Thursday, November 15, 2018

New in Theaters November 16, 2018 "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" and "Instant Family"

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.

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

In the sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the new story 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 in to give the film some diversion. There's a storyline about finding Credence, a human host for an uncontrollable magic force called an 'Obscurus.' There's a plot about Jacob and Queenie's relationship. And storylines about other incidental characters including Leta and Newt's brother Theseus.

The main plot-line 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.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

New in Theaters November 9, 2018 "The Girl in the Spider's Web" and "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch"

The Girl in the Spider's Web
Starring: Claire Foy and Sylvia Hoeks
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.

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch
Starring the voices of: Benedict Cumberbatch and Pharrell Williams
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.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

New in Theaters November 2, 2018 "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms"

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.

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.

Monday, October 29, 2018

New on Blu-ray and DVD for Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Spy Who Dumped Me
Starring: Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon
Rated R

In this comedy, two best friends are off on a life and death adventure as one of them discovers her ex boyfriend was a spy.

The Spy Who Dumped Me” is a funnier-than-expected comedy romp. The film's basic plot follows 2 women trying follow some rather simple instructions but as they discover, the spy game is not an easy one and they are on the run never knowing who the good guys and bad guys are.

The plot of the film is surprisingly similar to Arthur Hiller's 1987 comedy “Outrageous Fortune,” starring Bette Midler and Shelly Long.

In any case Kate McKinnon steals the show with her slightly over-the-top performance as the aggressively protective Morgan. Although, Mila Kunis is sporadically funny throughout the film, she is out gunned by McKinnon's quirky portrayal.

The Spy Who Dumped Me” is simply a fun diversion flick willing to do anything to get a laugh.

It gets a C and is rated R.

Slender Man
Starring: Joey King and Julia Telles
Rated PG-13   

In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the 'Slender Man,' attempt to prove that he doesn't actually exist - until one of them mysteriously goes missing. 

"Slender Man" is a basically scary film relying mostly on visual effects to carry the script.

That being said, the film does fall into the problem being a bit too predictable in places and not flushing out it's characters.

“Slender Man” gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

New in Theaters October 26, 2018 "Hunter Killer" and "Johnny English Strikes Again"

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.

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.

Monday, October 22, 2018

New on Blu-ray & DVD Tuesday October 23, 2018 "Mama Mia: Here We Go Again"

Mama Mia!: Here We Go Again
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lily James and Cher
Rated PG-13   

While Sophie has just found out she's pregnant, she focuses on her mother Donna's young life during her pregnancy. Like Donna, Sophie realizes the need to take risks.

It's been 10 years since the release of “Mama Mia” in theaters, now comes the sequel which finds Sophie now pregnant and facing her fears.

With the help of her 3 fathers and Donna's best friends, Sophie discovers her mother's journey and her strength.

“Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again” is not a perfect film, but it is an exuberant one. It offers up a celebration of life and the joy of family much to the credit of its cast led by Lily James as young Donna and Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, Donna's daughter.

Underscored with more music from ABBA, the movie is well paced as it follows both our heroines in 2 different time lines, which ultimately come together in a very touching, joyful and emotional way.

“Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again” is well worth seeing and singing along to.

The DVD and Blu-ray are loaded with a ton of special features, extras and a sing-a-long feature!

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

New in Theaters October 19, 2018 "Halloween" and "Beautiful Boy"

Beautiful Boy
Starring: Steve Carell and Timothee' Chalamet
Rated R   

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.

Beautiful Boy” is a confusing film due to it's hectic editing style mixed with jarring flashbacks, which makes nearly impossible to figure out where the story is precisely taking place.

The acting is problematic with Timothee Chalamet playing “Nic,” with an over-the-top performance with no soft edges. Either he is sitting quietly disdaining the world or he's yelling at his family that they don't understand him.

Steve Carell as “David,” Nic's father, for the most part plays it very low-key with almost an arrogant “I understand” attitude. The tow performances are at opposite ends of the scale, and really cancel each other out.

In the end, “Beautiful Boy” never hits its mark and becomes rather ho-hum which pushes the audience away.

It gets a C and is rated R.

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer
Rated R   

Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.

If you're a fan of the original “Halloween” released in 1978, this new addition to the franchise will not disappoint you. The film, under the direction of David Gordon Green, pays attention and even embraces the film's roots.

The film, while paying homage to its original, finds its own modern voice and stands on its own merits.

Jamie Lee Curtis, who starred in the original and 3 other sequels, gives us a completely revamped character carrying the burdens and fears of the 40 year nightmare she's been living. No longer a 'scream queen,' Laurie is now wiser, better trained and more prepared to face Michael Myers. This makes her a very formidable opponent.

All in all, “Halloween” is bloody, brutal and scary thriller perfect for the season.

It gets a B and is rated R.