Monday, February 18, 2019

New on Blu-ray and DVD February 19, 2019 "Robin Hood" and "A Star is Born"

Robin Hood
Starring Taron Egerton and Jamie Fox
Rated PG-13  

In this retelling of the famous English legend, Robin of Loxley goes from Old English playboy to a battle-hardened sniper during the Crusades. Upon seeing the grimness of war, he is changed.

There is a difference in retelling and reinventing. This “Robin Hood” reinvents the legend but without justifying the changes to the story. Most likely a group of producers sat around a table and started by saying “wouldn't it be cool...”

Wouldn't it be cool if Robin Hood was a rich spoiled brat who got drafted to fight in the Crusades?

Wouldn't it be cool if there was a rifle that could shoot 30 rounds of arrows a second?
Wouldn't it be cool if Robin teamed up with another war-weary soldier, who was once his enemy?
Wouldn't it be cool if Maid Marian was an outspoken voice against social injustice?

Someone needed to say “No. It wouldn't be.”

What “Robin Hood” is a miserable mixture of strung together scenes looking for social relevance, scenes of battle with bows and arrows are shot as if we're watching a Gulf War movie, scenes with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) are melodramatic and over acted. And scenes with Marian insulting the Sheriff to his face and going unpunished. Especially when its established he can end someone's life with a finger snap.

Because of those terrible decisions, “Robin Hood” is a ridiculous film so poorly written it is unintentionally funny.

Pass it by. It gets a D and is rated PG-13.

A Star is Born
Starring: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Rated R   

This is the 4th version of “A Star is Born,” the previous incarnations were in 1937, 1954 and 1976. 

This time Bradley Cooper directs and stars along side Lady Gaga in the story of an aging and alcoholic musician who falls in love with a young up and coming singer.

Both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga turn in terrific performances, with Lady Gaga offering up a beautifully sensitive and understated performance as “Ally,” the young ingenue rising up from innocence to jaded pop star.

Bradley Cooper as 'Jackson Maine,' the burnt out rock star, takes us on the opposite journey as he descends into the dark abyss of self loathing and booze.

“A Star is Born” offers up a terrific soundtrack and score well worth buying a ticket for.

But with all that going for it, the film had its problems. It was too heavy-handed in its approach, too quick to have the main characters fall in love and really needed an ending that wasn't so manipulative.

For its musical performances, “A Star is Born” gets a B and is rated R.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New in theaters February 15, 2019 "Isn't it Romantic," "Alita: Battle Angel" and "Happy Death Day 2U"

Happy Death Day 2 U
Starring: Jessica Rothe
Rated PG-13   

The sequel to the 2017 film has our heroine going back through the never ending time loop, dying over and over again.

“Happy Death Day 2 U” is a satisfying, well written and acted sequel. The film's charm is that it doesn't take itself seriously and the audience is led on a wild and fun ride.

“Happy Death Day 2 U” simply works as a funny thriller.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Alita: Battle Angel
Starring: Rosa Salazar and Christoph Waltz
Rated PG-13   

When a deactivated female cyborg is revived, she begins a quest to find out who she is.

“Alita: Battle Angel” is about as technically perfect as a CGI film could be. The effects are brilliantly executed and is a feast for the eyes, especially in a large screen format and in 3D.

The plot is a rehash of several sci-fi stories we've seen centering on an artificial life-form trying to find their humanity. Films like “A.I.,” “Chappie,” “Bicentennial Man,” and “I, Robot”, to name only a few, all touch on this subject.

“Alita: Battle Angel” is just wrapped in a much better and newer package.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Isn't It Romantic
Starring: Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth
Rated PG-13   

After a bump on the head, a disenchanted and sarcastic woman finds she is trapped inside a romantic comedy.

“Isn't it Romanic” is a wonderfully presented satire on 'chick flicks' and sticks its tongue out at the 'rom-com formula,' all the while using that same formula to move the film forward.

This is a silly and enjoyable romantic romp movie inside a silly and enjoyable romantic romp movie.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Monday, February 11, 2019

New on DVD and Blu-ray February 12, 2019 "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Widows"

Starring: Viola Davis, Liam Neeson and Michelle Rodriguez
Rated R   

Four women whose husbands died in a robbery attempt decide to go on a crime spree of their own.

“Widows” had all the makings of a top-notch heist film. It had a stellar cast and a tried and true director with a story based on the British TV series from 1983.

With all that going for it, the film became a clumsy, oddly paced and over-written mess with little substance for the audience to hang on to.
In the end, “Widows” never came to a boil, leaving the viewer with an incomplete and frustrating mess.

It gets a D and is rated R.

Bohemian Rhapsody
Starring: Rami Malek and Lucy Boynton
Rated PG-13   

The film spotlights the events that took place in singer Freddie Mercury's life which led him and his fellow band members to create “QUEEN.”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is certainly one of the best pictures of the year. The film takes on the journey that Freddie Mercury traveled (although beefed up a bit with writing) as he becomes one of the most influential voices in music.

Rami Malek is absolutely on point as the iconic singer, whose troubled past and identity issues combine to force him into the spotlight and center stage.

The scenes of QUEEN performing are so well staged you'd believe you were in the 70's and 80's watching their rise. Each new venue steps up the momentum until the film explodes at the 1985 Live Aid concert, at which QUEEN made their comeback performance.

Finally “Bohemian Rhapsody” has, arguably, the best soundtrack so far this year.

Go see it. It will rock you. It's gets an A and is rated PG-13.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

New in Theaters Friday February 8, 2019 "What Men Want" and "The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part"

What Men Want
Starring: Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan
Rated R   

In the film a female sports agent, finding it tough to compete in the male-dominated career, suddenly gains the ability to read men's minds.

Of course, “What Men Want” is a re-do of the 2000 film “What Women Want,” starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.

In this updated version, we find Taraji P. Henson is given the ability to listen to men's thoughts and trying to navigate through the battle of the sexes.

The problem with “What Men Want” is that it's simply not a very funny film. The movie is too agenda-laden with a lot of male-bashing and loaded with less than likable characters, making the film too heavy at times and ultimately pushing the audience away.

In the end, “What Men Want” just isn't worth the ticket in.

It gets a D and is rated R.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Starring the Vocal Talents of: Chris Pratt, Will Arnett and Elizabeth Banks
Rated PG

5 years after the events in the first film, our heroes have hit hard times where everything isn't quite as awesome as it used to be. 

Now living in an apocalyptic world, a battle begins with aliens from outer space.

“The Lego Movie 2” is 3 years too late. Over the last couple of years, Warner Animation has given us several Lego-based films in that time span and now the franchise is suffering from over-exposure and tired writing.

Had this film been released 3 years ago, I think it would have been received much better and would have been a perceived as a 'crisper' satire rather than what it is, an average kid's film with no teeth.

In the end, “The Lego Movie 2” feels desperate and forced.

It gets a C and is rated PG.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

New on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy January 5, 2019 "The Girl in the Spider's Web," "The Grinch" and "The Sisters Brothers"

The Grinch
Starring the voices of: Benedict Cumberbatch and Rashida Jones
Rated PG   

Another version of the Dr. Seuss story of the Grinch, who hates Christmas and does everything in his power to stop it from coming to Whoville.

“The Grinch” is an updated animated telling of the story that probably should have been flushed out a little more.

I understand the need to update stories and retell them, but the producers decided to completely rewrite the story and in that process it lost the magic it's predecessors maintained.

The Grinch is still a jerk, but he's not quite the bad guy he needs to be to make the transition at the end of the story. Cindi Lou Who is played more as a street-wise child lacking the purity and innocence that was needed as a catalyst for the Grinch's change.

Without those two ingredients, the story simply loses its wonder and falls flat.

I think little kids will like the animation, but I do not think this version of the Dr. Seuss classic will become a Christmas tradition.

It gets a C and is rated PG.

The Sisters Brothers
Starring: John C Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix and Jake Gyllenhaal
Rated R   

In the film Eli and Charlie Sisters are hired guns in 1850's Oregon going after a gold prospector who has run out on a debt.

“The Sisters Brothers” is an eccentric dark comedy, wonderfully acted by the entire cast. Both John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix create characters that are not only watchable, but are empathetic.

“The Sisters Brothers” is a must-see film.

It gets an A and is rated R.

Girl in the Spider's Web
Starring: Claire Foy
Rated R   

Young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught in a web of spies, cybercriminals and corrupt government officials.

The sequel to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl in the Spider's Web” promised a deep and involved crime thriller with a good cast.

But, unfortunately, the sequel could not live up to the first film due to an overly predictable story and a lackluster directing style from Fede Alvarez. The film paces itself as if as if it were ready to sleep.

The script is full of twists and turns that ultimately make the audience feel as if they've missed something because of an inconceivable and ridiculous plot.

The film would have fared better if the producers had simplified everything and opted for characters that were believable and empathetic instead of generic and bland.

In the end, “The Girl in the Spider's Web” just won't hold your interest.

It gets a D and is rated R.

Monday, January 28, 2019

New on Blu-ray and DVD January 29, 2019 "Hunter Killer" and "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms"

Hunter Killer
Starring: Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman
Rated R   

In the film, An untested American submarine captain teams with U.S. Navy Seals to rescue the Russian president, who has been kidnapped by a rogue general.

“Hunter Killer” is a typical action / political thriller, this time its set against the backdrop of the US Navy's nuclear submarine fleet. And that would be ok, if the writers would have made this a remake of “Grey Lady Down” or “The Hunt for Red October.”

But they didn't. They made a another version of “Olympus Has Fallen” or “London Had Fallen” this time the action takes place underwater.

Gerard Butler is the stereotypical “I'd rather be right than follow orders” captain of the nuclear sub. In almost every scene he's defying somebody in charge. Somehow he convinces his Russian counterpart to defy his orders and do what needs to be done.

The real problem with “Hunter Killer” is that it's 2 small confusing movies combined into one. The submarine movie and there's Navy SEALS movie which seems tacked on. The film abruptly switches from one unbelievable plot-point to another, while the audience is saying to themselves “Wait, what?”

By the film's predictable ending, I was asking myself, after all the loss of equipment, life and time... couldn't all of this been avoided with a few phone calls?

“Hunter Killer” gets a D and is rated R.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Starring: Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly and Mackenzie Foy
Rated PG   

Following the footsteps of her mother, a young woman is transported to a magical land consisting of four realms.

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” isn't the jaw-dropping Disney holiday film you might think it is.
The movie offers up a nice return to a land, like Oz, where magic rules, terrifying creatures roam and everyone is waiting to be rescued from an evil female warrior.

The problem with the film is it concentrates far too intensely on the letter of its script and had no room for simple whimsy.

This is a holiday movie and it plays out like a grumpy elf reading “The Night Before Christmas.” All the words are there but the presentation is sterile and detached.

I think the film will resonate here and there with small kids, but this needed to be a Christmas experience for everyone, but the audience just has to work too hard to get through it.

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is a beautiful paining, but after 10 minutes of looking at it, it becomes overly confusing, hard to understand and lacks heart.

It gets a C and is rated PG.

Monday, January 21, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD January 22, 2019 "Goosebumps 2," "Johnny English Strikes Again" and "First Man"

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
Starring: Jack Black and Wendy McLendon-Covey
Rated PG   

In the film, two friends find a book of magic that brings a ventriloquist dummy to life to cause havoc on Halloween.
“Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” is at very first a kid's halloween film. It offers up a lot of silly fun, but the movie lacks the charm and flavor of the first movie, due mostly to the fact that Jack Black doesn't appear until the final scenes of the film.

Black is heard throughout the film as the voice of “Slappy,” the dummy, but his on-screen presence was desperately needed to boost the film up from the mundane.

All in all, “Goosebumps 2” is only OK and will please the younger kids looking for a Halloween treat.

The film gets a C and is rated PG.

Johnny English Strikes Again
Starring: Rowan Atkinson and Emma Thompson
Rated PG   

After a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all of the active undercover agents in Britain, Johnny English is forced to come out of retirement to find the mastermind hacker.

“Johnny English Strikes Again” is a slapstick comedy replete with sloppy accidents and mishaps which will make you laugh here and there.

The problem is this comedy is forced, badly timed, exhaustingly under written and overly foreshadowed.

Rowan Atkinson is doing what he always does and plays the character deadpan as he wreaks havoc on all his unsuspecting bystanders.

Unfortunately we're left with a bland taste and no real memories of the film.

Because there were a few chuckles, “Johnny English 3” barely gets a C and is rated PG.

First Man
Starring: Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy
Rated PG-13   

“First Man” is a dramatic biopic focusing on the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong and his path to be the first man on the moon.

The film is almost a cold read into the life of Neil and Janet Armstrong, as we discover how they deal with the emotional ups and downs of their marriage. All of those issues make for wonderful plot devices, and yet the film has no vibrant colors.

It is a joyless and stark presentation of Neil's Gemini and Apollo missions that ultimately took America to the moon.

Other movies surrounding the space race have approached the subject and have been technically and historically accurate, and yet gave the audience some kind of exhilaration in the process.

Films like “Apollo 13,” “The Right Stuff” and recently “Hidden Figures” have told their stories and yet still connected with the audience.

“First Man” is like attending a lecture on Neil Armstrong.

Even the climax scene of Armstrong stepping onto the moon is un-engaging and dry.

In the end, “First Man” holds it's main character at arm's length making Neil Armstrong as distant as the moon itself.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13