Monday, March 18, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD March 19, 2019 "Mary Poppins Returns" and "Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse"

Mary Poppins Returns
Starring: Emily Blunt and Lin-Manual Miranda

Rated PG   

Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael's children through a difficult time in their lives.

Mary Poppins Returns” is a film audiences want to like. But when compared to the original 1964 film, the new sequel is out of its league.

At it's heart “Mary Poppins” and “Mary Poppins Returns” are musicals. But the musical score in “Mary Poppins Returns” is unmemorable at best.

Compare the new score to the original's score which included “Jolly Holiday,” “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Feed the Birds,” Chim Chim Cheree” and “Let's Go Fly a Kite,” all songs the audiences were humming as they left the movie theater in 1964.

The new film really lacks that big blockbuster song.

Also gone in “Mary Poppins Returns” is a sense of childhood whimsy and fun, as the new film is laden with sorrow in the first few moments of the movie.

Although Emily Blunt takes on the iconic role in earnest, her Mary Poppins is written to languish in the background, smiling and knowingly nod. She is hardly the protagonist we remember.

Lin-Manual Miranda plays 'Jack,' a new character taking the place of Dick van Dyke's 'Bert,' but again the character seems to be only added in to provide some songs here and there.
Mary Poppins Returns” is not unlikeable, but is is unremarkable.

It gets a C and is rated PG.

Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse
Starring the voices of: Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld
Rated PG   

Miles Morales becomes the Spider-Man of his reality and crosses paths with his counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat to all reality.

One of the few surprises in film last year, “Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse” is a white knuckle, action adventure film that will rivet you to your seat from beginning to end.

Along with a compelling and well thought out story, “Spider-Verse” is stunningly animated with amazing detail and is brilliantly presented.

For those reasons it brought home an Oscar for best animated feature.

It deserves an A and is rated PG.

Monday, March 11, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD March12, 2019 "Mortal Engines," "Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindlewald" and "The Green Book"

Mortal Engines
Starring: Hugo Weaving and Hera Hilmar
Rated PG-13   

In a post-apocalyptic world where cities ride on wheels and consume each other to survive, two people meet in London and try to stop a conspiracy.

“Mortal Engines” is a let down.

Although the special effects are rather good, the film borrows so heavily from the “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” that it should have been made part of the franchise.

I won't go into details about what is stolen and all, but shame on Peter Jackson for hyping this as something original and then bringing us a weak photocopy of an original work.

I am surprised there aren't lawsuits being bandied about over this obvious imitation.

Because I expected more from Jackson, “Mortal Engines” gets a D. It's rated PG-13.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp and Jude Law
Rated PG-13  

The sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” takes a darker turn as the maleficent Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, begins his plot to take over both the Wizarding World and the muggle world.

The Crimes of Grindelwald” is an ridiculously complicated film with too many sub-plots and unnecessary characters to really keep track of.

Most of the sub-plots in the movie really don't amount to much and are tacked on to give the film some diversion. But these subplots simply are meaningless and time consuming.

The main plot of the movie is the private war between the evil Grindelwald and a younger Dumbledore, played by Jude Law.

This war has almost nothing to do with Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne and his gang from the first film.

In fact, I can not really see a reason for Redmayne to be in this film at all, except to provide a bridge from the first film to the second.

The film does offer some solid special effects, but those effects are hindered by chophouse editing and uneven pacing.

In the end, “Fantastic Beasts 2” is an overindulged excessive film that makes its audience work to hard for a lackluster resolution.

The film gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Green Book
Starring: Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali
Rated PG-13   

A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

As the two begin see life though each other's eyes, they begin to form a deep friendship.

"Green Book" is a satisfying buddy picture with outstanding performances by the leads. The film's stars, Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali, counterbalance themselves perfectly.

And, although each performance has a rhythm of its own, the two  manage to create a syncopation that is memorable and touching.

At the 2019 Academy Awards "Green Book" took home 5 Oscars in all, including one for Best Picture and a Best Supporting Actor statue for Mahershala Ali.

"Green Book" is not without its imperfections, but it manages to use its flaws to its best advantage.

The film gets an A and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

New in Theaters March 8, 2019 "Captain Marvel"

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.

Monday, March 4, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD March 5, 2019 "Creed II," "The Favourite" and "Instant Family"

Creed II
Starring: Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone
Rated PG-13  

Adonis Creed, trained by Rocky Balboa, is now the heavyweight champion of the world and is challenged by Viktor Drago, the son of the boxer who killed is father in 1985.

“Creed II” is a better-than-expected sequel, but has its roots in the film “Rocky IV.” Although, the film has some great action scenes, it is a bit too manipulative by stacking so much emotional weight on its lead character.

However, it is exactly what audiences will expect and follows through on its promise to entertain.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

The Favourite
Starring: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Coleman
Rated R   

In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.

"The Favourite" is an intriguing and well-woven tapestry of deceit, politics and greed as the queen's right hand, Lady Sara, played by Rachel Weisz, is slowly usurped by the queen's new interest, Abagail, played by Emma Stone.

This dark comedy may be too dark for some, as it is paced much too slowly for most audiences.

However, if you can get into the rhythm of the film early enough, this is a very rewarding movie to experience. Add in the wonderfully understated performances by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz against Oscar-winner Olivia Coleman's eccentric 'Queen Anne,' and the end result is a film well worth seeing.

"The Favourite" gets a B and is rated R 

Instant Family
Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne
Rated PG-13  

Based on the true story of writer / director Sean Anders, a couple adopt 3 children and must navigate the highs and lows of parenthood.

“Instant Family” on the outset seems like another run-of-the-mill saccharine family comedy, but you'll be pleasantly surprised if you give this film a chance.

I found the film to be both touching, funny and well paced with good performances by Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne as the couple in the center of the parenthood storm.

Although there are some problems with the script, including some long adoption sermons told by the adoption agent played by Olivia Spencer, the film stays its course and ends up being worth the ticket price in.

“Instant Family” gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

New in Theaters February 22, 2019 "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World"

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Starring the Voices of: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett and Gerard Butler
Rated PG   
In this, the 3rd and presumably last chapter in the series, Hiccup discovers Toothless isn't the only Night Fury, and must find "The Hidden World.” where these rare dragons live.

“How to Train Your Dragon 3” offers up a genuinely sensitive and emotional ending to the franchise.

The film explores the depths of friendship, family and love and does it in a very mature and engrossing way.

The animation is crisp and action-filled with a solid and well thought out ending, making this sequel well worth seeing.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a touching and heartfelt film.

It gets an A and is rated PG.

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.