Thursday, October 10, 2019

New in Theaters October 11, 2019 "Gemini Man" and "The Addams Family"

The Addams Family
Starring (voices): Oscar Issac and Charlize Theron
Rated PG    

Fed up with the constant attacks from the village's population, Morticia and Gomez Addams (Oscar Issac and Charlize Theron) decide to move somewhere more suitable. New Jersey.

“The Addams Family” is a new animated version of the popular 60's TV show which was based on the long running comic strip syndicated in newspapers all over the country.

In film, after the Addams' move into their new home, they discover a bustling, new town nearby and decide to reach out and become part of this community.

However the neighborhood, led by Margaux Needler (Allison Janney), is not welcoming them as the Addams family is so different from their cookie-cutter lives. Fueled by social media smears and fear, the family must pull together to be accepted.

“The Addams Family” is an entertaining and well written look at how society sometimes reacts to immigrants and the cultures they interpret as odd or weird.

Although the film is slow paced, I found it to be a funny, well written and well animated movie with some surprising references to many horror films which adults will enjoy.

“The Addams Family” gets a B and is rated PG.

Gemini Man
Starring: Will Smith and May Elizabeth Winstead
Rated PG-13    

A retiring hitman is marked for termination and comes face to face with his assassin, a clone of his younger self.

“Gemini Man” is all about the technology of building a digital person. This new process eliminates the blurring and other problems previously associated with action scenes involving digital characters.

However advanced this process is, the script has to be equally engaging and fresh. Unfortunately the script is lackluster and plays like any extended 'bad guy chasing the good guy' sequence in any action movie. Think about any James Bond film, Bourne film, Mission Impossible film and you'll' get the idea.

Although well directed by Ang Lee, once the audience gets used to the technology, “Gemini Mani” settles in to be just routine and predictable.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Monday, October 7, 2019

New on Blu-ray and DVD October 8, 2019 "Crawl," Toy Story 4" and "Stuber"

Starring: Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjani
Rated R   

An Uber driver picks up a gruff cop and is off on the adventure of a lifetime.

“Stuber' is a fish-out-of-water buddy pic that just can't seem to get into drive. I think the producers got tipsy one night and watched a double feature of Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in “Collateral,” and Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah' in “Taxi” (it's odd that both films were released in 2004) and decided they could combine the two into a comedy / action / cop movie.

It was a fool's notion.

The film just is a sorry mess from the beginning. I was wondering if the theater screen would collapse under the weight of all the cliches being piled on it. But unfortunately no.

“Stuber” is a triple threat combination of bad acting, bad writing and bad stunts.

It gets an F and is rated R.

Starring: Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario
Rated R   

A young woman is trapped inside a flooding house during a hurricane when she's besieged upon by hungry alligators.

Although I wasn't expecting much based on the few previews I say, “Crawl” surprised me. The film's director, Alexandre Aja, takes his time building the fear and pacing in this claustrophobic thriller.

Aja knows exactly where to place his camera and what he needs from his cast, which includes better than anticipated performances by Berry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario, who take a very average low budget script and boost it up to another level.

If you have an aversion to blood and open wound moments, this film may not be for you.

For everyone else, “Crawl” is a great summer diversion film with a lot of edge of your seat moments.

It gets a B and is rated R.

Toy Story 4
Starring the voices of: Tom Hanks and Tim Allen
Rated G    
Woody, Buzz and friends take to the road to discover new and old friends on their journey.

It's been 9 years since the last “Toy Story” film and although I am not a huge fan of sequels, the 'Toy Story' franchise has always been an exception.

This film does not disappoint. It's is a beautifully animated, acted and directed film with so many moments that both kids and adults will enjoy together.

A true family film with a huge heart underscored by a terrific story.

“Toy Story 4” gets an A and is rated G.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

New in Theaters October 4, 2019 "Dolemite Is My Name" and "Joker"

Dolemite is My Name
Starring: Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes
Rated R   

This is the story of Rudy Ray Moore who became famous for his outrageous films and appearances as “Dolemite,” during the 'blaxploitation' era of the 1970s.

“Dolemite Is My Name” is a crude, viciously uncomfortable film to watch, but that being said, it offers up one of the best performances of the year. Eddie Murphy immerses himself in the role of Rudy Ray Moore, a mild and shy man who finds his confidence in playing the over-the-top character of “Dolemite,” who made several low-budget neighborhood films during the late 70's.

Expect a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Murphy who absolutely shines as this 'Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' character.

In the final reel, “Dolemite Is My Name” is just a fun film to watch because of its “All In” attitude.

It gets a B 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 it's 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, one which will certainly get an Oscar nod, “Joker” gets a B and is rated R.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

New in theaters September 27, 2019 "Abominable" and "Judy"

Starring: Chloe Bennett and Eddie Izzard
Rated PG    

A young woman named 'Yi' finds a lost Yeti and vows to return him to his family.

“Abominable” is a wonderfully animated and engaging film for audiences of any age. The film deals with grief, loss and finding one's way through it. Those themes are delivered in such a way that they enhance the story, not over shadow it.

The story takes the audience on a hero's journey and with every step, Yi makes a discovery about herself and the world around her.

In the end, “Abominable” is about finding purpose and value in life.

It gets an A and is rated PG.

Starring: Rene Zellweger and Finn Wittrock
Rated PG-13   

The last 6 months of the life of Judy Garland is explored as she prepares for several performances in London.

Based on the stage play “End of the Rainbow,” “Judy” offers one view of the entertainer's life as her career begins to fade. The film flashes back to a young Judy as she is being handled and manipulated during the filming of “The Wizard of Oz.”

These flashbacks provide a slight insight into the adult Judy and her motivation in keeping her family together. The movie needed to be deeper.

Although Renee Zellweger's performance is stunning, and the actress will undoubtably get a Best Actress Nomination, the film needed to give us more about Garland's relationships with the people closest to her, including her oldest daughter Liza Minelli.

In the final reel, “Judy” is well worth seeing and offers an amazing performance by its star but falls short in letting the audience see behind the curtain.

“Judy” gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Monday, September 23, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD September 24, 2019 "Shaft," "Child's Play" and "Yesterday"

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree
Rated R   

In this multi-generational action / comedy, Samuel L. Jackson plays John Shaft Jr., the son of the infamous hard-as-nails cop played by Richard Roundtree. When Shaft's son, John Shaft the 3rd's best friend is murdered, all three jump into the fray.

“Shaft” offers up a nice buffet of fast-paced 80's style action, blood pumping soundtrack and rapid fire humor to give the film its style and pace.

“Shaft” gets a B and is rated R.

Child's Play
Starring: Audrey Plaza and Mark Hamill
Rated R.    

In the reboot of the franchise, a young mother gives her son a toy doll unaware of its sinister nature.

Rebooting a franchise isn't an easy task, but the producers of “Child's Play” did a remarkable job in keeping the terror and creepiness from the original film and amping up the action and thrills for a whole new audience.

“Child's Play” makes great use of it's slow pacing and builds up into a well-orchestrated scream fest. Special mention goes to the animatronic team of puppeteers who controlled 'Chucky.' And although, a lot of the film was digitized and CGI, the creepiest moments came from the way the SPFX team maneuvered the doll.

“Child's Play” was an unexpected treat and deserves a B.

It's rated R.

Starring: Himesh Patel and Lily James
Rated PG-13    

When a musician suffers and accident, he awakens in a world that has never heard of “The Beatles” or their music.

“Yesterday” is a lovely tribute film. Although we 'Baby Boomers' don't need to be reminded how amazing The Beatles were, I think its a good thing that maybe a few younger people might open up their ears and have a listen.

But also “Yesterday” is a love story and a good one at that. Both Himesh Patel and Lily James at first seem a very unlikely paring, by the end of the film audiences will love them.

And, like the song says, “Love is All You Need.”

“Yesterday gets a solid B and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Rambo: Last Blood
Starring: Sylvester Stallone
Rated R   
In the film John Rambo, after nearly 40 years in hiding, is back on a quest for vengeance.

“Rambo: Last Blood” marks the end of the 'Rambo' franchise with an ultra violent and brutal final chapter.

Stallone manages to reach back nearly 4 decades and reboot his 'John Rambo' character adding a grimmer personality but still managing to satisfy anyone who is a fan of 80's and 90's action films.

“Rambo: Last Blood” may have its flaws, and despite the ultra-violence and graphic nature of the film, it never forgets its a simple revenge movie.

It gets a B and is rated R.

Ad Astra
Starring: Brad Pitt and Donald Sutherland
Rated PG-13   

An astronaut undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

“Ad Astra” is a special effects goldmine. The artistry behind the film's CGI is about the best I have seen and underscored by the film's incredible soundtrack, it is a wonderful blending of the two medias.

But that being said, the story placed in front of those special effects is less than desired. The script is riddled with too many incoherent and generally unnecessary subplots and out-of-the-blue plot twists that derail the story.

Brad Pitt's performance, including his voice over narration, is too detached and eventually pushes the audience away. What we're left with is a small story about searching for one's dad.

All in all the film doesn't do its job to the full potential of its backdrop, and cancels out the visuals completely.

“Ad Astra” is a good film, but not a great one. It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Downton Abbey
Starring: Elizabeth McGovern,
Rated PG   

The king and queen of England are coming to Downton and Crawley's must rise to the occasion.

Downton Abbey” the movie is simply an extension of the popular TV series that ran on American PBS stations from 2010 until 2015. The film, even if you're not an “Abbeyfile,” is a well-heeled British movie that relies on characters, not special effect, to move the story.

The film is a gentle and high-brow comedy / drama that manages to hold the audience's interest at the goings and comings of the Crawley family and their servants.

Downton Abbey” gets a B and is rated PG.

Monday, September 16, 2019

New on Blu-ray & DVD September 17, 2019 "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" and "Wild Rose"

Wild Rose
Starring: Jesse Buckley and Julie Walters
Rated R   

In the film a 23 year-old single mother from Scotland tries to change her life by becoming a Nashville star.

“Wild Rose” is an endearing story focusing on overcoming one's obstacles and fears and not letting those fears stop you from attempting to achieve your dream.

International singing star Jesse Buckley takes on the role of “Rose-Lynn” with an engaging enthusiastic and heartfelt approach to her performance.

“Wild Rose” plays better and more realistic than other films in this category.

It gets a B and is rated R.

Dark Phoenix
Starring: Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy
Rated PG-13    

During a mission something goes wrong and mutant Jean Grey finds her powers increasing and corrupting her. Can the X-Men stop the most powerful mutant in the universe?

“Dark Phoenix” is the last of the X-Men films made under the 20th Century Fox banner as Disney bought the rights to the franchise when they purchased Fox.

The film offers better acting and special effects than the last couple of films, exuding “Logan,” but the film also lacks a sense of continuity and is rife with plot holes, unanswered questions and time filler subplots.

The biggest problem with the film is that with all it had going for it, including its pedigree, acting ensemble, special effects and soundtrack, it still managed not to be engaging for the audience.

In the end, “Dark Phoenix” is a simply miss that should have been a hit.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13.