Monday, June 17, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD June 18, 2019 "Us" and "Wonder Park"

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke
Rated R   

A family's vacation is interrupted when a group of look-a-likes terrorize them.

“Us” is director Jordan Peele's second foray into the horror genre. His previous film, “Get Out,” was a bonafide masterpiece and obviously there was a lot of pressure, either self imposed or fan based, to repeat that success.

Unfortunately lightning doesn't always strike twice in the same place, and the result is the film “Us” simply is not on a par with his first film.

That being said, “Us” is a thriller and a creepy movie audiences will ultimately enjoy, but it lacks an empathetic connection with the audience as the film unfolds. “Us” tries to create a foreboding atmosphere with a lot of night scenes and dark places, but comes off desperate, gratuitous and pandering.

Lupita Nyong'o's performance is the best thing about the film. But even as devoted as she is to her character, she cannot save the film from a confusing and over-produced script. 

In the end, “Us” suffers from its own excesses and leaves us with a run of the mill 'slasher' film instead of the white knuckle ride we expected.

It gets a C and is rated R.

Wonder Park
Starring the Voices of: Sofia Mali and Jennifer Garner
Rated PG   

A young girl uses her imagination to fuel her dreams and hopes.

"Wonder Park" is a kid's film with a fairly good message about the importance of imagination, creativity and self worth. That lesson is told through colorful and exuberant animation, a terrific script and score and characters children can identify with.

Over all, "Wonder Park" is a great way to introduce a young child to the movies and have a terrific time there yourself.

It gets a B and is rated PG.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

New in Theaters June 14, 2019 "The Dead Don't Die," "Men in Black: International" and "Shaft"

The Dead Don't Die
Starring: Bill Murray and Adam Driver
Rated R   

A small town becomes a battleground as the undead begin rising from their graves.

“The Dead Don't Die” could have been the next “Shawn of the Dead,” but the film lacked energy and any comedic spark that would have given the audience their money's worth, especially with the talents of Bill Murray and Adam Driver in the lead roles.

Unlike the zombies in the film, “The Dead Don't Die” dies 30 minutes in and stays dead.

Pass it by! It gets a D and rated R.

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree
Rated R   

In this multi-generational action / comedy, Samuel L. Jackson plays John Shaft Jr., the son of the infamous hard-as-nails cop played by Richard Roundtree. When Shaft's son, John Shaft the 3rd's best friend is murdered, all three jump into the fray.

“Shaft” offers up a nice buffet of fast-paced 80's style action, blood pumping soundtrack and rapid fire humor to give the film its style and pace.

“Shaft” gets a B and is rated R.

Men in Black: International
Starring: Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson
Rated PG-13

When a double agent infiltrates the headquarters of 'The Men in Black,' 2 agents pull out all stops to save the planet and their jobs.

“Men in Black: International” is another in a long line of disappointing sequels relying on past successes to sell tickets.

From it's poorly conceived ping-pong plot and wooden acting to it's over produced CGI “MIB 4” will have you anything but entertained.

The film offered up a very few and scattered humorous moments but not enough to save the film from its own overindulgence.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13.

Monday, June 10, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD June 11, 2019 "Captive State" and "5 Feet Apart"

Captive State
Starring: John Goodman and Vera Farmiga
Rated PG-13     

Set in a Chicago neighborhood nearly a decade after an occupation by an extra-terrestrial force, “Captive State” explores the lives on both sides of the conflict - the collaborators and dissidents.

“Captive State,” I believe was intended as a metaphor for being controlled by one's government and handing over the reins of freedom to the authorities. But the film ends up a confusing mess with John Goodman and Vera Farmiga being both the stars of the film and bit players at the same time.

The movie ultimately suffers from taking a arm's length approach to the story and eventually ends up pushing the audience away completely.

“Captive State,” which was released in mid-March, only managed to make about 8 million dollars worldwide, so audiences felt detached from the story and showed it with their pocketbooks.

In the end wait for this film to be put in the discount rack at Walmart before buying it.

It gets an F and is rated PG-13.

Five Feet Apart
Starring: Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse
Rated PG-13   
Two teens battling a life-threatening illness meet and fall in love in a hospital.

Using Cystic Fibroses as a backdrop to the story, “Five feet Apart” is aimed directly at the 'Kleenex Crowd.'

A made for TV movie which somehow got to the big screen, “Five Feet Apart” is virtually a 'how to make a teen movie' manual as it weaves its predictable tale over the film's nearly 2 hour runtime.

The formula includes these plot points:

Boy meets girl, girl doesn't like boy, girl warms up to boy, boy shows his softer side, girl teaches boy how to love, boy and girl somehow become distant, surprise twist ending that we all see coming.

The movie pulls at your heartstrings so much you'd think it was Quasimodo ringing the bell tower at Notre Dame. Simply put, the producers are trying a wee bit too hard to make the audience feel empathy for the main characters. But what is missing from the film is honesty.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

New in Theaters June 8, 2019 "The Secret Life of Pets 2," "Late Night" and "Dark Phoenix"

The Secret Life of Pets 2
Starring the voices of: Patton Oswald and Kevin Hart
Rated PG   
Continuing the story of Max and his friends, Max now must contend with a baby in the house.

“The Secret Life of Pets 2” is a loose sequel with a less than stellar script following 3 pets in 3 different storylines with 2 of those storylines feeling tacked on and meaningless.

There are a couple of funny moments in the film, but nothing to take it out of the ordinary and into the memorable.

“The Secret Life of Pets 2” is a bland and boring children's film.

It gets a D and is rated PG.

Late Night
Starring: Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling
Rated R    

In the land of TV talk shows, a long-running TV host suspects she's getting cancelled and hires a new comedy writer to perk up her show.

“Late Night” is another in a long line of 'behind-the-scenes' comedies that poke fun at show business. In this case a newbie writer is hired and low and behold her honesty and humble nature begin to work wonders.

“Late Night” is a formula film that simply is too scared to venture into any new ground. The film offers nothing but stereotypical characters such as, the stern, grouchy boss, the sniveling writing staff and the young newcomer whose common sense inevitably saves the day.

After all is said and done “Late Night” is a throwback film way past its expiration date.

It gets a D and is rated R.

Dark Phoenix
Starring: Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy
Rated PG-13    

During a mission something goes wrong and mutant Jean Grey finds her powers increasing and corrupting her. Can the X-Men stop the most powerful mutant in the universe?

“Dark Phoenix” is the last of the X-Men films made under the 20th Century Fox banner as Disney bought the rights to the franchise when they purchased Fox.

The film offers better acting and special effects than the last couple of films, exuding “Logan,” but the film also lacks a sense of continuity and is rife with plot holes, unanswered questions and time filler subplots.

The biggest problem with the film is that with all it had going for it, including its pedigree, acting ensemble, special effects and soundtrack, it still managed not to be engaging for the audience.

In the end, “Dark Phoenix” is a simply miss that should have been a hit.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13.

Monday, June 3, 2019

New on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Stream June 4, 2019 "Captain Marvel," "A Madea Family Funeral" and "Gloria Bell"

A Madea Family Funeral
Starring: Tyler Perry and Cassi Davis
Rated PG-13   
The family gathers for a funeral in small-town Georgia but nothing goes as planned.

“A Madea Family Funeral” is basically another wig comedy that rehashes the jokes found in all the other Madea films, except told without any enthusiasm or timing.

You might get a chuckle here and there, but mostly the film's gags just fall flat.

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

Gloria Bell
Starring: Julianne Moore and Sean Astin

Rated R    

A free spirited woman in her 50's tries to fight her loneliness by visiting dance clubs in LA.

“Gloria Bell” is a movie desperately trying to find itself, but dismally failing at every turn. The film is lifeless, flat and uninspired remake of the 2014 Chilean film of the same name.

Both Julianne Moore and Sean Astin are completely lost in this bland, emotionless and one-note film.

“Gloria Bell” should come with a warning that it causes drowsiness and excessive boredom.

It gets an F and is rated R.

Captain Marvel
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg
Rated PG-13   

In the film, Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races. But Danvers must first come to terms with her past.

Although “Captain Marvel” is an 'origin story,' it could have been so much better if the plot were not muddled down by a lackluster and slow to boil script.

The film becomes incoherent and confusing, making the audience work too hard to extract some sense to it all.

If you're a big Marvel Universe fan, the film will resonate with you on a few levels, but the movie really just falls short of action film expectations. This is because the script kept adding too many subplots to the mix, weighing the the film down.

Brie Larson is actually the best thing about “Captain Marvel.” Her performance is heartfelt and well played. But that's like being chosen to be valedictorian for summer school, as “Captain Marvel” has so many script and plot problems piled against it.

Samuel L. Jackson offers up a less-hardened and crusty 'Nick Fury,' as we watch his character going back to his beginnings. Jackson makes great use of his screen time.

In the end, “Captain Marvel” doesn't feel like a Marvel movie, but rather an attempt at making a Marvel Movie.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

New in Theaters May 31, 2019 "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" and "Rocketman"

Starring: Taron Egerton and Jamie Bell
Rated R   

A musical fantasy based on the life and times of Elton John.

“Rocketman” is not trying to be a traditionally presented, sanitized biopic like “Bohemian Rhapsody” was. In fact if you're looking for another “Bohemian Rhapsody,” you won't find it here.

What “Rocketman” is, is a performance piece highlighting the early days of Elton John's career and the obstacles he overcame to become one of the greatest performers in the world.

The film doesn't pull any punches when discussing Elton John's drug addictions, his relationships and his sexuality.

Taron Egerton does a terrific job in presenting us with a very human and flawed character. Egerton also does a wonderful job in performing Elton John's songs.

Despite a few moments in the film that seem forced and tacked on, “Rocketman” is a film well worth experiencing. It gets a B and is rated R.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Starring: Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler
Rated PG-13   

The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed Monster Zero.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is simply a throwback to the Saturday afternoon movies I went to as a kid to watch a variety of monsters battle it out.

Despite the plot being slightly confusing and some loose ends aren't tied up, the film is exactly what it should be... a high octane, cheesy monster bash with some great special effects.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

New in Theaters May 24, 2019 "Brightburn," "Booksmart" and "Aladdin"

Starring: Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein
Rated R   
On the eve of their graduation two high school over achievers realize they should have studied less and partied more.

“Booksmart” is a buddy party comedy. But, unfortunately this party never happens for the audience as the main characters are not engaging enough for the viewer to want to follow on this adventure.

“Booksmart” is guilty of force feeding the audience tired and worn out jokes, one-liners and sight gags backed up by terrible and lackluster performances.

In the end “Booksmart” doesn't graduate and deserves to e left behind.

It gets a D and is rated R.

Starring: Elizabeth Banks and Jackson A. Dunn
Rated R   

What if the 'Superman' story was twisted so that the superhero was more super evil?

That's the premise behind the new film “Brightburn” as we watch a troubled and bullied boy begin to realize that he has abilities beyond mortal humans.

The film is a complete and wonderfully shocking surprise and so well done, it will end up as the best horror / thriller of the year.

If you're into white knuckle rides, “Brightburn” is exactly for you.

It gets an A and is rated R.

Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott
Rated PG   

Disney's live action version of their 1992 Oscar award-winning animated film.

After not being too impressed with the release, earlier this year, of “Dumbo,” Disney bounced back with this sure-fire, audience pleasing hit under the direction of Guy Ritchie.

“Aladdin” is simply magical and grants the viewer its wish to be entertained. Of course there will be comparisons to the animated film, and that's ok. But this revisit has it's own pace and heart.

Will Smith and the main cast are spot-on and offer up exuberant performances with spectacular special effects and a wonderful score by Disney alum Alan Menken.

All in all, “Aladdin” is excellent. It gets an A and is rated PG.