Thursday, April 12, 2018

New in Theaters April 13, 2018 "Truth or Dare," "Beirut" and "Rampage"

Truth or Dare
Starring: Lucy Hale and Tyler Posey
Rated PG-13   

What begins as a harmless game of Truth or Dare among friends, turns deadly when someone or something, begins to punish those who tell a lie or refuse the dare.

“Truth or Dare” should have been so much better, especially coming from the folks who were behind “Get Out,” and the “Purge” series.

The film is a paint-by-numbers approach to horror film making, with absolutely no artistic flair whatsoever, leaving the audience with a bland, unsatisfying and totally forgettable film experience.

Truth or Dare” is not worth your time to see.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13.   

Starring: Rosamund Pike and John Hamm
Rated R   

Caught in the crossfires of civil war, two CIA operatives must send a former U.S. diplomat to negotiate for the life of a friend he left behind.

“Beirut” is falling under some heavy scrutiny since it wasn't filmed on location and it is not historically accurate.

Taking that into consideration, I found the film to be a better-than-average thriller. Both John Hamm and Rosamund Pike are extremely watchable in this fast-paced story about a missing agent and the attempt made to rescue him.

In the end, “Beirut” is a film about friendships and cultures and the price paid for diplomacy and political gain.

Beirut” gets a B and is rated R.   

Starring: Dwayne Johnson and Naomie Harris
Rated PG-13   

Rampage,” which is loosely based on the 1997 video game, is a throwback to the 1950's monster films, where man through science brings about devastation by trying to control nature. Then it was radiation. In today's world it's gene splicing.

Primatologist Davis Okoye shares an unshakable bond with George, the extraordinarily intelligent gorilla who has been in his care since birth.

When George along with a crocodile and a wolf are accidentally exposed to a gene-altering serum, they begin to mutate and take on violent tendencies.

It's up to Dwayne Johnson, once again playing the reluctant hero, to stop the world from ending, all the while saving his primate friend's life.

Rampage” is a silly and fun popcorn movie. As a fan of Godzilla, King Kong and other golden age monster flicks, I liked the familiarity the film brought to the screen.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.   

Monday, April 9, 2018

New on Blu-Ray & DVD Tuesday April 10, 2018 "The Greatest Showman" and "Molly's Game"

Molly's Game
Starring Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba
Rated R  

Molly Bloom, a beautiful young Olympic-class skier, ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons.

“Molly's Game” marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who also penned the film's screenplay.

The film is a multi-layered character study focusing on how power corrupts and the how easy it is to cross moral lines and ethics.

The film offers up solid performances by
both Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba and is very well paced without sacrificing any attention to detail.
“Molly's Game” is well worth renting.

It gets a B and is rated R.   

The Greatest Showman
Starring: Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams
Rated PG 

Inspired by the story of P.T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” is an original musical celebrating the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

“The Greatest Showman” is simply one of the best films this year. The balance of this inspiring story with its acting, choreography and the exuberance of the music it is set to, makes this film as perfect as it can get.

“The Greatest Showman” needs to be seen. 

It gets an A and it is rated PG.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

New in Theaters April 6, 2018 "Isle of Dogs," "The Miracle Season," "Blockers" and "A Quiet Place"

The Miracle Season
Starring: Helen Hunt and William Hurt
Rated PG  
Based on true events, the film tells the story of high school athlete Caroline Found and the West High School Trojans' girls volleyball team. After Caroline "Line" Found dies tragically, her team must band together under the guidance of their tough-love coach in hopes of winning the state championship.

“The Miracle Season” is not a bad film, despite its heavy handed heart tugging. The film hits all the notes it should and offers a few well paced and heartfelt moments.

William Hurt, who plays Caroline's kind and compassionate grieving father is counterbalanced by Helen Hunt's more direct and seemingly insensitive Coach Bresnahan. The juxtaposition of the pair seems to reflect the two sides of the grieving process.

However that being said, the film just can't seem to get out of second gear as it trudges along to its inevitable wet hanky ending.

“The Miracle Season” ends up being a run of the mill sports film with a spattering of better than average moments.

It gets a C and is rated PG.

Isle of Dogs
Starring the voices of: Bryan Cranston and Jeff Goldblum
Rated PG-13   

After all the dogs contract a disease, the canines are banished to an island where they must fight to survive. But everything changes when a 12-year old boy arrives looking for his pet.

“Isle of Dogs” is a cautionary tale about bigotry, political power, love and truth. The film is wonderfully eccentric, funny and touching at the same time.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Starring: John Cena and Leslie Mann
Rated R   

In this modern day sex romp, three high school graduates decide to lose their virginity on prom night and make a solemn oath to do so. When their parents find out about the pact, they go off on a quest to stop their daughters.

“Blockers” is a very funny raunch fest. Although the roles have been reversed from other teen sex films like “American Pie,” “Super Bad,””The Girl Next Door,” “She's Out of My League” and others, but the formula still works when handled correctly.

“Blockers” isn't really breaking any new ground, but it does deliver on its promise to make you laugh and at times... uncomfortably.

It gets a B and is rated R.

A Quiet Place
Starring: John Krasinski and Emily Blunt
Rated PG-13   

Written, directed and starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, the film takes place in a few years from now and focuses on a family who must live in complete silence as they are surrounded by creatures that hunt by sound. One sound can summon these horrifying aliens who shred anything in their path.

Last year the horror film “Get Out,” was a surprise hit because the film took its time to unwind for the audience, building the horror and the intensity slowly.

This year, “A Quiet Place,” which also paces itself meticulously, is an early offering for the best horror film of the year and a sign that the horror genre, overall, is heading for a kind of rebirth.

If you're a fan of the thriller / horror genre,“A Quiet Place” is a must see.

It gets an A and is rated PG-13.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

New in Theaters March 30, 2018 "Ready Player One"

Ready Player One
Starring: Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke
Rated PG-13   

In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. 

In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone. The only limits are your own imagination.

The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric programmer, who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir.

When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends (aka the 'High Five') are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS.

Although “Ready Player One” is based on Earnest Cline's high energy book, the film can not compete with the level of action within the novel's pages. But the film does capture the adventure and the spirit of the book.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, “Ready Player One” is a love letter to pop-culture. The movie is jammed-packed with imagery and odes to iconic symbols of childhood with the background being littered with familiar faces, characters and sounds from a lifetime of loving pop-culture.

The film is the cinematic equivalent of going through a movie and game player's closet and finding hidden treasures. There are so many references that it's hard to see them in one sitting. There's terrific tip of the hat salutes to “Back to the Future, “King Kong,” “The Iron Giant,” “Willie Wonka” and a wonderfully done tribute to “The Shining.”

Like a video game gone out of control, the movie immerses you in a world that's bright and shiny and populated with all kinds of avatars, making the digital world of the film interesting and eye popping.

The digital world is counterbalanced by the grey and grungy real world, which Spielberg shot using film stock to give reality a grainy and dark feel.

In the end “Ready Player One” is a film you'll need to see 2 or 3 times to drink it all in.

It gets a B and is rated PG-13.

Monday, March 26, 2018

New on Blu-ray and DVD for March 27, 2018 "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher
Rated PG-13 

Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe unlocking the mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

Well it finally happened. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a totally 'Disneyfied' film which many fans, including this one, are really upset about.

The film simply is a mess from beginning to end with nothing new added to move the saga forward. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"
 simply cannot connect the audience with an emotionally involving story. The film treats important reveals and plot twists with a kind of matter-of-fact lethargic attitude, making the whole film seem unimportant. 

And the promises that were made in the “Force Awakens” are poorly kept, as characters who were promoted to be pivotal become unimportant plot devices, important histories are swept under rugs and characters added as 'product placement' just to sell merchandise.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” misses every mark. The film can not shake off its listlessness and lack of continuity to the other films in this franchise, making it the worst film in the 'Star 'Wars saga.

In the end, this is not the “Star Wars” you are looking for. Move along, move along.

It gets a D and is rated PG-13.   

Thursday, March 22, 2018

New in Theaters March 23, 2018 "Midnight Sun," "Unsane" and "Pacific Rim: Uprising"

Midnight Sun
Starring: Bella Thorne and Patrick Schwarzenegger
Rated PG-13   

A 17-year-old sheltered since childhood and confined to her house during the day by a rare disease that makes even the smallest amount of sunlight deadly.

Fate intervenes when she meets Charlie and they embark on a summer romance.

“Midnight Sun” is a teen romance film that actually is much better than expected. Although still following the tried and true formula, “Midnight Sun” manages to overcome the mundane and deliver to its audience surprisingly good performances.

The film gets a B and is rated PG-13.   

Starring: Claire Foy
Rated R  

A young woman is involuntarily committed to a mental institution, where she is confronted by her greatest fear--but is it real or a product of her delusion?

What could have been a tightly woven thriller turns out to be a monumental waste of time as director Steven Soderbergh shoots the entire film on an iPhone camera.

But even a 'gimmick' film needs a solid plot and “Unsane” just doesn't have much of a storyline, just lots of situations separated by people doing stupid and silly things.

Unsane” gets a D and is rated R.   

Pacific Rim: Uprising
Starring: John Boyega and Scott Eastwood
Rated PG-13   

Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, is recruited to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” had all the makings of fun popcorn film. It's got giant robots, aliens, tough as nails recruits, kids and scientists.

But “Pacific Rim” manages to let, what was a sure thing, slip through its mechanical fingers and become a boring, uneven rusty mess with terrible CGI and even worse dialogue.

The film gets a D and is rated PG-13.   

Monday, March 19, 2018

New on Blu-ray and DVD for March 20, 2018 "Jumanji 2" "Pitch Perfect 3" and "Downsizing"

Starring: Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig
Rated R

In the story, the world is running out of resources and the solution is to shrink mankind to a fraction of the size so the Earth can sustain human life.
If you're going to the theater to see a comedy, stop.

Although there are some comic elements in the film, “Downsizing” is just a political satire told in a very dry way.

“Downsizing” ends up being a disjointed and self indulgent agenda film, without ever being clear as to what that agenda actually is.
It gets a D and is rated R.

Pitch Perfect 3
Starring: Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson
Rated PG-13

After winning their last championship, the 'Bellas' have drifted apart. The ladies then get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour.

But will they harmonize one last time?

The 3
rd chapter of the “Pitch Perfect” series is exactly what you'd expect it to be, an irreverently engaging comedy.

If you are a fan of the previous films, the third and (they say) the final chapter will not disappoint you.

“Pitch Perfect 3” gets a B and is rated PG-13  

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart
Rated PG-13 

Four teenagers discover an old video game console and are literally drawn into the game's jungle setting becoming the adult avatars they chose.

“Jumanji” is the sequel to the 1995 Robin Williams action adventure move, and although the original film was darker and felt more dangerous, this revisit takes the safer road.

The plot of the film is for our four heroes to return a stolen jewel to its rightful place and lift the curse that has thrown the land of Jumanji into ruin.

The film never strays off the path of that simple plot, and although the group begins to learn and trust each other, the film just has no spark to really engage the audience.

Most of the film's entertainment comes from a wonderfully comic performance by Jack Black, whose character is a teenage girl. Black never wastes a frame of film in this performance. Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Dwayne Johnson all but in good performances, but never rise above the kind of roles we are used to seeing them play.

All in all “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” ends up an average comedy, with a stand out performance by Jack Black.

When it was released I gave it a C. But the DVD and Blu-ray features are worth an extra grade so it gets a B and is rated PG-13