Thursday, March 15, 2018

New in Theaters March 16, 2018 "Tomb Raider, "7Days in Entebbe" and "Love, Simon"

Love, Simon
Starring: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel
Rated PG-13

Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he's gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.

“Love, Simon” is a heartfelt but heavy handed look at a teen coming to terms with who he is. The film tries to navigate into deeper waters, but fails to drop anchor. Instead the movie plots a much safer course with a feel-good ending that will satisfy its teen audience.

In the end “Love, Simon” doesn't take the chances it should have and ends up a likable but bland film.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13

7 Days in Entebbe
Starring: Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl
Rated PG-13  

Inspired by the true events of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight en route from Tel Aviv to Paris, and the most daring rescue mission ever attempted.

“7 Days in Entebbe” is a complex political film that examines two sides of an event.

On one side are the hijackers, who see what they are doing as a last effort to be heard.

These revolutionaries begin in total solidarity with each other but as the drama unfolds, there is a shift as some of the hijackers may be changing their minds about the taking of the hostages.

On the other side is the Israeli government's attempt to quell the event as quickly as possible, but as times is running out for the hostages, and the long-standing rule not to negotiate with terrorists comes into question.

“7 Days in Entebbe” is a political thriller and a good one. It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Tomb Raider
Starring: Alicia Vikander and Daniel Wu
Rated PG-13  

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

“Tomb Raider” is an origin story that asks the audience to accept a little too much. There are some good moments in the film, but this story has borrowed so much of its plot from “The Dark Knight,” “Indiana Jones” and “The Lost World” that those films should have been thanked in the credits.

Alicia Vikander does a competent job as Lara Croft. She takes on the physical strain of the character and balances that with an innocent side. Vikander understands Lara Croft and allows her to grow during the adventure.

Walton Goggins plays the evil Mathias Vogel with all the subtlety of a looney tunes cartoon. His performance is uncomfortably over the top replete with hand-wringing and cliche-ridden dialogue. 

Most of the stunt work is fine, but there's really nothing new here for an audience who has seen countless action adventure films.

Despite Alicia Vikander's performance, “Tomb Raider” is just average.

It gets a C and is rated PG-13.

Monday, March 12, 2018

New on Blu-ray and DVD for March 12, 2018

Starring the vocal talents of: John Cena and Kate McKinnon
Rated PG 

After Ferdinand, a bull with a big heart, is mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home. Determined to return to his family, he rallies a misfit team on the ultimate adventure.

The moral of “Ferdinand” is all about staying true to who you are inside.

Unfortunately, the film's execution and underlying agenda about animal rights sours the audience's enjoyment. What could have been a delightfully understated breezy film, becomes it's own worst enemy.

Added to the mix are several annoying characters, not least of which is Ferdinand's sidekick goat, “Lupe,” played by Saturday Night Live's Kate McKinnon.

In the end, the film is like pleasant hors d'oeuvre, it tastes ok, but you cannot make a meal out of it.

Ferdinand” gets a C and is rated PG.

The Shape of Water
Starring: Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins
Rated R 
In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely cleaning woman trapped in a life of isolation discovers a secret classified experiment.

“The Shape of Water” is a beautifully acted, although brutal and graphic, fairy tale about finding love and connection despite almost insurmountable differences.

Inspiringly written and gorgeously filmed, “The Shape of Water” is well worth the time to see.

It gets a B and is rated R.

Justice League
Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot and Jason Momoa
Rated PG-13  
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to recruit a team of superheros to defend Earth.

“Justice League” is a fan film at it's heart.

Although it really isn't covering any new ground for a superhero movie, it is fun to watch. Gal Gadot is back and in top form as Wonder Woman, who is beginning to fit in in the modern world.

Ben Affleck takes on the maturing Bruce Wayne, who now realizes he can't do it alone.

Along with solid performances, the film is well-paced and even offers a few humorous moments along with it's CGI battle scenes.

Overall “Justice League” is an entertaining action film. It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

The Disaster Artist
Starring: James Franco and Dave Franco
Rated R 

Based on the true story of the making of the movie “The Room,” after aspiring actor Greg Sestero meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.

The major issue most viewers will have with “The Disaster Artist” is it lacks the broadness to be enjoyed by a large audiences as a comedy about making a movie.

Films like “Bowfinger,” “And God Spoke,” “The Player” and “Tropic Thunder” are all movies about making movies that approached this topic for a wider audience and mass appeal.

“The Disaster Artist” is a film for a very select audience like film students, die-hard film fans and cinemaphiles who have actually seen the movie at the center of the story, 2003's “The Room.”

James Franco, as Tommy Wiseau, delivers an unabashed and unapologetic performance which is so over-the-top it is almost mesmerizing. But it is not enough to make the film more palatable or watchable.

In the end, “The Disaster Artist” is a disappointing biopic that had a lot of promise but never delivers.

It gets a D and is rated R.

I, Tonya
Starring: Margo Robbie and Allison Janney
Rated R  

Bio-pic about competitive ice skater Tonya Harding, who rises in the ranks of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. And her association to the leg bashing of competitor Nancy Kerrigan on January 6, 1994.
“I, Tonya” is a brilliantly written, comedic and yet tragic look at the life of Tonya Harding, played by Margo Robbie.

Allison Janney won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of LaVona Harding, Tonya's caustic mother.

“I, Tonya” does everything right and was one of my favorite films last year.

It gets an A and is rated R.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

New in Theaters March 9, 2018 "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Gringo"

Starring: Joel Edgerton, David Oyelowo and Charlize Theron
Rated R  

A dark comedy about a businessman who is abandoned in Mexico by his back-stabbing bosses to face the wrath of a drug lord his supervisors double crossed. 

“Gringo” is a great example of how a movie can teeter as David Oyelowo is basically the only one in this movie actually acting. It's too bad everyone else in the film is having more fun than putting in real performances.

In the end, “Gringo” is a “see it once – never think of it again” movie.

It gets a C for the effort and is rated R.

A Wrinkle in Time
Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling
Rated PG  

One of the best-loved childhood novels comes to the big screen as a young girl searches for her father who was lost somewhere in space and time.

The expectations for “A Wrinkle in Time” were very high, and unfortunately those expectations were never met.

The film lacks empathy and connection to it's audience. It suffers from being too much and too little at the same time. Too much CGI and not enough writing to support those effects.

Most of all “A Wrinkle inTime” is confusing and offers no explanation of who anyone is, where we are at any given time and what we're doing. The film is as if someone dumped liberal parts of “What Dreams May Come, “The Never Ending Story,” “Harry Potter,” and “The Wizard of Oz” into a blender and out this poured.

The film will baffle and frustrate the children for whom it is aimed and simply bore adults.

“A Wrinkle in Time” gets a D and is rated PG

Monday, March 5, 2018

New on Blu-ray and DVD March 6, 2018 "Thor: Ragnarok" and "Lady Bird"

Thor: Ragnarok
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddleston
Rated PG-13 

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. 

Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

“Thor: Ragnarok” is about as good as a superhero movie can be.

It has everything you want in a film and more. More action, more humor and more insight. The film is beautifully balanced and offers tremendous action, with a slight wink at the audience.

“Thor: Ragnarok” is a true blockbuster.

It gets an A and is rated PG-13.

Lady Bird
Starring: Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf
Rated R  

In this coming of age story, a young woman longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school.

"Lady Bird" follows the title character's senior year in high school, including her first romance, her participation in the school play, and most importantly, her relationship with her mother.

The film, directed and written by Greta Gerwig, is a powerful, well-acted character study that is both heartwarming and shattering as the lead characters engage in the love / hate relationship most parents and children feel.

The film is beautifully acted and well worth seeing. It gets an A and is rated R.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

New in Theaters for March 2, 2018 "Death Wish" and "Red Sparrow"

Red Sparrow
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton
Rated R 

A ballerina is recruited to 'Sparrow School,' a Russian intelligence service, where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

“Red Sparrow” is a boring and lackluster spy film lacking any emotional connection to the audience necessary to keep their interest.

The film is a confusing mess with accents so bad and amateurish it makes the Russians in “Rocky and Bullwinkle” look like characters from Tolstoy.

All in all, “Red Sparrow” will make you wonder if Jennifer Lawrence is worth the paycheck.

It gets a D and is rated R.

Death Wish
Starring: Bruce Willis and Elisabeth Shue
Rated R 
Dr. Paul Kersey is a Chicago surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city's violence as it's rushed into his ER - until his wife daughter are viciously attacked in their suburban home.

Unfortunately “Death Wish” is being released a little to soon to the recent and horrific incident at Parkland High School, so it was an uncomfortable screening.

That being said, “Death Wish” isn't about a 'good guy with a gun,' it is about vigilanteism and old west justice.

The filmmakers want the audience to side with Kersey becoming judge, jury and executioner but the 2018 audience doesn't share the same set of values as the audience did in 1974, when the original was released.

Bruce Willis is in his element in the film and there was even a wry sense of humor filtering through the movie.

But all in all, I think “Death Wish” is just an average movie that simply went too far.

It gets a C and is rated R.

Monday, February 26, 2018

New on Blu-ray and DVD for February 27, 2018 "Murder on the Orient Express," "The Darkest Hour" and "Coco"

Murder on the Orient Express
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Josh Gad and Daisy Ridley
Rated PG-13

An upscale train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery.

From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers and one man's race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

“Murder on the orient Express” is lavish filmmaking, but with some disappointing moments.

The film begins with a mostly ridiculous character introduction as our hero, detective Hercule Poirot solves a crime in Jerusalem.

From there we head to the Orient Express, where we are introduced to the cast of characters one by one.

As the train pulls out, beginning it's journey, one of the passengers is brutally murdered and Poirot is determined to solve the case.

With its wonderful array of stars and talent, “Murder on the Orient Express” is simply a letdown.
It deserves a C and is rated PG-13.

Check out the 1974 version of "Murder on the Orient Express" at

The Darkest Hour
Starring: Gary Oldham and Lily James
Rated PG-13 

During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds.

"The Darkest Hour" is a brilliantly performed, written and directed biopic. 

The film veers away from being a stark and dry history lesson and gives us a very personal look at one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

Gary Oldham's performance is arguably the best of his career and will undoubtedly earn him an Oscar.

"The Darkest Hour" gets an A. It's rated PG-13. 

Starring the vocal talents of: Benjamin Bratt and Anthony Gonzales
Rated PG 

Despite his family's baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. 

Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful 'Land of the Dead' following a mysterious chain of events.

Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector and set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.

“Coco” is all about discovering yourself and your heritage and following your passion in life.

The film is superbly animated with bright and vibrant colors and offers a wonderfully melodic soundtrack to help weave the story of a shoemaker's son who wants to share his musical gift.

“Coco” is exactly what you'd expect from Disney / Pixar and deserves an A. It's rated PG.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

New in Theaters February 23, 2018 "Game Night" and "Annihilation"

Starring: Natalie Portman and
Rated R

A team of expert women are assigned to go on a dangerous and top secret expedition to a location on Earth, called “Area X,” where the laws of nature don't apply.

Every so often a film with capture your attention by being so wonderfully unique and immersive that it takes your breath away.

“Annihilation” is not that movie.

What “Annihilation” is is a rehash of several sci-fi plots where a team of explorers are trapped by “something” unearthly. One by one they are eliminated as the feeling of claustrophobia sets in.

Nothing about this film seems to work, including star, Natalie Portman, trying very hard to put on her best 'hard-as-nails' face. Over all, Portman is oddly out of place and uninteresting.

By the film's end, the story has lost all cohesion, energy and worst of all, the audience's attention.

Annihilation” gets a D and is rated R. 

Game Night
Starring: Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams
Rated R 

A group of friends, who meet regularly for game nights, find themselves trying to solve a real murder mystery.

Game Night” is a wonderfully thrilling comedy with hilarious dialogue and an intricately woven and comically escalating plot. The blending together of a thriller and comedy isn't new, but we have not seen it work this well since “The Man Who Knew to Little.”

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are the best thing about “Game Night,” with their terrific banter, spot on comic timing and perfect chemistry. Bateman and McAdams make it all look so easy.

Although the film has some plot holes, “Game Night” is a laugh-out-loud, edge of your seat movie. It gets a B and is rated R.