Monday, January 6, 2020

New on Blu-Ray and DVD January 07, 2020 "Joker" and "The Lighthouse"

The Lighthouse
Starring: Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson
Rated R   

Two lighthouse keepers try to maintain their sanity while living on a remote island off the coast of New England in the 1890's.

Although both Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson give terrific performances, “The Lighthouse” ends up being a predictable and confusing mess. The film dabbles in the supernatural, but not enough to make this a true horror film.

What the audience is left with is a nearly 2 hour actor's scene study shot in black and white.

In the end “The Lighthouse” is only a misfire masquerading as a thriller.

It gets a D and is rated R.

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro
Rated R   

In the film a man slowly and methodically descends into psychopathic and sociopathic madness as he is discarded and displaced by society.

Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal in the role of Arthur Fleck, who is unwinding before our eyes. Phoenix delivers a complicated character who painfully submits to his brutal surroundings and the treatment he receives at the hands of his tormentors, all the while building up to a crescendo of violence.

But “Joker” is also problematic in its pacing and developing the universe in which this villain is forged. And its an uncomfortable problem because it desperately tries to mirror our reality and point fingers at modern society's flaws.

Yes, the film is violent. But we have had many violent films in the past. “Joker” is not any more or less violent than John Wick, Inglorious Bastards, Rambo, Natural Born Killers and Kill Bill to name a few. What “Joker” does offer... is along with the violence, there is a serving of fear that it could happen and is happening here.

“Joker,” is a just a character study. It is not a superhero film. It is an intense cautionary tale which grabs on and doesn't loosen its grip.

Because of Joaquin Phoenix's brilliant performance, Phoenix received the Golden Globe for best actor and will certainly get an Oscar nod.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

New in Theaters December 20, 2019 "Togo," "Cats" and "Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker"

Starring: Willem Dafoe and Julianne Nicholson
Rated PG   

This is the story of a sled dog named Togo, who led the 1925 serum run made famous in the film “Balto.”

Although Togo led the sled most of the journey, Balto finished the run and received most of the credit.

The film is a wonderfully inspiring story of courage, faith and love.

It gets a B and is rated PG.

Starring: Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson and Judi Dench
Rated PG    

The film, based on the Broadway musical, is a loosely written story of a group of cats called 'Jellicles' who must decide which one of them is destined to ascend into a better life.

“Cats” may boast some terrific dancing, singing and special effects, but those things can not save the film from becoming an incoherent and abysmal mess.

It is a hairball that will stick in the audience's throat for days to come.


Pass it by.

It gets an F and is rated PG.

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker
Starring: Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill and Adam Driver
Rated PG-13    

The final chapter in the “Star Wars” saga ends this part of the franchise with Rey discovering the secrets of her heritage.

“Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” is a movie that relies too heavily on familiarity and tries to please everyone instead of taking chances. The film offers sentimentality over substance, as this uninspired plot just never comes to boil.

I promised I would not offer spoilers in this review, but I will say that what happens in “Rise of Skywalker,” undoes the meaning, sacrifices and redemptions from previous films.

“Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” is not the film fans deserve. Move along, move along.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13.

Monday, December 16, 2019

New in Theaters December 13, 2019 "Jumanji: The Next Level," "Uncut Gems," "Bombshell" and "Richard Jewel"

Richard Jewell
Starring: Paul Walter Hauser and Olivia Wilde
Rated R    

The film focuses on security guard Richard Jewell who found a backpack full of explosives at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Jewell was dragged through a media smear campaign and branded a terrorist, until he was proven innocent.

“Richard Jewell,” directed by Clint Eastwood is riveting film reminding us the power media has over public opinion, especially when that power goes unchecked.

“Richard Jewell” is one of the best films of the year.

It gets an A and is rated R.

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie
Rated R    

The story of how some of the female staff at Fox News brought sexual harassment charges against news anchor Bill O'Reilly and the head of Fox News Roger Ailes.

“Bombshell” is a well-written and acted bio-drama weaving it's tale of how sexual misconduct and pressure in the workplace, was brought into the spotlight.

The cast is superb, with a standout performance by John Lithgow as Roger Ailes. Watch for him to be nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar this year.

“Bombshell” deserves your attention. It gets an A and is rated R.

Uncut Gems
Starring: Adam Sandler and Idina Menzel
Rated R    

Howard Ratner, a high profile New York jeweler makes a series of high stake bets as he goes after the score of a lifetime.

“Uncut Gems” is a manic film, constantly in motion as Ratner, played by Adam Sandler, frantically crisscrosses the city placing bets and buying and selling precious gems and gold.

Sandler, who has done a few dramatic roles in his career, is absolutely on point as the high pressure, get the deal at any cost business man who becomes addicted to the big payoff.

“Uncut Gems” is an uncomfortable film to watch, but if you are looking for something different and gutsy, this film will not disappoint.

It gets a B and is rated R.

Jumanji: The Next Level
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black
Rated PG-13    

In the sequel to 2017's “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” the gang is back but the rules have changed as they race to save one of their own.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” is a lackluster sequel with a few giggles but no real laughter. The problem is the audience has already been through the game and there's little to be surprised about in this outing.

The biggest problem is this film is mostly relying on the previous movie to garner audience involvement, but in reality lacks a true connection of its own.

Sadly, most of the laughs in this sequel are a result in reusing jokes and gags from the previous film.

“Jumanji: The Next Level” is a game the audience won't win.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

New in Theaters November 21, 2019 "Frozen II," "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and "21 Bridges"

21 Bridges
Starring: Chadwick Boseman and J.K. Simons
Rated R   

A detective on the trail of two cop killers decides to bottle them up in Manhattan by closing every possible way of escaping the island.

“21 bridges” is a throwback to the kind of cop films made in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's, where a non-corruptible police detective is burdened with solving a much deeper crime than what lies at the surface. Think about films like “Cobra,” “The Taking of Pelham 123” or “Ricochet” and you'll get an idea.

After a drug heist goes wrong and 8 police officers are killed, Chadwick Boesman's character, Andre Davis, is pitted against drug lords, money launderers and crooked cops and must fight his way to understanding the truth.

Although wrapped in an interesting package, “21 Bridges” offers us nothing really new.

It gets a C and is rated R.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Starring: Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys
Rated PG    

Based on the real-life relationship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, a jaded and angry magazine writer learns about empathy, kindness, and decency from America's most beloved neighbor.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is a different film than audiences might expect. It is not a biopic chronicling the life of Mr. Rogers. But, rather an invitation to experience his philosophy and kindness first hand.

Tom Hanks is brilliant as the iconic Fred Rogers and is certain for an Oscar nod in the role.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” deserves an A and is rated PG.

Frozen II
Starring: Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell
Rated PG   

In the film, Elsa, Anna and the rest are off on a new adventure to save their kingdom by finding an enchanted forest and the origins of Elsa's powers.

Frozen II” is a beautifully animated film with rich colors and artwork. But the story itself is a bit bland and incomplete and overall feels darker than the first film.

The message in the movie is 'change is inevitable' and letting go of your fears and accepting the changes in your life is a step in becoming a better and more fulfilled person.

But that being said, the film does capture its audience with as much wonder and awe as the first film and offers another wonderfully performed musical score.

It gets a B and is rated PG.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

New in Theaters November 15, 2019 "Charlie's Angels" and "Ford v Ferrari"

Charlie's Angels
Starring: Kristen Stewart and Elizabeth Banks
Rated PG-13   

When a systems tech discovers a dangerous technology is stolen, it's up to The Townsend Agency and Charlie's Angels to recover it and save the world.

Written, directed and starring Elizabeth Banks, “Charlie's Angels” is a one dimensional movie which never offers any substance. Each of the 'angels' seem to be on their own adventure and there's never a feeling of teamwork in the story.

In fact, the plot revolves around the 'Bosley' character, played by Banks, more than the actual angels. The fight and stunt scenes are lackluster and badly choreographed. The film is riddled with silly dialogue, one-liners and frivolous camerawork.

In the end nothing in this film worked. Pass it by.

It gets an F and is rated PG-13.

Ford v. Ferrari
Starring: Matt Damon and Christian Bale
Rated PG-13    

In 1966 designer Carroll Shelby and legendary driver Ken Miles were charged with building a race car that could beat Ferrari's car during the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Whether you're a race fan or not, this is that underdog story of American ingenuity and unbridled determination overcoming personal and professional failures, corporate interference and even sabotage.

Director James Mangold perfectly centers the story on both Shelby and Miles' journey and takes the viewer not only onto the race track, but into the minds of these men who changed racing history.

“Ford v Ferrari” is a love letter to anyone who has the desire and fortitude to try and keep trying, despite the odds and whatever obstacles are in the way.

The film gets an A and rated PG-13

Thursday, November 7, 2019

New in Theaters Friday November 8, 2019 "Playing with Fire," "Last Christmas," "Midway" and "Doctor Sleep"

Playing with Fire
Starring: John Cena and Keegan-Michael Kay
Rated PG    

A team of firefighters have to deal with 3 rambunctious kids they rescued.

“Playing with Fire” is just a bubblegum film whose flavor runs out way too soon. There's a few laughs for the young kids, but over all, less than enjoyable for anyone over 11.

This has all the feeling of a 3rd rate 'straight-to-video' movie and is just plain forgettable.

It gets a D and is rated PG

Last Christmas
Starring: Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding
Rated PG-13   

A woman, who has made some disastrous mistakes in her life, begins to put her broken pieces together when she meets a guy to good to be true.

“Last Christmas” is a surprisingly satisfying little Christmas movie about family, responsibility and redemption. Although a bit forced, the film manages to leave the audience with a good and positive ending.

Emilia Clarke is endearing as “Kate” who, during the course of the movie, begins to realize her true potential and finding joy.

“Last Christmas” is a nice little package to open during the holiday season.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Starring: Woody Harrelson and Jason Patrick
Rated PG-13    

A look at the historic battle of Midway and the lives of the men you fought it.

“Midway” is a not to be missed film diving directly into the lives of the real men who responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Although the events surrounding the Battle of Midway have made cinematic fodder over the years, this film tells the story in personal terms of loss and what these men faced.

“Midway” is great storytelling and visually stunning. It gets an A and is rated PG-13.

Doctor Sleep
Starring: Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson
Rated R    

In the sequel to “The Shining,” Danny Torrance is now an adult self-medicating and doing all he can to rid himself of the horror he encountered at The Overlook Hotel. When he meets a young girl with similar powers, it begins a battle for the child's soul.

“Doctor Sleep” is a well-balanced and meticulous sequel. With equal measures of acting, suspense and special effects, the film is not just an homage to the previous film, but an extension of it.

Director Mike Flanagan creates a world both familiar and yet different enough to avoid the pitfalls of repeating the first film. This is inspired filmmaking done by someone who knows and understands the story and its fans.

This is as good as a sequel gets.

“Doctor Sleep” gets an A and is rated R.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

New in Theaters November 1, 2019 "Harriet," "Motherless Brooklyn" and "Terminator: Dark Fate"

Starring: Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr.
Rated PG-13   

The life and times of Harriet Tubman is explored as she flees from slavery and dedicates her life to helping escaped slaves find freedom.

“Harriet,” although well intentioned, is a bit of a rewrite of historical events. But in doing so the film loses credibility in its attempt to tell the story of Harriet Tubman. A story that really didn't need any punching up or dramatic rewrite, Tubman is a true American hero, whose journey from slave to freedom fighter should stand on its own.

Cynthia Erivo is an incredible actress who diligently delivers an honest and emotional performance is sabotaged by the script, which by the end of the film, plays out as an historical soap opera.

In the end we are left with an empty and unfulfilling experience about one of the most celebrated figures in American history.

Harriet gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Motherless Brooklyn
Starring: Edward Norton, Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin
Rated R    

When his friend and mentor is murdered, it's up to a detective afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome to solve the case.

“Motherless Brooklyn” is a throwback to the film noir movies of the 40's and 50's. The film, under the direction of Edward Norton (who also stars), is an engaging, smart and satisfying detective story.

But, that being said, the film also feels lifeless and worn, giving the viewer an uneasy familiarity about the story and characters.

“Motherless Brooklyn” gets a C and is rated R.

Terminator: Dark Fate
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton
Rated R    

Sarah Connor comes out of retirement to fight more terminators while trying to protect a young woman marked for death.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is a disappointing and poorly executed revamp of a film franchise that has over stayed its welcome. The film is so sloppily misdirected that the tagline should have been, “Wait … What?”

With its confusing plot, characters that go no where, bad pacing and phone-it-in acting, there's only 2 words that can describe this cinematic fiasco... “cash grab.
Everyone connected with this film should be ashamed of themselves.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” gets an F and is rated R.