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.

Monday, October 15, 2018

New on Blu-ray & DVD October 16, 2018 "Ant-Man and the Wasp"

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas
Rated PG-13   

As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the sequel to the 2015 blockbuster “Ant-Man.” The film, surprisingly, is not a rehash of the first movie. 

It is a crisp and well paced superhero film that perfectly balances humor, CGI special effects and action.

Both Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are in top form as the title characters who must overcome their relationship and learn that true power doesn't come from their super suits.

But the real star of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the movie's brilliant, funny and original script, which I hope will be remembered at Oscar time.

Add in the terrific bonus features and extras on the DVD & Blu-ray, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is well worth taking home.

It gets an A and is rated PG-13.   

Thursday, October 11, 2018

New in Theaters Friday October 12, 2019 "Goosebumps 2," "Bad Times at the El Royale" 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.

Bad Times at the El Royale
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth and Dakota Johnson
Rated R   

In the film,  seven strangers converge on a run-down hotel in Lake Tahoe and discover all is not what it seems.

“Bad Times at the El Royale” is a mediocre and unoriginal film with good performances. The cast including Jeff Bridges, John Hamm, Dakota and Cynthia Erivo all do a terrific job. It is the script that lets everyone down, as "Bad Times" is nothing more than a Quentin Tarantino rip off.

The film follows the same story, nearly scene for scene as Tarantino's “Hateful 8,” as strangers descend upon a hotel in the rain and each has a backstory that intersects somehow with everyone else's story. The movie even uses 'scene placards' to identify each new chapter in the film.

In the final reel, there is nothing about “Bad Times at the El Royale” that we haven't seen before.

“Bad Times at the El Royale” gets a D and is rated R. 

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

New on Blu-ray & DVD for October 9, 2018 "Hotel Transylvania 3," "Skyscraper" and "Hotel Artemis"

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
Starring the vocal Talents of: Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez
Rated PG   

Taking a vacation on a summer cruise with his family, Count Dracula makes a romantic connection.

“Hotel Transylvania 3” is a family film, but being the 3
rd in the series it has almost run its course as the movie is losing its freshness.

Some of the comedy works and will keep your kids smiling, but there are no big laughs in the movie as the humor degenerates into jokes involving gas passing which are repeated over and over and over.

That's not say the film isn't likable it still has a little charm left, but overall Drac and the rest have overstayed their welcome and need to check out.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation” gets a C and is rated PG.

Starring: Dwayne Johnson and Neve Campbell
Rated PG-13   

In the film, Dwayne Johnson plays an ex FBI agent who now assesses security for skyscrapers. On assignment in Hong Kong he finds the tallest, safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he's been framed for it. A wanted man on the run, he must find those responsible, clear his name and somehow rescue his family who are trapped inside the building.

Skyscraper” is basically a mash-up between “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno,” but without any of the intensity of either. The script steals liberally from both films, but really never adds in anything new or original.

In the first 30 minutes of the film, one gets the impression it going to be played somewhat for laughs or at least have a sense of itself, but unfortunately no.

The audience isn't that lucky, as the film takes itself much too seriously.

“Skyscraper” is an exercise in escalation, as the film stacks more and more ridiculous obstacles in front of our hero. To the point where, at least in the screening I attended, one audience member shouted out, “Oh, come on!.”

The movie, which should have been a total popcorn muncher, disintegrates into a frustrating mess that fortunately will be forgotten immediately after viewing.

Skyscraper” gets a D and is rated PG-13.

Hotel Artemis
Starring: Jodie Foster and Dave Bautista
Rated R   

Set in riot-torn, near-future Los Angeles, 'Hotel Artemis' follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals.
Hotel Artemis” wants to offer up a slick, edgy and stylized film.

The problem there isn't much gong on in the plot for the audience to grab onto. “Hotel Artemis” is told in a clunky vignette style, never coming to the point. The film just meanders around a few disjointed subplots but never lands any solid ground.

What the audience is left with is a messy, bland and unfulfilling movie experience.

Hotel Artemis” gets a D and is rated R.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

New in Theaters October 5, 2018 "Venom" and "A Star is Born"

Starring: Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams
Rated PG-13  

Eddie Brock is an investigative reporter who unwillingly becomes the host of a very powerful alien symbiote. Whenever Eddie is in trouble the alien creature called “Venom emerges to save the day.

“Venom” is a run-of-the-mill superhero movie that is suffering from a few flaws. The first being the film doesn't take off right away. The movie spends way too much time on a slow build and, unfortunately, loses the audience in the first half hour.

This is similar to the problem when Marvel launched the “Hulk” in 2003. Director Ang Lee decided to reveal the Hulk about 45 minutes into the film, by then the audience was lost.

The other problems with the film include lackluster performances from the film's stars Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams, and an incoherent plot with confusing characters. 

In essence, what should have been a high-octane 'buddy' picture with some laughs took itself too way seriously and never relaxed to let the audience in.

In the end, “Venom” simply had no energy, empathy or humor to sustain it's momentum.

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.

Monday, October 1, 2018

New on Blu-ray and DVD for October 2, 2018 "Solo: A Star Wars Stroy," "Uncle Drew" and "Sicario: Day of the Solidado"

Uncle Drew
Starring: Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O'Neal
Rated PG-13   
After draining his life savings and losing his basketball team to his longtime rival, a man convinces the retired basketball legend “Uncle Drew” (NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving) to return to the court one more time.

“Uncle Drew” is a 'wig comedy' meaning that everyone important in the film is hidden behind old-age make up and wigs. The film, which is based on those internet Pepsi ads, offers up a little bit more than an hour and forty-three minute Pepsi commercial.

The film does have some heart but loses itself in needless subplots and poorly constructed, tacked on sight gags.

What is fun about “Uncle Drew” is watching lots of basketball greats including Reggie Miller and Shaquille O’Neal having a good time and riffing through dialogue.

All in all, “Uncle Drew” is an uneven comedy with a few good moments, but not enough to lift it out of the mundane.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Sicario: Day of the Solidado
Starring: Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin
Rated R

The drug war on the US-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the erratic Alejandro.

“Sicario 2” is a study in 'politics as usual,' as the film presents us with the idea that the manipulation games governments play oft times are aborted and agents are left without support, making them vulnerable targets.

“Sicario 2: Day of the Solidado” gives us a mission that at the beginning is all about bringing the drug cartels to their knees but when the powers that be have no belly to follow through and pull up stakes, the agents and soldiers left behind have to fight their way back home without support.

Although the film tells this story in brutal and gritty fashion, “Sicario 2” loses itself as the two leads indulge in uncharacteristic sentimental moments, giving the movie an uneven feeling and an ending which could be easily converted to a Coke commercial.

“Sicario 2” gets a C and is rated R.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Alden Ehrenreich and Woody Harrelson
Rated PG-13   

The origin story of Han Solo and how he was set on the path to fight the Empire along with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian is examined.

Solo: A Star Wars Story” is an uninspired flashback film which is neither interesting or really satisfying. The film is loosely shot and lacks the charm it needed to connect with an audience.

In the end, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a run of the mill 'heist' film with some familiar names to entice an audience.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

New in Theaters for September 28, 2018 "Little Women," "Night School" and "Smallfoot"

Starring the vocal talents of: Channing Tatum and Zendaya
Rated PG   

A Yeti is convinced that the elusive creatures everyone is talking about, called 'Humans', really do exist.

“Smallfoot” is an exuberant and touching animated musical film offering up a terrific story which reverses the Bigfoot legend, well performed heart-felt songs and laugh out loud funny moments.

In the end, “Smallfoot” is a family friendly film that is completely entertaining and has a wonderful message for both parents and kids.

“Smallfoot” gets an A and is rated PG.

Night School
Starring: Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish
Rated PG-13   

A group of misfits and troublemakers have to return to school to pass their GED exam to get their high school diplomas.

“Night School” is an irritating comedy replete with characters no one cares about and a series of horribly timed and horrible jokes that fall flat and dumb 'we've-seen-it-all-before' situations.

The film's only saving grace is Tiffany Haddish, who managed to turn her character into something more than a 1 dimensional stereotype.

In the end, “Night School” is a cheap film with cheap plot devises and an incomplete and forgettable script.

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

Little Women
Starring: Leah Thompson and Sarah Davenport
Rated PG   

In this modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel, the lives of four sisters and their passage from childhood to womanhood is examined.

Little Women” is an earnest attempt at updating a literary classic, but falls short of it goals.

The film overuses flashbacks and flash-forwards so much, audiences will get lost in figuring out what timeline they're experiencing. “Little Women” is also a bit too long and makes the mistake of introducing too many characters who do not move the film's plot forward. The film also cuts from one scene to another too abruptly, exhausting the audience.

Overall, this adaptation of “Little Women” is a nice film, but not anything above average.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.