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.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

City of Salt

City of Salt
Starring: Lauren Catherine and Jake Ulasich
Not Rated    

“City of Salt” is an independent film revolving around the disappearance of a young woman, named Theo (Lauren Catherine), in the middle of her father's political campaign. The police, as they investigate, begin to uncover some dark and disturbing secrets.

The story focuses on two plots.

First, Theo, who has been hiding the fact she's gay, finds herself in love with another young woman and is on the verge of coming out to her parents. But fear is holding her back.

The second plot point is Theo's father's (Jake Ulasich) political campaign is forcing him further and further away from his family and from his values.

“City of Salt” takes a look at the bigotry and fear that still exists in our society just beneath the surface of a 'traditional' family and a 'traditional' community. The film examines how that fear and bigotry erodes relationships and communication and can create walls and barriers that are seemingly impossible to overcome.

The film also touches on bullying, sexual assault, depression, suicide and forgiveness and ultimately creates a kind of cautionary tale about what each of us really carries inside and what, if anything, are we willing to change about ourselves.

Shot on location throughout Utah, the story uses the backdrop of Utah's conservative views and religious values as plot points. But this story could have taken place in any small town in the USA as the themes of the movie are universal.

“City of Salt” is not a perfect film, there are some problems with pacing, imbalances in script and some of the acting is a bit stiff. But, that being said, it is an independent film done on a shoestring budget and much of those imperfections are to be expected and even add to the integrity of the film.

In the final reel, “City of Salt” is a morality play, leaving the audience with much to discuss and think about.

It gets a B and is not rated.

Monday, October 21, 2019

New on Blu-Ray & DVD October 22, 2019 "The Fighting Preacher" and "The Lion King"

The Fighting Preacher
Starring: David McConnell and Cassidy Hubert
Rated PG    

Based on the true story of Willard Bean who, in the early 1900's, gives up his career as a prize fighter to become a preacher.

Every so often a small budget film breaks through and really goes way above its pay grade, and provides an experience you'd expect from a larger budget film.

“The Fighting Preacher” is one of those movies. It offers up the right amount of action, character development and humor to keep an audience watching and even laughing.

Both David McConnell and Cassidy Hubert deliver spot-on performances as the young married couple who travel from Utah to New York and endure hatred and distrust when they arrive to settle in their new home.

“The Fighting Preacher” is a wonderful surprise and deserves to be seen as a human adventure, not just another faith-based movie.

It gets an A and is rated PG.

The Lion King
Starring the vocal talents of: Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Rated PG    

Disney revisits it's 1994 Oscar-winning animated feature with an upgraded animated retelling of “The Lion King” story.

What the 2019 version of “The Lion King” will leave audiences with is that it's an amazing technical achievement in animation and will be hailed as such. But once the eye gets used to the updated computer graphics, there is something missing.

Warmth and heart.

In retelling the story the producers forgot about the subtle nuances the human animators added to the soul of the film. The raising of an eyebrow, the smirk on Scar's face, the powerful presence of Mufasa all are missing and replaced with a cold and detached computer version, using this new “photo-scope” process.

And certainly the process is real-looking but in giving this particular animated film a photo-real look, the producers have also taken something away.

It is that intangible quality that put the original “Lion King” into a brand new level of animation, voice work and soundtrack. This version, although a wonder technically, left me a bit cold and hungry for the original.

Balancing all the pluses and minuses, “The Lion King 2019” gets a C and is rated PG.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

New in Theaters October 18, 2019 "Zombieland: Double Tap" and "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil"

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer and Elle Fanning
Rated PG    

In the sequel to the 2014 film, Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to be pulled apart as the young princess becomes engaged to be married. As Aurora is enticed by her new family, Maleficent discovers the secrets of her origin.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is an empty and emotionless film trying to disguise itself as a romantic fantasy but it lacks the connection to the audience the first film built.

Both Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning play well off of each other, but those scenes are short lived as this confusing script introduces characters who are too stoic, humorless and completely underplayed by actors so wooden you can get splinters just by watching them.

Overall the film gives the feeling of being hastily written and assembled in time for Disney to sell a few Halloween costumes and some Christmas toys.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” gets a D and is rated PG.

Zombieland: Double Tap
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin
Rated R    

It's been 10 years since we left Zombieland. Still together, Tallahassee, Columbus, Wichita and Little Rock face a new threat as the zombies are becoming faster and smarter.

Although “Zombieland 2” steps up the action and comedic gore, the film lacks the energy and the risks the first film took. In this sequel we're dealing with too much focus on the connections between our heroes and not enough on the zombie threat.

Although the film offers up some laughter, action and new characters, which will please 'Zombieland' fans, it never surpasses the original.

It gets a C and is rated R.