. Sorkin has previously been accused of portraying his leading ladies as, while intelligent, basket cases. This certainly isn’t the case with Molly: she’s an independent woman with a tempered steel soul. Chastain puts in a stellar performance, delivering Sorkin’s dialogue as if she was born with the words coming out of her mouth.

There will be a whole host of movies that you’ll want to see throughout 2018, including Ocean’s 2018 and Mamma Mia! Here We Are Again. For now, however, the above selection should keep you well and truly entertained.


Review: 'Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool' Starring Annette Bening & Jamie Bell

*NOTE: This is a reprint of my review from the Middleburg Film Festival.* 

As the era of the classic movie stars comes to a close in Internet celebrities or whatever, our fascination with the romantic lives of those Golden Age stars is endless. The latest, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, focuses on the brief romance between Oscar winner Gloria Grahame, and her young lover Peter Turner, from whose memoir the film has been adapted. Grahame, best known for her role as Violet in It's a Wonderful Life and for her award-winning performance in The Bad and the Beautiful, is the perfect example of how we shouldn't assume every celebrity's life is exciting, because hers wasn't, and the film struggles to compensate.

What makes Grahame's story eminently watchable, and even fascinating in spurts, is the magnetic performance by Annette Bening, who always seems to shine right around awards season. If there are classic old school stars left, Bening is certainly one of them, and she tackles the role of Graham like she was always meant for it. When we first meet Grahame she's in her dressing room before a show, meticulously applying her makeup, working on her diction..., like someone who has done this thousands of times before. But just before she's to go on stage, she collapses and is rushed away. Grahame had been a huge star in the black & white era, not so much with the move to color. It's 1979 and now she lives in a tiny London flat, which is where she first meets Peter (Jamie Bell), a struggling actor who stays next door. "She always played the tart" the landlord says as a means of introducing her to him. What's funny is that Grahame still seems to be playing that role, flirting with the much-younger Peter shamelessly in their first encounter.

But it's now 1981, and when we see them in that context things are very different. She's arrived at his home, where he lives with his mother (Julie Walters), father (Kenneth Cranham), and brother (Stephen Graham) looking very sickly. She wants to stay with them and recover, with her and Peter in denial about the seriousness of her illness. The film leaps back and forth between 1979 and 1981, reflecting back on their relationship which looked a lot like love, but was perhaps more of a performance for them both. Grahame had been through multiple marriages, and a scandal in which she was accused of having an affair with her 13-year-old stepson. That ended in disaster, the utter destruction of her career, and psychological therapy. All of that baggage crowds the room whenever Peter is there, and the clueless young man is often at a loss when she suddenly stops acting like a breathless teenager and turns ugly.

There is affection and love there, though. Clearly they care for one another, and director Peter McGuigan luxuriates in their happy moments. Oftentimes these blissful memories bleed over from scene to scene, literally, as if we are walking through Peter's daydreams, creating quite the surreal effect. But far too often the screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh fails to make Grahame's story unique, especially once her sordid past has been revealed and promptly papered over. Whatever her issues were, Grahame lived a life far too exciting for any film to try and gloss it over it. Bening gives another wonderfully complex performance, depicting Grahame as a woman stuck playing a role because her reality is too tough to endure. She does Grahame justice, but Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool is merely watchable when it could have been so much more.

Rating: 3 out of 5

'Star Wars' Has Already Covered The $4B Disney Paid For Lucasfilm

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm a few years ago for a whopping $4.05B, there wasn't anybody who sat around saying "OH yeah they totally overpaid for that."  Because that would have been a foolish stance to take given the money machine that is Star Wars. And here we are just two years removed from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and already Disney has recouped on their original investment.

With Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi blasting towards $1B worldwide, Disney has now hit $4.06B in Star Wars ticket sales. Okay, there are other factors that add to the cost, like marketing, distribution, and production, but the money the Mouse House laid down to have the rights to Star Wars has proven to be well worth it. And we haven't  even begun to look at how much they are raking in on merchandising.  Cha-ching!

And we're only five months away from Disney's next cash grab with Solo: A Star Wars Story. While there may be some serious question marks about it, is there anybody who is seriously considering not going to see it? I didn't think so. [THR]

'Bright' Scores Huge Numbers For Netflix In Opening Weekend

During the most recent episode of Cinema Royale, I went off on a small rant about the critical reaction to Bright, Netflix's hated-by-critics (but loved by audiences and John Boyega) fantasy cop thriller starring Will Smith. The film makes a slippery allegory to race relations using orcs, elves, and humans, but overall I found it to be a pretty fun flick. Even with the poor critical reviews Netflix was banking on it being a hit, and I posited that we would soon learn it was one of their biggest, if not the biggest, original movie they've ever had.

Well, the numbers are in and it looks like I was right.

Netflix doesn't usually make official numbers available, but ratings giant Nielsen has apparently figured out that 11 million U.S. viewers took in Bright over its first three days in release. Damn.  And that's before it goes international, where Will Smith is still a screen superstar.  At this rate we may see Netflix lock Will Smith into an exclusive deal, and before you chuckle at the idea just look at what they've managed to pull off with Adam Sandler. His movies suck but Sandler's terrible comedies are among the streaming service's most popular.

To that end, Netflix had the foresight to snag Smith for a Bright sequel. So it seems the last laugh will be theirs. [Deadline]

'Avengers: Infinity War' Image: Thor Has An Unexpected Meeting With The Guardians

In the recent trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, we didn't get to see much of Thor. He gets a few words in the beginning, where he seems to be aboard a spaceship. In other he seems to be holding open some kind of power grid or something. Well, in the footage revealed at Comic-Con last summer he had quite a different entrance, one teased in the latest official image courtesy of USA Today.

In the unseen footage, Thor first appears when his unconscious body slams into the windshield of a ship belonging to the Guardians of the Galaxy. So it stands to reason that Thanos, or perhaps one of his children in the Black Order, destroyed the ship Thor found himself on at the end of Thor: Ragnarok. In the new image we see Thor, still out of it, being tended to be Rocket and Mantis. Probably not the way the the Avengers or Guardians were intending to make one another's acquaintance, but a power like Thanos throws all plans out of wack.

Avengers: Infinity War opens May 4th 2018.

New 'Dark Phoenix' And 'New Mutants" Images Feature Two Fallen X-Men

The sale of 20th Century Fox to Disney comes at a time when the X-Men franchise is in the middle of a youth movement. While we don't know where things will stand once the deal goes through, sources say Disney is being super selective on any Fox properties they may carry on, for now we still have X-Men: Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants right around the corner.

New images have emerged for both films, which are taking the franchise in different directions. X-Men: Dark Phoenix hopes to move on past the dismal X-Men: Apocalypse with a story that tries to get right the classic "Phoenix Saga", which Fox attempted to adapt (badly) years ago. New images from Empire reveal Jessica Chastain's mysterious shape-shifting alien confronting James McAvoy's Charles Xavier. Another looks like the potential demise of Magneto (Michael Fassbender), although I doubt it's that simple, and the final image show Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) getting close. Considering she killed her former lover the last time she got all imbued with dark phoenix energy in X-Men: The Last Stand, maybe this is his way of staying on her good side.

Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) looks to be in mortal danger in the new photo from Josh Boone's New Mutants. A superhero horror film that will potentially launch an entire trilogy, the film also stars Charlie Heaton as Cannonball, Anya Taylor-Joy as Magik, Maisie Williams as Wolfsbane, and Henry Zaga as Sunspot, all seen here trying to revive their fallen comrade.

Boone spoke to USA Today and talked about his approach to making an X-Men genre flick, by dialing back on the superheroics and ramping up the scary stuff...

“These kids could care less about being X-Men. They’re so (messed) up and have had such horrible things happen, they’re just trying to figure out how to get out of this situation,” said Boone. “We just tried to pull this back and make it performance- and character-driven, and more grounded and credible than X-Men movies ever are.”

The New Mutants opens April 13th, followed by X-Men: Dark Phoenix on November 2nd.

John Boyega Liked 'Bright' And Doesn't Care What You Think

One of the many drawbacks to the freedom provided by the Internet is that it makes it easier to turn everything into a sports match. The same way that politics has devolved into "my team vs. your team", so too has pretty much every argument ever fought online, and that goes double when it comes to movies. The importance given to Rotten Tomatoes scores doesn't help, as it encourages a mentality of consensus rather than individuality. Want to know who just found that out? John Boyega, who dared to tell the world that he liked Bright.

It's funny, because I got some nasty emails for my semi-positive review of Bright, also. But if you look at Rotten Tomatoes it was audiences that gave it 89% Fresh, while critics had it down around 30%. Maybe it's fellow critics blowing up my Inbox?

Obviously, Boyega shouldn't have to defend his enjoyment of the movie, but you can bet Netflix loved the free publicity. Don't be surprised if they quote his tweet when the Bright sequel bets going.


Newt And Tina Reunited In New Look At 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald'

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald just wrapped production a few days ago, and the marketing machine for the latest Harry Potter saga is starting to ramp up. Empire has a brand new image that features a reunion between magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), but it looks like they won't have much time to catch up.

The duo seem to be trying to break into a locked storage vault of some kind, perhaps in the Ministry of Magic?  Were they even called that back when this movie takes place? Wherever it may be, it almost certainly has to do with the capture of the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, who has escaped custody and is now gathering followers. That's where a much-younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) comes in, recruiting Newt to this dangerous mission.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens November 16th 2018.

Travis Hopson's 20 Best Movies Of 2017

Oh thank God 2017 is finally coming to an end. For reasons that have nothing to do with movies this has been a difficult 12 months to endure, which has made escaping into celluloid dreams all the more important. This year I saw fewer movies than usual as I, begrudgingly, allowed others to shoulder a greater reviewing burden. I still saw a ton, as anybody who follows the site already knows, and putting together a top 20 has proven as difficult as ever.

One thing I noticed was a heavier than usual presence of big popcorn movies: Logan, Star Wars, Thor: Ragnarok, and others made it into my list in prominent slots, and I think it goes back to what I was saying about needing that escape from reality. That's not to say there aren't plenty of hard-hitting, realistic dramas that emerged as favorites, with The Florida Project, Mudbound, and others staying in my memory long after the credits rolled. I caught four of the movies on my list way back at Sundance, further cementing why I go there every year

Criteria? Simple: If I loved it, it's probably here. Spare me your emails asking where YOUR favorite movie is. It probably sucked and you have terrible taste. I'm kidding (mostly), but just because a film failed to make the list doesn't mean I hated it. These are just the cream of the crop that spoke to me personally. So here we go, my 20 favorite movies of 2017! Enjoy! And be sure to check out our complete 2017 wrap-up here!

20. Band Aid
Zoe Lister Jones's indie charmer encourages arguments to stimulate artistic creativity, and recognizes that a good slice of pizza is better than sex. These are things to be championed always and forever.
19. Lady Bird
Greta Gerwig won my heart in front of the camera long before now, but with the enchanting Lady Bird she's impressed me in a whole new way. Featuring two of the year's best performances by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, the film depicts with an abundance of heart the joys and pains of the mother/daughter relationship.
18. Brawl in Cell Block 99
I used to hope Vince Vaughn would get his ass kicked in every movie. Now I could watch him smash dudes' heads into cement walls for hours on end. This is progress, and another gory masterpiece from writer/director S. Craig Zahler.
17. mother!
Is it okay that the more people complain about Darren Aronofsky's divisive home invasion thriller/religious parable the more I like it? mother! had the entire damn Internet up in arms trying to crack the code of this insane flick, which I think Aronofsky intentionally designed to be polarizing, which makes me appreciate it even more. In a few years I'm certain the narrative will settle on it being the twisted work of a mad genius, fueled by a go-for-broke performance by Jennifer Lawrence. But for now I'm happy giving the side eye to those who dismiss it out of hand.
16. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Acts of kindness? Forget it. In Yorgos Lanthimos' chilling, scalpel-sharp The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Colin Farrell's tortured doctor tries to do right by a patient's son, only to invite into his home a malevolent force the likes of which we haven't seen. There's nothing supernatural about it, except maybe in Barry Keoghan's terrifying performance, but the evil unleashed on this unsuspecting family is unforgettable for the realistic way it's depicted.
15. The Big Sick
I've been dismayed at what seems like a concerted effort to ignore the year's best comedy and success story. Kumail Nanjiani and his wife/co-writer Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan) recount a crucial time in their on again/off again relationship, a life or death situation that thrusts Kumail into the awkward orbit of her parents. This film has so much it demands multiple viewings: part fish out of water story, part rom-com, part family drama, and all centered around a Pakistani male lead. The Big Sick isn't just hilarious and heartwarming, but I hope it's just the start of bigger things for Nanjiani.
14. I, Tonya
The heel in me has always been a fan of Tonya Harding. I'm a loyal member of her fan club. Margot Robbie's performance as the disgraced Olympic skater makes me love her even more. If she wants to go out and bash another skater's knee, then dammit she has her reasons.
13. Dunkirk
What I recall most about Dunkirk is me, on the edge of my seat, gripping the arms so tight it left imprints in the palms of my hands. A thrilling WWII film, large in scope yet stripped down so you feel every bit of the personal stakes involved, Dunkirk takes the audience across land, sea, and air to show the value of home to a soldier on the battlefield.
12. Wind River
God of the rugged, socially-informed action flick, thy name is Taylor Sheridan. In his directorial debut, Sheridan turns his attention to the mistreatment of Native Americans in this taut crime procedural about a skilled hunter (Jeremy Renner) and an inexperienced federal agent (Elizabeth Olsen) sent to find a murderer in the middle of Wyoming's brutally cold winter season. Sheridan makes muscular movies about men of action, which is why we love him. I watched Hell or High Water, Sicario, and Wind River in a row and when it was done I had hair in places I didn't know I had places.
11. Thor: Ragnarok
I can't tell you what happened in the first two Thor movies they were so damned dull, but Thor: Ragnarok gets it that Asgardian super gods are kinda silly. So why not have fun with it? Long live The Revengers!

10. Baby Driver
A true stylistic achievement, Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is a musical opus, a killer heist flick, and a damn sweet love story. How many movies could pull that off? How many directors would dare to try?

9. Get Out
Who can forget it? The first time Catherine Keener banishes a tearful Daniel Kaluuya into the "Sunken Place"? It's an image that has been seared into our brains and become shorthand for the systemic racism African-Americans  still face on a daily basis. Shit, we have a racist in the damn White House, yo. Get Out is not only painfully relevant and timely, but hilarious and downright scary. If this is what Jordan Peele has to offer in his directorial debut I can't wait to see the path his career takes.

8. Logan
One of my least favorite Wolverine comics becomes the best Wolverine movie. In his tenth (!!!) performance as the clawed berserker X-Man, Hugh Jackman finally finds the honorable warrior within the feral mutant. James Mangold delivers a violent, R-rated neo-Western that serves as a perfect goodbye to Jackman's run as Wolverine, while introducing a worthy successor in Dafne Keen's X-23.

7. Mudbound
Walking out of the Sundance premiere of Dee Rees' powerful post-WWII drama, the first thing I said was "That film is winning Best Picture." I may still be proven right on that if Netflix doesn't fuck it up, but even if it doesn't Mudbound is a searing look at race and how poverty binds so many of us together. Two poor families, one black and one white, whose lives intersect because of one muddy piece of land and a war their sons (Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, both amazing) are called on to fight. But the bond that forms between the two soldiers upon their return is one forged of mutual respect that goes beyond race. There's a harsh reality that comes intruding in on that friendship, and when it does it's an ugly reminder of how little has actually changed.

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Beneath Frances McDormand's firebrand performance and all of the edgy language is a complex, passionate, and even hopeful film about racism and redemption. What struck me most about Martin McDonagh's script is how he never lets us get comfortable with any one character. There are no good guys or bad guys to be found. Most people in this powder keg of a town, still reeling from the murder of a young girl and her mother's brazen plea for justice, wind up somewhere in the middle, earning our scorn and admiration in equal measure. It makes for some emotional scenes that can turn around on a dime, but always keep you on your toes.

5. The Shape of Water
Literally flooding over with raw sensual power and Guillermo Del Toro's gift for the macabre, The Shape of Water is (for now) his crowning achievement. An exotic love story about a mute woman and merman at the height if Cold War tensions is somehow more honest and real than a thousand generic rom-coms. I never thought I'd say that Del Toro should give up on his blockbuster aspirations but every time he does he gives us another masterpiece. Stick with the passion projects!

4. Blade Runner 2049
I never expected Blade Runner 2049 to be some blockbuster smash. It was stupid for anybody to think it would be. But like Ridley Scott's classic 1982 film, vindication will soon come, for Denis Villeneuve's robust, breath-taking sequel is superior to the original. As cinematographer Roger Deakins paints one indelible image after another, finding astounding beauty in this ruined future civilization, a haunting neo-noir emerges that touches on themes of loneliness, desire, corruption, and greed, just as its predecessor did, but filled with the hope that humanity always endures even when we least expect it.

3. Columbus
I haven't had a movie floor me the way Columbus did in a very long time. Going into it with little expectations, actually zero expectations since I heard it was boring, this small-town drama set in the architecturally-rich town of Columbus, Indiana is anything but. Another coming-of-age story following a female lead, it stars Haley Lu Richardson as a brilliant young woman, obsessed with architecture, who longs for an escape to a more exciting place. She connects with a Korean man, played by John Cho, who is stuck in town caring for his ailing father. This is a love story, but not like you would think. The romance here is purely intellectual not physical, as the two relate to one another as equals, learning from each other and becoming better people as a result of their friendship. It may not sound exciting, and trust me I know this film isn't for everybody, but Kogonda's gorgeous directorial debut proves as unique and priceless as the buildings he so lovingly captures.

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Yeah that's right, Luke. You drink that nasty ass green milk and spit it back at those hatin' on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While Mark Hamill himself has expressed misgivings at the ballsy direction Rian Johnson took this long-stale franchise, even he had to admit it was for the best. And he was right. The Last Jedi is the wake-up call these movies desperately needed, shedding the myths and the nostalgia we've been clinging to for decades. The Jedi? They fucking suck, yo. George Lucas made an entire trilogy about how badly they suck, so why so angry that Johnson is just hammering the point home? By "killing our darlings" so to speak, Johnson has teed up Episode 9 to go places we never could predict, and frees Star Wars from the shackles of the past.

1. The Florida Project
Admittedly, it took me a while to fall in love with Sean Baker poetic, pastel-colored The Florida Project. The first hour took some getting used to, as Baker trailed behind a group of Little Rascals-esque kids, causing trouble around the long-term housing projects that litter the tourist traps near Disney World in Orlando. The chief brat amongst them is Moonee, played by the energetic Brooklynn Prince, who always has a spirit as bright as the Florida sun beaming down on her. But Baker takes us deeper, exploring the cold reality of her life on the fringes of society. Her mother, Hailee (Bria Vinaite, in a fearless acting debut), is barely more than a child herself and makes all the wrong decisions as a result. It's a life of shocking poverty and danger, that Moonie is too young to notice until it all comes crashing around her. Fortunately, Baker injects plenty of light into what could have been one sullen ass movie. Willem Dafoe shines as the hotel manager, Bobby, an honest, soulful caretaker who looks out for everyone as best he can. While The Florida Project has its share of darkness, Baker reminds us that good people exist, and there is hope we'll all get our shot to enter the Magic Kingdom.


'Euphoria' Trailer: Alicia Vikander & Eva Green Are Sisters On A Mysterious Journey

It's good to see that as Alicia Vikander has grown into a superstar Hollywood actress, leading her own blockbusters like the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot, she hasn't forgotten where she comes from. Vikander has formed quite the working relationship with Swedish director Lisa Langeth, starring in two of her films, Pure and Hotell. She may be a bigger name than ever, but Vikander is still returning to head up Langeth's latest, Euphoria, in which she gets to star opposite Eva Green.

The irresistible pairing of Vikander and Green should be enough to get audiences to buy a ticket for a film that has euthanasia as a major plot point. Most movies try to keep that detail secret (like Million Dollar Baby did) and there has been a quiet attempt to do so here, with the teasers focusing solely on the reunion between two estranged sisters at a mysterious European retreat. I think they all but give it away in this latest trailer, but at least the circumstances around it still remain a mystery, and I won't be giving them away.

Also starring Charlotte Rampling and Charles Dance, Euphoria still awaits a U.S. release date but rest assured that it will get one.

'Mom And Dad' Trailer: Nicolas Cage & Selma Blair Have Gone Batsh*t Crazy

"I brought you into this world, and I'll take you out!"

That classic line from The Cosby Show gets a funny callback in the new trailer for Mom and Dad, a batshit comedy-thriller starring an  equally batshit Nicolas Cage as a hysterical father trying to murder his kids. Oh, and his wife is Selma Blair, also insane. All of the parents are under some form of mass hysteria. Did I mention it's directed by Brian Taylor, one half of the duo behind Crank and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance?  Neither of those movies is what I would call tranquil.

The film had its premiere in the Midnight section at TIFF earlier this year and I remember there being some strong buzz for how off-the-chain it gets. The trailer definitely looks like it, with Cage set free to be as wild as he wants to be, tripping over toys in the living room, swinging a sledgehammer while singing "The Hokey Pokey". Yeah, I'm down for this one.

Mom and Dad opens January 19th 2018.

Hailee Steinfeld And Classic 'Bumblebee' In New Look At The 'Transformers' Spinoff

What's old is new again. Of the many things to complain about with Michael Bay's Transformers movies, one is that it barely resembles the toys we grew up on.  Well that looks to change with the upcoming Bumblebee spinoff, a film that brings with it a couple of firsts. A new image from Empire's upcoming issue (via HeroicHollywood) reveals Bumblebee, not as a slick Camaro, but as an old school yellow Volkswagon Bug just as he was in the cartoons and toys we loved in the '80s.

So this is not only the first Transformers live-action spinoff, it's also the first time we're seeing Bumblebee in this form on the big screen. The image also shows star Hailee Steinfeld as mechanic Charlie Watson, another human who comes to befriend the Autobots' smallest, loyalest, quietest, and yellowest hero. Bumblebee has a habit of picking up human strays, doesn't he?

The film does take place in the 1980s so the look makes sense. We know he's actually been around much longer than that, even battling Nazis in WWII. Based on the synopsis it sounds like his decades of fighting have taken a toll...

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

Directed by Travis Knight with John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg, Jason Drucker, Abby Quinn, Rachel Crow, Ricardo Hoyos, Kenneth Choi and  Gracie Dzienny, Bumblebee opens December 21st 2018.

New Fansite Increases Push For Zack Snyder Cut Of 'Justice League'

Hey. Go check out  It's okay, there aren't any viruses. You aren't going to get Rickrolled or anything. Would I do that? Go ahead, I'll wait......


Okay, that's enough. That is a site which will presumably take the next step in petitioning Warner Bros. to release Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League. I don't know what we're going to get when that countdown clock hits zero, but if it's an explosion it'll be fitting for a cause that is likely to go up in flames. We've seen online petitions for an all-Snyder version of Justice League, and even some members of the production requesting the same thing. But there isn't likely to be an assembled, complete movie of just Snyder's material. Remember, he left early and was replaced by Joss Whedon, who then went on to do extensive reshoots. The Snyder footage wasn't completed when he left. Some of it, maybe, but certainly not enough to make a complete, coherent movie.

And one final point on this. Justice League is about to wrap up its theatrical run as the lowest-grossing DCEU movie. Yep, less than Man of Steel's $668M back in 2013. Think about that. You think Warner Bros. wants to go back in and dump a bunch of money back into Justice League just to...what, put out a different version on the Bluray release? Send it back into theaters where it can be ignored/criticized again? Something tells me it isn't high on their to-do list.

Best they can do is focus on the home release, but even the cover art seems to confirm there won't be an additional cut of the movie. It would be featured prominently on the cover, wouldn't it?

*UPDATE* New 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' Image Is Unofficial As Hell

*UPDATE* Disney and Lucasfilm have informed Screenrant that the above image? The one with the cool Lando hair, Han peering into our souls, and Chewie looking mildly perplexed, is unofficial. Oops. Ah well, presumably we'll be getting the real stuff very soon. Original story is below. *

Star Wars fans eager for more after The Last Jedi won't have to wait a full year until the next film. It's only five months until Solo: A Star Wars Story arrives, and so we should probably expect a legit marketing campaign to start soon, perhaps with a trailer? But for now, these leaked images from a Russian site (via CBM) will have to suffice in giving us our best look at young Han Solo and Lando Calrissian.

The image features Alden Ehrenreich as Solo, Donald Glover with an interesting 'cut as Lando, plus Chewbacca and Emilia Clarke as a character we know as Kira. And of course, there's the Millennium Falcon, which probably is still owned by Lando at this point, until he loses it to Solo in a game of Corellian Spike. 

The production has recovered under the guidance of director Ron Howard, who came in after the creative turmoil that shook loose Phil Lord and Chris Miller.  He'll be in charge of bringing to the big screen some of Solo's most iconic moments, like winning the Falcon, his first encounter with Chewbacca, and the infamous Kessel Run. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens May 25th 2018. 

Win Tickets To A Free DC Screening Of 'The Commuter'

We're happy to offer our DC readers the chance to attend a free advance screening of The Commuter, starring Liam Neeson!

SYNOPSIS: In this action-packed thriller, Liam Neeson plays an insurance salesman, Michael, on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on his train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding and is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy. One that carries life and death stakes, for himself and his fellow passengers.

The screening takes place on Tuesday, January 9th at 7:30pm at AMC Mazza Gallerie. If you'd like to attend, simply enter through the Rafflecopter contest form below. Winners will be selected on Thursday, January 4th and contacted by email. Good luck!

The Commuter opens January 12th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ridley Scott Says He's "Too Dangerous To Direct A 'Star Wars' Movie

After 40 years steadily directing some of Hollywood's biggest films, Ridley Scott is saying everything he wants to say. Sometimes that comes back to bite him in the ass, like his past comments defending the white-washed casting of Exodus: Gods and Kings. Other times, like now, it leads to some real gems. In an interview with Vulture about his gutsy decision to reshoot parts of All the Money in the World in just nine days, Scott also couldn't help but take a shot at Star Wars. When asked if he had ever been approached by Lucasfilm to direct a Star Wars movie, here was his bragging response...

"No, no. I’m too dangerous for that," he continues. “Because I know what I’m doing. I think they like to be in control, and I like to be in control myself. When you get a guy who’s done a low-budget movie and you suddenly give him $180 million, it makes no sense whatsoever. It’s f**kin’ stupid. You know what the reshoots cost? Millions! Millions. You can get me for my fee, which is heavy, but I’ll be under budget and on time. This is where experience does matter, it’s as simple as that! It can make you dull as dishwater, but if you’re really experienced and you know what you’re doing, it’s [frick]ing essential. Grow into it, little by little. Start low-budget, get a little bit bigger, maybe after $20 million, you can go to $80. But don’t suddenly go to $160."

Pretty sure that's a shot at Gareth Edwards who went from the tiny-budgeted Monsters to massive studio movies Godzilla and Rogue One, the latter faced with creative hurdles and costly reshoots. I guess Scott had nothing to say about The Last Jedi which ran smoothly under the guidance of Rian Johnson in his first huge movie. Personally, I think Scott's been doing generic work behind the camera for years, and having him on a Star Wars movie would be like having Ron Howard. Oh wait, we already have that, don't we?

The full interview is interesting if you want to get a full sense of the size of Scott's ego. He also talks about Blade Runner 2049 and why it doesn't work ("Too fucking long"), and teases another film that he was asked to replace a director on this year. It's pretty obvious which one he's talking about, but you can figure it out for yourself.

Loki Faces Doctor Strange In Marvel Funko's Latest Short, "Time To Unwind"

We may never get to see Doctor Strange face off against Loki on the big screen, but that's perfectly okay! Why? Because Funko and Marvel have decided to make that fight a reality in their latest Pop! short film, titled "Time to Unwind."

The brief short features a Funko-ized version of Loki sneaking into the Sanctum Sanctorum to steal the Eye of Agamotto, only to be confronted by Doctor Strange's Cloak of Levitation.  This is what happens when you dare to interrupt Strange in the middle of his studies.

Loki is a popular choice for Marvel and Funko's movies. He also faced off against Thor in "Mjolnir Mischief" last month, right around the release of Thor: Ragnarok. Other movies include "Cosmic Sleigh Ride" featuring Star-Lord, "Bait N Switch" with Rocket, Groot, and The Collector, and "Chimichangas" with Deadpool and a hungry Venom. You can check those out below, as well!

Mark Hamill Now Regrets His Public Criticism Of 'The Last Jedi'

Mark Hamill has been quite vocal in his criticism for Rian Johnson's handling of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Specifically he has a bone to pick with the idea that Luke would ever "give up" on anything, and isolate himself in the farthest corner of the galaxy. In an interview with Vanity Fair he says he told Johnson, "I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character," while in another he said he had to think of Luke as a different character altogether. Keep in mind, Hamill has also praised Johnson for being "the exact man" needed to tell that story.

Now Hamill is having some regrets over voicing his dissatisfaction so publicly, and took to Twitter to clear the air...

I think that was pretty big of him to do. It was disturbing to me to see Hamill going around bashing the film just because it didn't do what he would have done, and his criticisms sounded a lot like the fans' who have been upset at the direction. But Star Wars desperately needed to change, and Luke Skywalker, after all of these years, needed to be someone different from the character we last saw in Return of the Jedi.


'Paddington 2' Trailer: Hugh Grant Gets Paddington Locked Up

I don't know how many Americans go scouring the aisles looking for marmalade, but if Paddington is around the store is probably cleaned out already.  The internationally  beloved bear stilll loves the sweet, sticky stuff in Paddington 2, the sequel to 2015's charming hit.

Ben Whishaw once again provides the voice of Paddington, who works his furry butt off to buy an expensive antique book for his Aunt Lucy, only to see it stolen by a former actor-turned-thief played by Hugh Grant. To make matters worse, Paddington is falsely convicted of the crime and thrown in prison, where he concocts an Escape Plan with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

That last part may or may not be true.

Paul King is back to direct with Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Brendan Gleeson, Imelda Staunton, and Michael Gambon co-starring.  Paddington 2 opens January 12th 2018.

Punch Drunk DVDs: 'Flatliners (2017)', 'Brawl in Cell Block 99', 'The Mountain Between Us', And More!


Ellen Page and Diego Luna star in this update on the 90’s sci-fi hit as med students determinded to embark on a dangerous experiment. In an attempt to gain understanding of what happens after death, the students team up to temorarily stop each others hearts and record what they remember. Soon, the friends become addicted to the dangerous game of “flatlining” and the powers it can unlock within their minds. Unfortunatley, not all of these beyond-life visions are as positive as they had hoped, as their flatlining begins to harbor fatal results.

We Said: “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

A throw back to the gritty, blood-soaked exploitation films of the 70’s, Brawl in Cell Block 99 is pure grindhouse brilliance. With his life hitting an all time low, a former boxer/drug muel (Vince Vaughn) fids himself behind bars. Through a combination of favors and threats, he’s forced to instigate violent riots, turning the prison into an all out battleground.

We Said: “With a funky '70s-inspired soundtrack, perfectly grubby visuals, and dialogue that's as tough as shoe leather, [Director S. Craig] Zahler once again transports us into B-movie heaven, just as his grizzly debut Bone Tomahawk did. After two hours of watching Vaughn slaughterhouse his enemies, Brawl in Cell Block 99 still hadn't overstayed its welcome. So let me just request it now: Brawl in Cell Block 100. Make it happen!” Rating: 4 out of 5

Based on the best selling novel of the same name, The Mountain Between Us stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as a pair of strangers left stranded in the snowy wilderness after their plane suddenly crashes. With nothing but the strength of each other to keep them alive, the couple grows closer as the conditions grow rougher.

We Said: “While it's hardly going to win any awards or anything, The Mountain Between Us is the definition of a date night movie, and couples that check it out will leave satisfied.” Rating: 3 out of 5

'Den Of Thieves' Trailer: Gerard Butler Is A Cop On The Edge

I was mildly impressed by the previous trailer for Den of Thieves, a heist thriller that looked like a modern day remake of Heat. Now, nobody in their right mind thinks this will live up to that standard with Gerard Butler chewing scenery alongside 50 Cent, but for an early year flick it might not be half bad.

Marking the directorial debut of screenwriter Christian Gudegast (London Has Fallen), the film finds a team of bank robbers looking to pull off the perfect heist, with Butler as an LAPD cop on the edge looking to take them down. If you guessed the lines between criminal and cop start to get blurry as the action escalates, then you've also seen too many of these movies.  O'Shea Jackson Jr., Pablo Schreiber, Evan Jones, and Brian Van Holt co-star. Here's the synopsis:

A Los Angeles crime saga in the vein of “Heat”, DEN OF THIEVES follows the intersecting and often personally connected lives of an elite unit of the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. and the state’s most successful bank robbery crew as the outlaws plan a seemingly impossible heist on the Federal Reserve Bank of downtown Los Angeles.

Den of Thieves opens January 19th 2018.

20 Great Overlooked Films Of 2017

Whoa, this was a tough list to put together. The explosion of distribution outlets has made more movies available to us, which is a definite plus, but it's also become easier for some great films to get overlooked. I love putting this together each year because it reinforces my belief that there are no bad years for film. There may be some years with a few more disappointments, but if you can't find two or three surprises for every one that sucks then you aren't looking hard enough.

As usual there is a healthy mix of indies that may not have found an audience, some that had really crappy marketing, and a few mainstream flicks that didn't get the credit they deserved. Y'know, like how last year I had Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping because you all didn't go see it? Yeah, well this year you get the criminally under-seen Battle of the Sexes. Shame on you.

The criteria I use is simple: If I felt a movie didn't get the attention it deserved, up it goes. I also won't include any movies that will be on my Best Movies of the Year roundup, so you won't see a few things everybody already knows I love. If you ask me about Columbus I will kick you, then forward my "Best of 2017" post to you every day for a week.  This year I struggled to whittle down from about 50 movies and each one I dropped was like asking me to give up one of my Pop! Vinyls. These are my children!!!

Anyway, check it out below, click on the links for reviews when applicable, and follow all of our end of the year coverage here! More to come this week!

Colossal (review)
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell

Ingrid Goest West
Director: Matt Spicer
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, Pom Klementieff

Director: Margaret Betts
Cast: Margaret Qualley, Melissa Leo, Dianna Agron, Julianne Nicholson

Happy Death Day
Director: Christopher B. Landon
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard

Battle of the Sexes (review)
Directors: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Andrea Riseborough, Bill Pullman

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (review)
Director: S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Udo Kier

Thirst Street (review)
Director: Nathan Silver
Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Damien Bonnard, Esther Garrel

Headshot (review)
Director: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Cast: Iko Uwais, Chelsea Islan

Bushwick (review)
Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Cast: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista

Pilgrimage (review)
Director: Brendan Muldowney
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Tom Holland, Richard Armitage

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (review)
Director: Macon Blair
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Jane Levy

Logan Lucky (review)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig

The Wall (review)
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena

Patti Cake$ (review)
Director: Geremy Jasper
Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty

The Lost City of Z (review)
Director: James Gray
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland

Free Fire (review)
Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor, Michael Smiley

After the Storm (review)
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Taiyô Yoshizawa, Kirin Kiki

The Girl with All the Gifts (review)
Director: Colm McCarthy
Cast: Sennia Nanua, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close

Newness (review)
Director: Drake Doremus
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Laia Costa, Danny Huston, Matthew Gray Gubler, Courtney Eaton, Pom Klementieff, Jessica Henwick

A United Kingdom (review)
Director: Amma Asante
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike


Review: 'Molly's Game', Jessica Chastain Deals Herself A Winning Hand

Aaron Sorkin loves a story about those willing to challenge the system. Of course, they're usually men, deeply troubled, unconventionally brilliant gents who wear their hearts on their sleeves and are never more than a second or two away from a quick-witted quip. We've seen Sorkin detail the stories of men who have challenged everything from Major League Baseball (Moneyball), to the news media (The Newsroom), to the Internet (The Social Network), but for his first time behind the camera his attention has turned towards a woman, his first time really giving voice to a female lead character. Despite that, Molly's Game falls squarely into Sorkin's wheelhouse, his dialogue razor sharp as ever, even when his inexperience shows he has room to grow as a director.

Doubtful you'll be thinking about Sorkin's directorial fingerprint too much, though, because Jessica Chastain is captivating as the real-life Molly Bloom. A highly-intelligent Olympic level skier, the film opens in flashback as her shot at gold goes bust over an ugly freak accident. To Molly, airing her thoughts on ever-present voiceover, the moment was totally random and has nothing to do with her future fall from grace. Okay yeah, sure, you keep thinking that.

Cut to the present and Molly still hasn't really picked up the pieces; rather than going to law school like everyone expects, she's nickel and diming rich scumbags at sleazy bars, serving drinks and acting as assistant to Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), a Hollywood-adjacent with a Rolodex full of wealthy, famous friends who come to his crib for a weekly poker match. There, Molly begins to find her niche. She knows nothing about poker, but she knows people, and soon she's got the room figured out. While helping Dean run the game she quietly begins to build her own power base from the players within it, starting with the mysterious Hollywood actor Player X (Michael Cera), who readily admits “I’m not here to win, I’m here to destroy lives”.

She's definitely swimming in some shark infested waters, so when Dean eventually moves to assert his authority over her, Molly strikes out on her own, taking his clients along with her. It's like the poker version of Tom Cruise's walkout scene in Jerry Maguire, only not really because there's a lot more money at stake. Molly classes up the games considerably, makes them more exclusive, raises the stakes, and soon she's got the hottest game in town. Her combination of hands-off sex appeal, commanding authority, and shrewd people skills make Molly the queen ruling over her own little poker empire. But of course, a bunch of power-hungry dudes are the ones to send it all tumbling down, and before long Molly is in the crosshairs of the FBI on a racketeering charge. That's what happens when some of your clientele are Russian mobsters.

So what Sorkin wants us to ponder is why this woman, who has excelled at everything and has a bright future ahead doing whatever she wants, decided to cater to degenerates and criminals. Was it just for the money? The fame? Is she a bad person or just someone who made a few mistakes? Sorkin teases out the answer in a series of scenes with Molly and her new lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who is perplexed by that question, too. Molly isn't forthcoming with an answer, though, not until it's convenient as a story-telling device. Sorkin may have banked a little too much on that mystery's appeal, though. We already know Molly isn't terrible and taking advantage of people the way Player X and other men in her life do. We see who she really is through her interactions with the number of colorful supporting characters Sorkin brings to life. It's something Sorkin has always had a knack for and Molly's Game is no different; Chris O'Dowd as the worrisome drunken Irishman who thinks he's in love with Molly (most of the men think they love her), or Bill Camp as the veteran cardsharp who goes into an unexpected tailspin, or Brian d'Arcy James as a hedge fund manager and perpetual loser. All of these characters add color to what becomes stale and repetitive after a while. Even with Sorkin's machine gun dialogue zipping by there's a decided lack of forward momentum, especially for a movie clocking in at well over two hours. Sorkin seems to be trying to do a little too much, combining courtroom thriller, rags-to-riches story, and family drama with the arrival of Molly's demanding father, played by Kevin Costner. While we can't expect him to be Danny Boyle, David Fincher, or even Bennett Miller, Sorkin is clearly still finding his directorial style. He uses plenty of quick transitions and cool edits but they don't always feel organic, like he was aping the style of directors he's worked with in the past. I suspect in the future we'll see Sorkin define his technique more sharply.

This isn't necessarily a movie about poker. Moneyball wasn't about baseball and Steve Jobs wasn't about IPods, either.  It's about gambling, yes, but not by anybody sitting at the table. It's a character study of a fearless woman who dared to strike out on her own and faced the full power of male anger, not to mention the U.S. government, against her for doing that. Molly's Game is in top form when the focus can be narrowed to her fight against the male-dominated establishment, and how she learned to always deal herself a winning hand.

Rating: 3 out of 5