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The Meg (2018)
It's not JAWS but then again it's not SHARKNADO either (thankfully so)
THE MEG (2018) **1/2 Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rain Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Shuya Sophia Cai, Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Jessica McNamee, Masi Oka. So-so action thriller adaptation of Steve Alten's novel about a monstrous shark, a megaladon, discovered deep in the Mariana Trench with steadfast Statham enlisted to help a disabled submersible with members of his former crew and his ex-wife in the process. The disjointed adaptation by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber attempts to enliven the bloody rampage with smirky humor that has more misses than hits but its diverting none-the-less with echoes of JAWS (natch). Dir: Jon Turteltaub
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
Delete account at all costs.
UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB (2018) * Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, Andrew Lees, Savira Windyani, Connor Del Rio, Alexa Mansour, Chelsea Alden, Bryan Adrian, Douglas Tait, Rob Welsh, Maya Nalli, Eric Watson. Unnecessary (and totally unwanted) sequel (and want of a franchise apparently) to the cyberhorror film this time with six vapid young friends who uncover a downward spiral of viral proportions when they find themselves enmeshed in a cruel twist of fate: a stolen laptop with access to unspeakable crimes, blackmail and homicidal tendencies. Delete account at all costs. (Dir: Stephen Susco)
Christopher Robin (2018)
Oh Bother! Fun for all ages and families to enjoy :D
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (2018) ***1/2 Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, (Voices Of: Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammad, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Sara Sheen, Toby Jones)
Wonderful follow-up to the life and times of AA Milne's beloved children's classic stories of Winnie The Pooh and His Friends, with McGregor as the crestfallen adult version of the titular character, who finds is life to be a joyless grind until one day he is re-united with his childhood pals in the Hundred Acre Woods. Adorable animation bringing the iconic story's characters to a 3-D, fully tactile approach is a fresh perspective of the cuddly fuzzy-wuzzy stuffed animals cum walking/talking friends is truly wonderful thanks to a grand direction by Marc Forster and a knowing screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, Alison Schroeder, Greg Brooker and Mark Steven Johnson. Fun for all ages and families to enjoy.
RainMan vs. Superman; one of the best action films ever and one of the year's best films period! BuckleUp
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT (2018) **** Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley, Frederick Schmidt, Alec Baldwin, Liang Yang, Kristoffer Jones. RainMan vs. Superman easily could've been the pitch to the latest chapter in the indefatigable action/espionage film franchise with the ever unflappable and gung-ho Cruise (in total control) reprising his Ethan Hunt to stop a global threat - missing plutonium in the hands of a former foe loose and recklessly hell-bent on destroying the world as we know it and only having his demons stopping him, and a monkey wrench in the works with Cavill (well-cast in a shrewd casting touch) as a duplicitous assassin in the fold. Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie - who also wrote the lean, mean screenplay - signs up for his second outing in the series and excels in keeping things dangerously break-neck in so many sequences its hard to catch-up while holding your breath from a hella-good fist-fight in a nightclub's men's room to a daredevil car/motorcycle chase to its hair-raising chopper cat-and-mouse climax in a literal, hum-dinger of a cliffhanger that you'll be checking your pulse as the adrenaline flows (helps to see it in all its amazing awe in IMAX). Cruise is literally death-defying in doing all his own stunt-work (no CGI for the most part) and a strong supporting cast to boot. One of the best action films ever and one of the year's best. Buckle up!
Ridiculously over-the-top : DIE HARD meets THE TOWERING INFERNO
SKYSCRAPER (2018) **1/2 Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Hannah Quinlivan, Adrian Holmes, Elfina Luk. Ridiculously over-the-top DIE HARD meets THE TOWERING INFERNO rip-off with family man Johnson (who does his best to acquit himself) seeking redemption from a past with disabling consequences by accepting a security job with a Hong Kong entrepreneur's titular building and winds up in deep trouble when the edifice is overtaken by terrorists and his family is trapped inside. Written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber the film reads as a checklist for every Stallone/Schwarzenegger and EXPENDABLES cast members' greatest hits.
The First Purge (2018)
Prequel of a franchise running out of steam fast
THE FIRST PURGE (2018) **1/2 Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Patch Darragh, Marisa Tomei, Rotimi Paul. Prequel to the horror franchise set in the US's new regime of goverment with a trial basis of a 12 hour no-holds barred levy of crime on Staten Island where those who remain are condemned to fight for their very lives or die trying. While screen writer James DeMonaco and director Gerard McMurray try to add some juice to the series the film is predictable and not too compelling in spite of its well-acted unknown cast (and a slumming Tomei wasted).
The Equalizer 2 (2018)
Washington continues to excel in this power-driven sequel to a budding franchise tailor made for his talents
THE EQUALIZER 2 (2018) *** Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Orson Bean, Bill Pullman, Jonathan Scarfe, Sakina Jaffrey. Washington reprises his role as redeemer come avenger Rober McCall and this time it's personal: when a dear friend is killed in an international investigation he begins to unravel a conspiracy of murder while attempting to keep his domestic life in check and demons at the door. Filmmaker Antonie Fuqua reunites with his star again and both continue to work well together allowing the star wattage to overpower the murky screenplay by Richard Wenk (based on the '80s TV crime drama on CBS) Skillful action and some surprisingly affective dramatic moments with Washington prove there's more meat on the bone of this genre actioner.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
C'mon Get Happy - Size Matters; Fun Tonic of the MCU with a Saltine dry Rudd in top-form
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018) ***1/2 Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Pena, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Jane Greer, Tip 'T.I.' Harris, David Dastmalchian, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park. Fast and vastly fun sequel to the ongoing MCU hero who can shrink and grow (with the help of the snazzy super-suit he dons), with Rudd (in gleeful, deadpan, Saltine-dry mode) returning to aid Hank Pym and his daughter Hope (Douglas and the yummy Lilly) attempt to rescue his wife/her mom Janet from the 'quantum realm' micro world she's been imprisoned for thirty years all the while under house-arrest and facing new foes, the mass-passing Ghost (John-Kamen) and oily Goggins' Sonny Burch who has eyes on Pym's size-fits-all technology for evil (what else?) Filmmaker Peyton Reed returns as well and keeps pace at a brisk romp with some sweet fight sequences, amazing visual effects and a punch-drunk screenplay by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari and Rudd contributing too with sly comedic quips, one-liners and slapstick galore. As Rudd's BFF Pena steals the show in a riotous 'truth serum' scene. My only quibble is not enough giantess sequences (i.e. the original's danger on the dance floor) or a 'big' Lilly (well, only in IMAX which worked enough for me ;D ) PS: fun inevitable Stan Lee cameo and yes wait for the pre-end and post credits to see what actually became of the crew here re: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (!)
Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)
Reasonable sequel to SICARIO
SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO (2018) *** Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener, Manuel Garcia-Fulfo, Matthew Modine, Elijah Rodriguez. Reasonable sequel to SICARIO in a 'budding franchise' second chapter with Del Toro reprising his role as the Mexican hit man this time recruited by shady op Brolin for an American war on drugs with cartels and terrorists by incorporating a plan of kidnapping one of the gang lord's daughters that leads to further complications including vengeance, the price of doing the right thing and loyalty to one's own country. Lean screenplay by Taylor Sheridan and clean direction by Stefano Sollimo keeps the action on target and the humanity (the encounter with a deaf man literally is a jaw-dropper of poignancy) into a steely blend.
Leave No Trace (2018)
Foster and McKenzie deliver Oscar worthy performances. One of the year's best films.
LEAVE NO TRACE (2018) **** Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Dana Millican, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey. Excellent drama about a father/daughter relationship on the fringes of society with Foster and McKenzie delivering Oscar worthy performances as a damaged veteran and his coming of age daughter who both seek to make their family work at any costs. Filmmaker Debra Granik, who co-adapted the screenplay with Anne Rosellini based on Peter Rock's novel "My Abandonment", elicits heartfelt performances, tough choices and matter-of-fact reality of how inhumanity to man is perhaps the greatest sin. One of the year's best films.
Imminent extinction for the franchise but the f/x continue to be the star attraction
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018) *** Chris Pratt , Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, Isabella Sermon (Cameo: Jeff Goldblum) The franchise fear extinction in this rote-by-numbers yet still adventurously entertaining chapter this time with Pratt and Howard reluctantly reunited to save the remaining species on the volcano-erupting Isla Nublar supposedly for good intentions via John Hammond associates (weasel-in-waiting Spall and infirm Cromwell) instead becomes a perilous attempt to keep the dinosaurs for nefarious purposes altogether (and you know how that will turn out in Murphy's Law or Ian Malcolm's 'chaos theory' intact!) While filmmaker JA Bayona keeps things moving at a brisk pace the clunky machinations of the pedestrian script (humans on island, running, yelling, screaming, dying; rinse/lather/repeat) by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow may have buried the series for good. The visual effects continue to astonish with a super raptor to boot (and reuniting with raptor Blue giving the T-Rex a run for her money as the movie's hero).
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Laugh yourself silly and be pleasantly surprised at getting choked up about 'family matters'.
INCREDIBLES 2 (2018) **** (Voices of: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush, Brad Bird, Phil LaMarr, Isabella Rossellini, Adam Gates, Jonathan Banks, John Ratzenberger, Bill Wise, Nicholas Bird, Paul Eiding, Barry Bostwick, Michael B. Johnson, Jere Burns, Adam Rodriguez, Kimberly Adair Clark) Pixar does it again with this incredible sequel to the original with expanded nuclear family of super heroes facing the fact that society has outlawed them until a wealthy, philanthropical fan decides to reboot them as a PR gimmick with the Parr clan facing down a technological mad genius from enslaving the populace at hand. Great wit, grit, charm, harm and heart concocted by the fervid mind of Bird (yep another Bird-brained idea!) keeps the motor running (and that rad retro score by Michael Giacchino) to full tilt near exhaustive concoctions with wild-card baby Jack-Jack as the scene-stealing munchkin with unknown 'powers' of his own (note to the studio - a stand-alone chop/chop!) Laugh yourself silly and be pleasantly surprised at getting choked up about 'family matters'.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
A balm of kindness sorely needed
WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? (2018) **** Morgan Neville's wonderful documentary/biopic on TV icon, Fred Rogers, whose PBS children's program 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood' educated and entertained millions of kids, manages to explain the simple message he preached - love yourself and one another. Former cast and crew as well as his surviving family regale insightful, warm and often very funny memories of working and living with him. In a time when we need him more than ever - a balm of kindness sorely needed - this valentine of a cheerful, fun and most importantly, caring individual speaks volumes of how life truly should be. One of the year's best films and if you are not crying while smiling or laughing, then you are made of stone.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Scruffy looking Nerf herder Origin Story
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018) *** Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Erin Kellyman, Warwick Davis, Clint Howard, Anthony Daniels, Ray Park (Voices: Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt) Unnecessary yet entertaining origin story of Han Solo (Ehrenreich - if you squint, resembling Harrison Ford), the beloved scoundrel turned space cowboy smuggler of the franchise is a heist flick at best involving the young, cock(y)sure pilot enlisted with a rogue cosmic thief (Harrelson) in an attempt to return to his home planet for his beloved Clarke. While veteran director Ron Howard uses all the visuals in the f/x toy box to the hilt the screenplay by father/son combo Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan relies on all the tricks of the trade in this wonky Western set in space and life lessons. Spotty casting (um, sorry Glover you're at best a kid on Halloween and no Billy Dee Williams) aside it's fun and fast-paced and a wonderful meet/cute between Han and Chewie.
Deadpool 2 (2018)
Meta over-the-top with a heart of curdled gold.
DEADPOOL 2 (2018) *** Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, TJ Miller, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, Stefan Kapicic (voice), Rob Delaney, Terry Crews, Lewis Tan, Bill Skarsgard, Brad Pitt, Alan Tudyk, Matt Damon; (Cameos: Nicholas Hout, James McAvoy, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee)
Super-sized sequel to the blockbuster Marvel Comics hit with Reynolds back in full comedic form as the wise-cracking, skull-splitting, fourth wall demolishing Merc With A Mouth who loses his way after suffering a tragic loss and seeks redemption via 'family matters' - namely saving a young mutant (Dennison) from extermination - namely time-traveling cyborg baddie Cable (totally buffed and beefed up Brolin) hellbent on killing him. Director David Leitch keeps the body count high, the envelope pushed R rating to the hilt with graphic violence, amazing action/fight sequences and tongue-thru-cheek(y) humor (thanks again to Reynolds re-collaborating with scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick). Newcomers to the franchise Beetz as the super lucky (that's her super power too) Domino and Delaney as regular guy Peter shine with ass-kicking and belly laughs (respectively). Meta over-the-top with a heart of curdled gold.
Funny and well-conceived dramedy with Theron in top form
TULLY (2018) *** Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan, Maddie Dixon-Poirer, Asher Miles Fallica. Funny and well-conceived dramedy with Theron in top form as a frazzled mother who's third birth results in having her well-meaning brother Duplass hiring a 'night nanny' (Davis in a skillful turn) to help her decompress. Diablo Cody's spot-on dialogue driven screenplay is a corker and reuniting with director Jason Reitman continues to blend the mired miserable with the life-affirming joy. While the final act is kind of a let-down it ultimately is solid in portraying the constant juggle/struggle of adulthood and parenting.
Bad Samaritan (2018)
Decent suspense thriller with one box of crazy turn by Tennant
BAD SAMARITAN (2018) **1/2 David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Jacqueline Byers, Lisa Brenner, Carlito Olivero, Kerry Condon, Rob Nagle, Hannah Barefoot. Decent suspense thriller with Sheehan's petty thief stumbling upon a victim-to-be of a serial killer when he attempts to rob the home and winds up in the crosshairs of an ultimate grudge match/cat-and-mouse with a few good jolts delivered and one box of crazy turn Tennant as the seriously f'd up creepazoid. Director Dean Devlin and Brandon Boyce's clever script combine for enough popcorn pleasing moments of meta-scream-at-the-screen scenes and even a few canny self-asides to aforementioned sequences.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Game changer for the MCU
AVENGERS : INFINITY WAR (2018) *** 1/2 Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Chris Pratt, Pom Kiementieff, Dave Bautista, Zoe Sladana, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, William Hurt, Letitia Wright, Carrie Coon, Ross Marquand, (Voices of Josh Brolin, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and Kerry Condon ) Cameos: Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders)
More of the same (and then some) from the Marvel Universe in this 19th film of the accumulated series (and tenth anniversary of Marvel Studios inception) features the assembled superheroes re-aligning for the ultimate battle royale against alien Thano (Brolin) hell-bent on destroying half of all the living beings in the universe for a colossal 'reboot' of Life As We Know It. Directed with brio by the Russo Brothers (Anthony & Joe) and well- cobbled screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely manages to juggle the astronomically large cast of regulars mixing the right peppering of humor with drama, and proves to be a big game changer for its inevitable follow-up. See it on a big screen - IMAX for full effect.
Ghost Stories (2017)
Nifty and spooky British anthology thriller
GHOST STORIES (2018) *** Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther. Nifty and spooky British anthology thriller with Nyman (who co-wrote and directed with Jeremy Dsyon) as a professorial debunker of the supernatural finds himself enlisted to investigate three unexplained (and unsolved) cases where he delves deeper and deeper into the sordid and scary. A few solid jolts and twists that work for the most part with each chapter well done after the other.
The Endless (2017)
Not even Mulder and Scully would want to continue this investigation.
THE ENDLESS (2018) ** Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Lew Temple, James Jordan, Tate Ellington, Emily Montague, Kira Powell, Vinny Curran, David Lawson, Jr., Peter Cilella. Hit-and-miss indie thriller about two brothers (Benson and Moorhead who collaborated on the script co-directed) who decide to return to the cult they fled years ago in an attempt to make sense of their lives from 'civilization' with some 'be careful what you wished for' consequences. Deadpan humor and a distinct feeling of dread with some fairly impressive visuals can't make up for the plot holes (um, no federal investigation occurred in all that time of their very public escape?!) and its final act of 'let's see if this works/kitchen sink' work method. Not even Mulder and Scully would want to continue this investigation.
Truth or Dare (2018)
Lame variation on 'FINAL DESTINATION'
TRUTH OR DARE (2018) *1/2 Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Landon Liboiron, Sam Lerner, Morgan Lindholm. Dull and predictable variation of 'FINAL DESTINATION' with six vapid college co-ed buds getting caught up in a supernatural vortex of the titular game with deadly and outrageously stupid consequences. Director Jeff Wadlow shows very little imagination (i.e. let's boost the sound for no reason) and the screenplay he co-wrote with Jillian Jacobs, Michael Reisz and Christopher Roach doesn't even have one scene of say a funeral for one of these 'close friends' once they're killed off. Lame.
You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Derivative kissing cousin of 'TAXI DRIVER'
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (2018) **1/2 Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, John Doman, Alex Manette, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Novola. Derivative kissing cousin of 'TAXI DRIVER' with Phoenix (who excels) as a veteran who finds employment in saving exploited young girls for a living ultimately meets his match when an assignment goes awry leading to a dark downward spiral of his inner demons at play. While filmmaker Lynne Ramsay - who adapted the screenplay based on Jonathan Ames - displays a keen visual and sonic sense of character and plot - such as it is - there is very little to go on outside the threadbare schematics at hand (haunted vet plagued by a violent past unleashes hell at any cost). Somewhat disappointing in the long run but worth watching its star go from implosive to explosive.
Clarke acquits himself as Kennedy
CHAPPAQUIDDICK (2018) **1/2 Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Clancy Brown, Olivia Thirlby, Jim Gaffigan, Taylor Nichols. Historical drama about Senator Ted Kennedy (decently portrayed by Clarke) and his scandal involving the fatal car accident in the titular waters of Martha's Vineyard in 1969 where one of his young campaign aides, Mary Jo Kopechne wound up dead. While a strong cast ensemble keeps things somewhat lively and the story by Talyor Allen and Andrew Logan portrays the politician warts and all (rightfully so) the direction by John Curran is somewhat wooden and listless. Clarke shows the many layers of the troubled politician and the demons he had while also the pain in attempting to do the right thing but for perhaps the wrong reasons.
A Quiet Place (2018)
Silence is golden in this nifty yet somewhat gimmicky thriller
A QUIET PLACE (2018) *** Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom, Doris McCarthy. Silence is golden in this nifty yet somewhat gimmicky thriller with a young family facing survival in a post-apocalyptic world ruined by alien creatures that attack when provoked by any loud noise or sound leading to an ultimate showdown. Krasinski - who co-scripted with Bryan Woods & Scott Beck - directs with aplomb in this nearly completely silent endeavor of wits and determination and has solid foundation with real-life wife Blunt as his partner-in-crime in batting down the hatches. Child actors Simmonds (deaf in real life adding to the mix of pure reality terror) and Russom both are excellent with their facial expressions as well and some shrewd sound design by Brandon Jones keep the jolts well-timed. The scary monsters created will haunt your dreams for days. Well-constructed but in a sense somewhat formulaic.
UNSANE (2018) **1/2 Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Amy Irving, Juno Temple. Steven Soderbergh's unnerving, creepy-as-fuck psychological horror mind-f of a movie has brittle, but clever Foy (excellent in an almost unlikeable performance; no mean feat) as a young career woman whose recent past involving a stalker has her unknowingly committing herself to a clinic where she is more or less held prisoner with possibly her lurker in the midst. Shot on an iPhone (!) the nasty feeling of being too close washed over you like a film of filth and the wicked screenplay by Jonathan Bernstein and James Greer keeps one on edge even though it veers from terror to black comedy at a moment's notice (and it doesn't help that Leonard looks like every known pedophile circa the late 1970s).