Monday, January 21, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD January 22, 2019 "Goosebumps 2," "Johnny English Strikes Again" 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.

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.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2019

New in Theaters January 18, 2019 "Glass"

Starring: Bruce Willis, James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson
Rated PG-13   

“Glass” is a unique undertaking by suspense director M. Night Shyamalan, who takes two of his films and creates a sequel to them by combining the characters into one movie.

The concept is a great idea, but the actual execution was unsteady, mostly because of a confusing script and lackluster ending.

Despite those drawbacks, “Glass” offers up some wonderful performances.

First, James McAvoy deserves solid recognition for his amazing performance as a man with several distinct personalities, which McAvoy glides in and out of as easily as walking through an open door.

Samuel L. Jackson offers up a menacing, yet subtle on screen presence accented by an evil detachment to everyone around him. His performance is exactly what is meant by “less is more.”

Finally, even Bruce Willis has found his character's core and presents us with a reluctant 'everyman' on the edge of self discovery.

“Glass” is a flawed film, but a watchable flawed film.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Monday, January 14, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD January 15, 2019 "Halloween"

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 a thrilling night at home.

Plus the DVD & Blu-ray have some great Behind-the-Scenes featurettes.

It gets a B and is rated R.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

New in Theaters January 11, 2019 "The Upside"

The Upside
Starring: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman
Rated PG-13   

Bryan Cranston plays a quadriplegic who hires a man wih a criminal record to be his physical assistant.

Based on a true story and a remake of the 2011 French film “The Intouchables,” “The Upside” is a touching, albeit formulaic buddy picture, reminiscent of “The Bucket List.”

But being formulaic isn't always a bad thing if the film can offer a few surprises. And “The Upside” does have a few surprises, not least of which is an unexpectedly touching performance by Kevin Hart, who gives his character depth and vulnerability.

Bryan Cranston has a very hard job in this role as he is left with a few facial gestures and his voice to convey a broad spectrum of emotions. The combination of the two characters makes this film work.

Formula or not, “The Upside” is a feel good buddy picture and is worth the ticket price.

It gets a solid B and is rated PG-13.

P.S. If you haven't seen the original film, please do as it is a very rewarding experience. I have included the original trailer below.

Monday, January 7, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD January 8, 2019 "Night School," "Bad Times at the El Royale" and "A.X.L."

Starring: Alex Neustaedter and Becky G.
Rated PG   

In the film a young man discovers a robotic dog the military designed as a weapon.

“A.X.L.” is a run of the mill, teen angst, sci-fi movie that is uncomfortably formulaic. That's not to say the film is bad, it's just the film is terribly bland and very forgettable as the film staggers along at an uneven pace while the characters keep changing their minds about what to do with their robot dog.

“A.X.L.” is not a strong character movie, nor does it garner any real sympathy toward the lead characters or the robot dog. Which is too bad as the film needed to take a few chances.

Because the producers played it too safe, “A.X.L” 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 Johnson 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. 

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

Thursday, December 27, 2018

New in Theaters December 28, 2018 "Holmes & Watson," "On The Basis of Sex" and "Vice"

On the Basis of Sex
Starring: Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer
Rated PG-13   

The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights, and what she had to overcome in order to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

“On the Basis of Sex” is an uneven film depicting Ruth Bader Ginsberg's early career and her struggle to climb the ladder in a field dominated by men.

Although well acted, the film takes on a dry and sterile approach to Ginsberg's continuing fight against sexual discrimination in corporate America.

“On the Basis of Sex” is presented more like a scholastic film than a big screen movie.

If you're interested in Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I suggest the documentary done earlier this year called “RBG,” it's much more riveting.

“On the Basis of Sex” gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Holmes and Watson
Starring: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly
Rated PG-13   

A humorous take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic mysteries featuring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

I'll get this over with quickly.

This could possibly be the worst film of the year, a title previously held by “The Happytime Murders.”

There is nothing in this film that I can remotely call “entertainment” as every joke, every gag and every comic set-up reeked of desperation.

Please miss this movie, “Holmes and Watson” gets an F and is rated PG-13.

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell
Rated R  

The story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider, who quietly wielded immense power as Vice President to George W. Bush, reshaping the country and the globe in ways that we still feel today.

Let me start by pointing out “Vice” offers some historical facts but has little to do with actual history, and once you understand that, the movie is wonderfully entertaining film.

In this 'mockumentary,” Christian Bale played Dick Cheney as a humorless man who wanted to be the power behind the throne and hated being in any kind of spotlight.

But has the opportunities for gaining power grew, he took advantage of those opportunities increasing his footprint and reach.

“Vice” is a dark comedy about the abuses of power and offers a tongue-in-cheek approach rather than a pointed finger.

Vice” is well worth seeing. It gets a B and is rated R.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

New in Theaters December 21, 2018 "Mary Poppins Returns," Bumblebee," Second Act" and "Aquaman"

Second Act
Starring: Jennifer Lopez and Leah Remini
Rated PG-13   

A worker at a big box store reinvents herself and her life-story to nab a better job.

“Second Act” is basically a TV movie released on the big screen. The film is likable although the plot is nothing new. There are a few confusing moments in the script, but everyone in audience knows where this is going.

In the end, “Second Act” is a typical 'fish-out-of-water' formula movie which is trying very hard to be relevant but falling way short of its goal.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena
Rated PG-13   

“Bumblebee” is an origin story about why the Transformers came to Earth. The film takes place in 1987 as a young woman discovers a living machine disguised as VW Beetle.

“Bumblebee” is a better-than-expected addition to the “Transformer's” franchise and balances comedy and action in a fast-moving and well written script.

Surprisingly, the film doesn't rely solely on its robot battles, it also has heart and offers up some unexpected sentimentality which gives the film a much needed change of pace from its predecessors.

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

Starring: Jason Momoa and Amber Herd
Rated PG-13   

Arthur Curry learns that he is the heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, and must step forward to lead his people and be a hero to the world.

“Aquaman” takes much too long to get to the point as the film keeps tacking on plot devices and characters giving the audience a sense the script was unfinished when production began.

Despite its terrific special effects, “Aquaman” is mostly a lackluster, uneven and unsatisfying film begging for one more re-write.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

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.