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Angel Has Fallen (2019)
Angel Delivers What Fans Expect
It is hard to believe that it has been six years since Gerard Butler introduced audiences to Special Agent Mike Banning. Over the course of the film and its sequel; Banning kept the President safe against a never-ending barrage of threats both home and abroad.
For the new film "Angel Has Fallen"; Banning must protect a new President (Morgan Freeman) and clear his name when he is framed after a devastating attack on the President.
When he is suddenly the most wanted man in the country; Banning must use all his skills when he is abducted and subsequently escapes while be transported to a detention facility.
The movie takes a bit of time getting up to speed but wisely has some good action along the way to setup the film and increase the tension levels. Once the action revs up, it is full on pedal to the floor action with Butler throwing himself into the fray against heavy odds no matter the cost.
What makes this film stand out from the others is that narrative is more plausible than other action films and you do see Butler dealing with the results of his profession. This is not a Teflon Super Hero who has bullets bounce off his chest. This is a man who bears his physical and psychological scars from his years in service and has a hard time letting go of the work even though it is what he believes he is best suited for.
Morgan Freeman gives a very strong performance as does Nick Nolte who stole many of the scenes in which he was in and provided some real Wild Card comic relief and action to the film.
In the end it is Gerard's picture and he throws himself into the part without becoming repetitive of his past films and giving Banning a relatable and sympathetic quality that is often lacking in films of this type.
In a summer of many films Over Promising and Under-Delivering: "Angel Has Fallen" is a refreshing exception as it was an enjoyable thrill ride from start to finish and I sure hope we have not seen the last of Agent Banning.
4 stars out of 5
An Amazing Film And Oscar Worthy Performance By Egerton
Elton John has had a career that has spanned decades, millions of albums sold, packed venues, awards, and more than a few headlines. In the new film "Rocketman" audiences get a look behind the man thanks to the amazing and Oscar worthy portrayal by Taron Egerton.
The film opens with a flamboyantly dressed John entering rehab in one of his stage costumes. As he opens up with his group, he shares the story of his childhood as a shy child who is desperate to have his father show him any signs of approval or affection.
When it is discovered that he has talent with the piano; his grandmother encourages him and even takes him to apply for a position at the Royal Academy of Music.
His mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) is moderately supportive but is more focused on her social life brought on by her failing marriage.
As the film unfolds; we see Elton working in a backup band and in time answering an ad that puts him with an agent. Paired with the man who would eventually change his life; Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), Elton and Bernie combine to write a series of songs which in turn leads him to a series of gigs in Los Angeles. The film shifts into high gear at this point as we see how their music becomes a smash and leads to a series of parties, drugs, and money.
Elton meets Manager John Reid (Richard Madden), who becomes his partner both socially and professionally as Elton embraces his Homosexuality which he has kept largely hidden.
As the record sales and hits mount, so does the destructive behaviors which leads Elton down a destructive path that threatens everything he has worked for.
The movie is a masterpiece of music and story and it cleverly uses musical montages and segments around the performances to outline various segments of his life and his rise to stardom.
The performances are amazing and Egerton was simply amazing as he not only captured the complexity of his character but performed all the vocals of the hit songs himself and they were spot on.
During our Press Screening I noticed many people singing along, tapping their feet, or bobbing their heads along with the music which helps to underscore just how timeless and popular his catalog of music has been as the songs have endured the test of time.
The film also evokes some unexpected emotion as there were more than a few people wiping their eyes during the film which at its core is a store of a young, shy boy desperate to be accepted and loved.
I truly hope the film is recognized come Awards season as it is a wonderful and memorable cinematic experience.
5 stars out of 5
Boring Characters And Plodding Plot Derail Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Picking up after the events of the previous film; "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" deals with a world trying to assess what to do with the presence of the giant Titans. The Monarch Corporation wants the creatures studied and has established locales to study the ones they have found currently hibernating. The U.S. Government wants them destroyed as they do not want repeats of the destruction that was previously caused by Godzilla.
Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobbie Brown) have developed a device known as Orca that will allow them to communicate with the creatures using specific sonic frequencies.
After a successful test under duress; the duo are captured by a ruthless Eco Terrorist group who want to use the giant creatures for their own objectives. This leads to a chase around the world with Monarch attempting to stop them and with Emma's ex-husband Mark (Kyle Chandler) deeply involved though he is deeply divided as he blames Godzilla for the loss of their son. When a gigantic creature is freed; Godzilla faces his greatest challenge as there is a race against time to save the world.
While the film has some very impressive visual effects, the film drags as aside from a couple of brief encounters; the audience is required to sit through roughly 90 minutes of plodding story to get to the action which is roughly only the last 15-20 minutes of the film.
The human characters were very disinteresting and many of the international cast looked at times like they were sleepwalking though their lines as they seemed to have a real lack of passion for what they were given to work with. The human characters were also very annoying and I found myself hoping that they would be taken out by the creatures as I had no connection to them and they did not inspire any sympathy.
While it may possibly appeal to hardcore fans, this was a miss for me as there simply was not enough creature action to counter-balance having to sit through the human characters and plodding plot to get to the good stuff.
2.5 stars out of 5
Long Shot (2019)
A Winning Romantic Comedy
When a media conglomerate purchases the Newspaper he works for; edgy yet determined journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) quits rather than compromise his integrity.
Around the same time Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), has learned that her boss will not seek re-election and will be endorsing her to be the first female President of the United States.
Charlotte is about to undertake a long trip around the world which will include stops in several key countries and she hopes to use this extended trip as an opportunity to build support for her environmental plan which in turn will be a platform for when she is able to announce her run for the White House. A chance encounter at a party brings Fred to her attention and she learns that the awkward but kind individual is actually her old neighbor whom she used to babysit when they were in school.
When Fred decides to loudly take issue with the new owner of his former employer at a swanky event; Charlotte reads his work and realizes that Fred may be ideal for helping with her speeches during the long trip ahead. Despite his reservations about politicians; Fred has limited work choices and agrees to take the job much to the dismay of Charlotte's team who sees him as a shabby lout who will not fit in with the Socialites they will encounter on their trip. As the trip unfolds Charlotte and Fred become friends which in turn leads to more which further complicates the situation as Fred does not appear to be the type of person that her staff can see being paraded in public when she announces her run for office.
What follows is a funny and touching tale of the complicated world of romance and friendship in the public eye as well as how politics can make people change their perspectives and beliefs in order to keep the status quo. The two leads work well with one another and have a real chemistry and the strong supporting cast is a winner. "Long Shot" is a real pleasant treat and is the best Romantic Comedy of the year to date. The jokes are frequent and mix well with the romantic elements which makes the film a winner.
4 stars out of 5
Captain Marvel (2019)
low To Start But Delivers A Solid Launch For The Latest Marvel Franchise
Marvel Studios has once again launched a new franchise within their expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe with the arrival of "Captain Marvel". The film tells the origin of the title character (Brie Larson), who struggles with gaps in her memory while serving as a Kree Protector under the supervision of Yon-Rogg (Jude Law).
When things do not go as planned during a mission; the good Captain finds herself on Earth forced to wait for her crew to retrieve her. The gaps in her memory combined with the arrival of the shape-shifting Skrulls are bad enough, but now there is also the arrival of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) for her to contend with.
Being set in the 90s we get a Fury that has yet to be awakened to what is truly out there so he finds the claims of alien beings a bit hard to grasp until fate pairs him with the Captain who must stop the threat posed by the aliens and unlock the mystery of her missing memories.
While the film takes a while to get going; there is enough action scattered throughout to keep your interest and the finale is a rousing FX showcase that really helps establish the character and delivers what fans expect. Naturally there is a good amount of humor along the way and the dynamic between Larson and Jackson is very good and I hope we get to see them paired on future Marvel adventures.
The supporting cast of Jude Law, Annette Bening, and Ben Mendelsohn is great and it was nice to see many other characters from past Marvel films appear as younger versions of themselves.
The film had to balance establishing the character and setting up further adventures with making sure audiences understood her importance and why her presence in "Avengers: Endgame" is connected and does so very well. Larson was amazing in the title role as she portrays a strength and confidence without ever being arrogant but there is also a quick wit and at times; a vulnerability that makes her character more well-rounded than people would expect from a comic based film.
It is amazing to me how Marvel Studios can take some of their lesser known characters and turn them into Box Office gold and their winning formula continues with this entertaining new franchise.
4.5 stars out of 5
An Interesting New Entry Into The Series
It is hard to believe it has been 19 years since "Unbreakable" arrived in cinemas as the film seemed to setup a sequel but it did not look like it would come to fruition. That all changed in 2016 when "Split" arrived and shocked audiences with a late reveal that showed a connection to the film. Writer/Director M. Night Shyamalan has wasted no time in bringing the new film to fans with the arrival of "GLASS". The film picks up soon after the events of "Split" as The Horde embodied by 23 personalities in the form of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) continues to kidnap young girls to serve to his highly dangerous 24th personality The Beast.
Security expert David Dunn (Bruce Willis) along with the help of his son attempts to locate the Horde as a new group of girls has gone missing. In time David locates The Beast and the two clash; but end up captured by authorities and sent to a facility for evaluation.
Their captive Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) believes their special abilities are in their minds and that they really do not have the special abilities they believe they do. Each of them have a special cell designed to restrain them as David is under threat of being doused with water while Kevin has a series of strobes which will halt him and trigger a new personality.
Added to the mix is Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who has been at the facility under heavy sedation after the events of "Unbreakable".
As the therapy unfolds it becomes clear that an elaborate game of cat and mouse is underway between Price and her charges as each seems to have their own agenda. This all builds to a very unusual final act which left me pondering if I enjoyed the final result or was disappointed with it.
The film seems to slowly be building to a big finale but yet it is far more restrained than one would expect. The film has a constant theme of Super Heroes and their traditional stories and roles as well as that of their Super Villains.
One expects a massive Battle Royale complete with elaborate FX but the film takes a more restrained approach and in doing so may disappoint some fans while pleasing others. The film naturally has its twist moments and while I will not spoil it, I can say I predicted it before I even saw the film. When I saw "Split" I actually told my wife my theory and low and behold it was true. I also predicted the twists for many of Shyamalan's previous films so I had hoped for a bit more in this regard. The film does offer up some interesting options for another sequel or Spin-Off and the cast was very good especially McAvoy who adds to his menagerie of characters by showing audiences a few more of the ones previously undisclosed.
The film is at times very enjoyable and at times a bit frustrating as it seems to deviate from themes and elements that were setup earlier. That being said it does very much appear that this could indeed be just the start of something much bigger in the series.
3.5 stars out of 5
The Predator (2018)
A Worthy But Flawed Sequel
Writer/Director Shane Black returns to the Predator franchise and looks to jumpstart the franchise in "The Predator". Black played Hawkins in the classic original film and has since gone on to find success on the other side of the camera with hits like "Iron Man 3", "The Nice Guys" and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang". Black has also written many genre action films so his take on the iconic Predator has been eagerly awaited by fans who are eager to see the series get back on track.
The film centers on a crashed Predator ship which is witnessed by an American Sniper on assignment named "McKenna" (Boyd Holbrook). While able to recover artifacts from the crashed ships escape pod, McKenna also sees his team brutally taken out by the pilot and soon finds himself targeted by a secret organization due to his knowledge of the otherworldly guest. At the same time, a Biologist named Casey (Olivia Munn), is brought to a secret locale where she gets an up close encounter with the ship's pilot in captivity and learns that a government organization has been tracking the visitors and that their visits have increased in recent years.
At the same time McKenna is ushered off to a bus full of unhinged soldiers who are to be locked away due to their numerous issues. Unbeknownst to his superiors; McKenna has mailed the recovered technology to his son who thanks to being on the Autism Spectrum, is able to figure out aspects of the tech which he believes to be a game.
This all leads to a series of brutal encounters as an enhanced Predator arrives and with two of the deadly creatures on the loose, the unhinged soldiers are largely the best hope humanity has of surviving what is to come. While aspects of the plot seem a bit muddled and at times a bit to linear; the film for the most part works for what fans want and in many places gives them the sequel they have waited for. There is a lot of humor in the film which reportedly divided early test audiences but the action is as brutal and graphic as one would want and expect from the series.
The film does have some big gaps in logic such as how a Biologist can be so comfy and skilled with Assault Weapons and seems to have no issues throwing herself into combat situations and the larger plot points of the Predator objective is intriguing and will open up much debate amongst fans. The last third of the film was reshot and you can tell at times how parts seem a bit out of synch from early parts of the film especially in the appearance of some characters whose look changes during the film which clearly indicates when segments of the film were shot. I know the film will likely divide some fans who do not like the humor and wanted a more evade and survive style plot but Black has crafted an interesting opening chapter which is said to be the first of a planned trilogy.
While far from perfect, "The Predator" does give fans some interesting characters and plenty of laughs to go with the action and is a worthy entry into the series as long as you are willing to overlook the issues and enjoy the ride. 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Meg (2018)
The Best Excuse To Stay Out Of The Water Since "JAWS"
The long journey to bring "The Meg" to the big screen is finally over as Author Steve Alten's classic book series has arrived.
The film stars Jason Statham as Jonas Taylor, an expert in underwater rescues who has to makes a very difficult choice when a rescue goes bad after suffering a very unexpected encounter mid-rescue.
Five years later Jonas is out of the rescue game as he has been labeled as unreliable and prone to PTSD so he drinks his time away in Thailand working on local boats.
200 miles off the coasts of China is an advanced research lab which is the pet project of a Billionaire named Morris (Rainn Wilson), who arrives in time to witness an attempt by the crew to go deeper than ever thought possible by going through a layer that was previously believed to be the ocean floor. The experiment works and the crew is amazed by their new discoveries until something violently attacks their ship leaving them stranded on the bottom of the ocean.
With a limited amount of air and time ticking away, Jonas is recruited despite his numerous refusals as not only is one of the stranded people his ex; but the last transmission sent by the sub mentions how Jonas had been right all along when he had years early claimed they were not alone during the rescue attempt gone bad.
Jonas is teamed with a spirited member of the team named Suyin (Bingbing Li), who has taken a sub down ahead of Jonas as she was not willing to wait for outside help to arrive. She locates her comrades and is attacked by a massive shark long thought extinct.
The harrowing rescue goes off but again Jonas is faced with a no-win situation and is blamed by a former colleague for the issues.
While Morris is eager to exploit the new find for the huge financial opportunity it presents, their plans change when the creature emerges from its contained area and threatens a level of carnage on the seas the likes of which society and the ecosystem are very unprepared for.
What follows is a frantic and often intense series of engagements as Jonas and the crew must battle the massive and deadly creature and find a way to survive. The film has some very solid effects and the intensity at times had people in the press screening partially covering their eyes during some of the more harrowing moments.
The cast is solid and work well with one another as the film does what it can to keep some of the characters from being little more than generic victims for the Meg.
The movie does differ from the book in terms of being set off China versus California but this was largely due to the joint-production with Chinese owned Gravity Pictures. The film is also much less gory than the book as Director Jon Turteltaub was mandated to deliver a PG-13 film by the studio to improve the odds of returning on the $150.00 million invested in the film.
The dialogue is also a bit stilted and formulaic in parts but action films are not known for their complex plots or advanced dialogue and I attributed this largely to the challenges of a blended cast; many of whom do not speak English as their primary language.
Despite a delay from its planned 2017 release date, "The Meg" is a solid and fun action-thriller that gives audiences one of the best excuses not to go swimming since "Jaws". While there have been numerous Shark films over the years, "The Meg" deftly weaves good sets and production values with a top-notch cast and lavish visuals to bring the film to life.
With several other books in the series already available, I hope we see the next film surface in a few years as I cannot wait to see what comes next . 4 stars out of 5
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
Do Not Think And Enjoy The Ride
The buddy comedy has long been a staple of Hollywood films. In the 80s it became common in the buddy Cop format after the success of "Lethal Weapon" amongst others.
In the new film "The Spy Who Dumped Me"; audiences are introduced to Audrey (Mila Kunis), and her friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon). Audrey is in a funk as she was dumped by text by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) and spends her Birthday wallowing in pity and doubt about her life. Morgan is ever optimistic and energetic encourages her to burn the items Drew left behind as a form of starting over.
Empowered by the idea; Audrey texts her intentions to Drew who has ignored repeated contact attempts from Audrey so she can get closure. Unknown to either Audrey or Morgan is the fact that Drew is actually a Spy and is currently being hunted by some very dangerous people overseas.
Audrey and Morgan meet a man named Sebastian (Sam Heughan) who claims to know the situation with Drew and offers to help the girls with a situation they are now entangled within.
When Drew shows up unexpectedly to retrieve an item and ends up in a bad way, Morgan and Audrey follow his instructions and head to Vienna with a statute and find themselves on the run from spies, assassins, and all manner of dangers.
The plot of the film is convoluted and there is not much in the way of character growth. But the film does have some funny moments and many of them come from the frequent riffing of McKinnon who is just a non-stop spark of energy who fires off snappy comments no matter if facing a psychotic gymnast or in a high-speed chase.
Heughan is good stepping out from his Outlander character and it is nice to see him mixing in some comedy with the action scenes. Kunis and McKinnon work well with one another and seem to be having a great time working with one another on the film.
Despite some issues, the film was a pleasant and fun piece of entertainment as long as you are willing to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
3.5 stars out of 5
An Emjoyable And Intense Summer Film
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson), is a man getting a new start on life. Ten years after a hostage situation went bad and cost Will part of his leg, he is about to make a bid to a wealthy industrialist which will be a huge boost to his fledgling Security Assessment business.
The building in question is known as "The Pearl" and it is a multi-billion dollar wonder that towers over the Hong Kong skyline. The lower levels are open for consumer shops and other residents, but the assessment is needed in order to obtain the needed permissions to open the higher levels, and thanks to his former teammate Ben (Pablo Schreiber), has recommended Will which has allowed him to get into the mix for the job which usually goes to much larger and better established companies.
Upon meeting his potential new boss Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), Will is able to impress him and is given a tablet customized to his facial ID which will allow him to remotely access the building systems. On his way to tour the off-site monitoring office which is the last step needed for Will to fully sign off on the building, he is mugged and has his bag stolen. Will fortunately had the tablet on him which soon has him running for his life from a group of deadly individuals as well as the police who believe Will is behind the mysterious fire and system outages that have hit the Pearl in his absence as all the computer safeguards have been disabled by a group of armed individuals.
As if things were not bad enough for Will, he has to get into the burning building as his wife and children are trapped inside and he is their best hope for survival.
In a race against time, Will must face big odds, fire, and the dizzying heights of the building in order to save the day and rescue his family.
The poster and marketing efforts for the film made many believe it was simply an updated "Die Hard" but it is actually more than that. To me it was a mix of "The Towering Inferno" with elements of "Die Hard" but tells a more personal tale without skimping on the action. The film does have some great stunt session and tension but is not an over the top action film nor is it filled with sequences that make you roll your eyes with their stretching of credibility. The likeability of Johnson is a big key to the film and Neve Campbell is very refreshing as his wife as she is not a typical Damsel in distress but rather a strong woman who is more than capable of holding her own in the worst of situations.
What really stood out to me were the numerous times that my mind was sure Green Screen technology was used to portray the precarious heights but I was able to truly believe what I was seeing was really happening. The film does follow some of the standard action film checklists but does give users an enjoyable and intense summer movie experience which should be enough to make the film a success.
3.5 stars out of 5
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Slow To Start But Still A Fun Adventure
SPOILER: Following the unexpected and shocking moments from "Avengers: Infinity War", fans eagerly awaited the next Marvel Studios film for any type of clues as to what will happen next when the next Avengers film arrives next summer. "Ant-Man and the Wasp", is set before the events of "Avengers: Infinity War", and finds Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) under home confinement thanks to a plea deal he took for siding with Captain America in "Captain America: Civil War".
The years of being at home have driven Scott to find creative ways to entertain himself when his friend Luis (Michael Pena) and his daughter Cassie are not around. Scott is nearing the end of his isolation but knows F.B.I. Agent Woo (Randall Park), is waiting for him to slip up and with a possible twenty year prison term in the balance, he is not eager to make any mistakes. Scott is also on the outs with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and her father Hank (Michael Douglas) as it is revealed he took the Ant-Man suit and took part in the Civil War without their permission.
Fate intervenes when a strange dream causes Scott to contact Hope who in turn takes a reluctant Scott along with her to get to the bottom of the dream. Scott is naturally reluctant as he is days away from freedom and being discovered out and about and consorting with his wanted former associates would not be good for his eventual freedom.
A shady tech dealer named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and a dangerous new adversary named "Ghost" (Hannah John-Kamen) also complicate matters and force Scott, Hope, and Hank to contend with issues all around them as the race against time on an urgent mission while trying to stay away from Woo and his team.
The film is a bit slow getting started but it does have some great character moments as well as humor around the build-up to the action sequences. The action when it comes mixes some great visual FX with some humor as Hope and Scott jump between everyday items at various sizes to face the threats presented to them. The cast works very well with one another and there are some great moments that will likely become favorites for fans of the characters and Marvel.
The Ghost is a rather interesting choice as an adversary as we do not have an individual bent on conquest, revenge, mass destruction, or accumulating power and wealth. While it may seem odd to have a more down to earth and relatable villain in a Marvel film, it does continue a recent trend of showing of adversaries who are complex, harder to define, and sympathetic much like The Winter Soldier.
There are two scenes in the credits which are very important to the continuity of the Marvel Universe and with "Captain Marvel" due in March 2019, it will likely get fans whipped into overdrive thinking about the possibilities they present.
"Ant-Man and the Wasp" is not as epic in scale as some of the past Marvel films, but thanks to a likeable cast and some timely humor, it should keep fans happy until the next chapter in the series.
4 stars out of 5
A Solid Follow Up And Good Summer Entertainment
It has been three years since "Jurassic World" kicked off a new trilogy of Dinosaur films and successfully rebooted the "Jurassic Park" series which had been dormant for over fourteen years. The new film "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" centers on an urgent need to save the dinosaurs from a pending volcanic eruption. This kicks off a huge debate as to the ethics about saving resurrected animals or simply letting them go extinct once again amongst government leaders.
Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) leads a group hoping to lobby support to save the animals and just when things look darkest, hope arrives with an offer from wealthy industrialist Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), arrives. Lockwood worked with Sir John Hammond to create the creatures many years ago and despite a falling out, he remains passionate about protecting the creatures and wants Claire to help save some of the creatures and relocate them to a private sanctuary. Claire is needed as she has a radio frequency which will make locating and saving certain species easier and she is tasked to take Owen (Chris Pratt), with her to retrieve Blue the Velociraptor.
The fact that Owen and Claire are on the outs is a challenge but the chance to see and save Blue gets him to join the trip and they set off with a team to accomplish their task.
Things do not go as planned as it seems that there is a nefarious plan in place unbeknownst to the ailing Lockwood where animals are being captured in an effort to sell them as organic weapons and collectibles.
Things go into high-gear when it is learned why Blue is so important to the plan and with a new and very deadly species of Dinosaur introduced, things are about to get very dangerous.
If you have seen any of the prior films you will know that there will be plenty of Dinosaur carnage and destruction on hand and that the humans must face their own creations in a battle to survive.
The film takes what to me was a glaring hole in regards to why not simply make new creatures versus the debate over a rescue and gave it a very sobering and sadly understandable answer.
The effects in the film are first-rate and the film does hold your attention and provide some very exciting moments. Some may say that after five films it is hard to recapture the sense of wonder as after all; the film is bound to eventually become creatures on the loose with humans caught in the middle.
Director J.A. Bayona keeps things moving at a brisk pace and does have a script with a few nods to prior films in the series. While some may want to detract the film as mindless entertainment, the film is better than the two sequels to the original "Jurassic Park", and does provide enough good moments to keep fans happy. I look forward to seeing what the next film in the series offers as this is pure summer entertainment at its best.
4 stars out of 5
Deadpool 2 (2018)
A Littel Rough At The Star But Brings Home Another Winner
The Mercenary with a mouth is back with the eagerly awaited arrival of "Deadpool 2". The films sees the generally well-meaning but highly dysfunctional Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), back to taking out bad guys as a contract player but also managing his relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When an unexpected event sends his life into a freefall, Deadpool tries to find a new purpose with the help of his X-Men associates from the last film who attempt to recruit him into their organization.
His first mission is to defuse an angry and destructive young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison), which takes an unexpected turn and lands them both in serious trouble.
One would think that would be enough to cause some major life changes for Deadpool but thanks to the arrival of Cable (Josh Brolin), a cyborg soldier from the future; things are about to get much more complicated and intense. Undaunted, Deadpool opts to form his own league of heroes and aside from Domino (Zazie Beetz); they seem to be as unlucky or dysfunctional as their leader which makes for some very hysterical consequences. What follows is an action and laugh-laden adventure which brings even more of what made the first film such a success to the audience as the film takes the bawdy action of the first and ups the ante thanks in large part to an expanded budget and cast.
My biggest concern for the film was that with an expanded budget there would be too many characters and an attempt to do far too much with the film. That did play out at times in the beginning as for me, the first film worked so well as they had to let the characters rather than the action and effects carry it and the rapid-fire arrival of so many jokes and creative profanity made repeat viewing of the film necessary to catch everything. This time out we get elaborate action and chase sequences as well as a much larger cast. At times it seemed as if this would possibly overshadow the characters and story but Reynolds and Director David Leith never let it cross that line.
They also go back to the core elements in the final third of the film which really allows the film to fully connect with the tone of the original film and brings the film home to a satisfying conclusion. What really sold the film for me was the brilliant and very inspired extended scene during the credits which allows Deadpool to "fix" various issues which perfectly captures the irreverent character and the best aspects of the series where the cast is willing to make fun of themselves as well as the larger universe in which their characters exist. I cannot wait to see what comes next as "DeadPool 2" is another fun outing for the character and something very different from most comic based movies. 4 stars out of 5
Deep Blue Sea 2 (2018)
Good FX But Not Much In The Way Of Story
Back in 1999 I fondly remember covering "Deep Blue Sea". The press screening was a pleasant surprise as the film presented a fresh take on the shark on the loose genre and gave what was one of the more enjoyable films in the genre since "Jaws 2".
I had always wondered why the film had never generated a sequel and talk of a direct to DVD follow up a few years later never materialized.
Now in 2018, we finally get the long-awaited follow up as "Deep Blue Seas 2" has arrived as a direct to DVD from Warner Bros Home Entertainment. I eagerly awaited the arrival of my review copy as not only do I enjoy Shark movies, but my son is very big on the study of sharks and his insights always add a new dimension to me as he can tell me things like the difference between the species being portrayed, number of offspring they have, and their behavior.
The story centers on Dr. Misty Calhoun (Danielle Savre), who is tasked to give her professional opinions to a facility headed by billionaire Carl Durant (Michael Beach). At an underwater lab in South Africa, Dr. Calhoun arrives with a team and learns that the group is experimenting on Bull Sharks with a method that will increase brain abilities in humans.
Naturally things do not go as planned and before long, there are several very angry and genetically enhanced sharks on the loose with the humans desperately trying to find a way to escape and survive.
The story and characters are not overly complex but the goal is clearly to get the cast into the path of the CGI sharks as soon as possible and letting the carnage begin.
I had expected visuals on par with the SYFY films due to the direct to video nature of the film but what we were given was much better than expected. The CGI effects are quite good and the cinema photography of the film is quite good as there are many really impressive shots in the film of the aquatic setting.
The film is hampered by the thin plot and characters and a lack of star power but it is worth a watch and is certainly better quality than many of the other creature on the loose films out there.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
A Summer Film That IS Even Better Than The Hype
Summer movies often hype themselves as spectacular events not to be missed and their ad campaigns use words like "epic", "spectacle", and "smash" as ways to build the hype to increase advanced box office sales.
The summer 2018 film season kicks off in a big way with "Avengers: Infinity War" and it is the rare summer film that exceeds is lofty expectations and delivers a crowning achievement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
When Thanos (Josh Brolin), embarks on a deadly campaign to find and possess the Infinity Stones, he leaves a path of death and destruction in his path. When his pursuit leading him to Earth, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who enlist a reluctant Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), to the cause just as the minions of Thanos arrive.
With The Avengers fractured and scattered following the events of "Captain America: Civil War" the teams find themselves dealing with the threat in various groups as fate steps in to divide many key members of the team. This allows for a great entry by the Guardians of the Galaxy and allows the film to take a very enjoyable path. Essentially the movie weaves separate storylines into one cohesive and very satisfying epic. You have a story with the Guardians as well as one with many of the key Avengers, as well as others with characters old and new. As such it is like a Guardians, Avengers, and Marvel film all rolled into one and each one supports the other very well yet has the charm and identity you would expect. While the tone is very dark as you would expect with literally half of the known universe facing destruction, there is also some solid humor in the film that never once undermines the story or pacing.
Naturally the effects are stunning as you would expect as Marvel has put a significant amount of money into the film and it shows in every eye-popping action sequence.
What really impressed me the most was that the Russo Brothers never let the FX of the film overshadow the characters and with a very large cast, it was nice to see everyone got their moment and you did not see members of the cast trying to one up each other.
There are some real surprise moments along the way and the action is easily the best of any Marvel film to date. Many fans had expressed disappointment with "Avengers: Age of Ultron" for me this film is significantly better than the prior film and is everything that a Marvel fan would want in a film.
I was also surprised by how well Thanos was portrayed as while you hopefully will not agree with his deductions and methods; you could actually understand his motivations and it help him transcend from the usual megalomaniacs which are so common in films of his type. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next and make sure you stay through the credits for a bonus scene.
Believe the hype, "Avengers: Infinity War" is an epic not to be missed and is an example of what a summer event film should be.
5 stars out of 5
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018)
Task Force X is Back
The deadly, demented, and dangerous, and dysfunctional Task Force X has returned in "Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay". The new animated film from Warner Bros Home Entertainment features the voice talents of Christian Slater, Vanessa Williams, Greg Grunberg, Tara Strong, and many others in an adult themed story which should delight fans of the series who thought the PG-13 approach of the live action film did not do the series the proper treatment they believed was due.
The worst of the worst have been recruited to recover a mysterious artifact and thanks to the explosives implanted in their heads; their control and compliance is expected.
Deadshoot, Harley Quinn, Copperhead, Captain Boomerang, Killer Frost, and others set out to complete their mission despite their usual issues with authority, the world, and each other. Naturally they are not unopposed as Captain Zoom, Banshee, and others stand in their way.
As the team fights others and amongst themselves, the body count piles up as this is not a kid's movie and the blood and bullets fly frequently. The animation and voice acting is first rate as you would expect from Warner Bros and the large cast works very well bringing their characters to life and infusing them with a complexity which is deeply engaging.
In another triumph for the studio, the movie delivers all that fans expect and more and let us hopes we will be seeing Task Force X again in the very near future.
4 stars out of 5
A Quiet Place (2018)
A Very Fresh Take On The Creature Premise
Like many parents, Lee (John Krasinski), and Evelyn (Emily Blunt), have an overwhelming urge to keep their children safe in the world and protect them at all costs. In the new film "A Quiet Place", that maternal drive is taken to extreme levels as the world has been attacked by vicious creatures who hunt by sound alone.
The slightest loud noise will bring a rapid moving creature in moments that will destroy whatever made the sound instantly. As such, Lee and Evelyn have gone to great lengths to live as quietly as possible and even have a system for their home and supply runs to be as safe as possible.
When tragedy strikes, it causes a division between Lee and their only daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who although deaf herself believes she is being blamed for the tragedy and the guilt has only grown over time.
The family continues on and the film jumps forward in time to show that Lee is studying as much about the creatures as he can in an effort to find a weakness they can use as well as to provide more security for his family.
Of course even the best plans do not always work and what follows is a very intense and raw struggle for survival which shows just how far a person is willing to go for their family.
Krasinski not only stars in the film but also directed it and helped to write the screenplay. Working with his actual wife worked very well as they have a fantastic chemistry which helps them convey the emotions and thoughts of the film well which is amazing considering how little dialogue there is in the film as gestures and sign language are the most common form of communication.
The film is very intense in moments and a fantastic extended sequence with Blunt had my wife squeezing my hand tightly and afraid to utter a sound as it left her holding her breath.
The film is a very fresh take on the creature genre and the quality of the performances lifts the film to a level rarely seen in a suspense film. The film did play a bit fast and loose with some aspects such as the history of the creatures and the state of the world around them as it is largely conveyed through newspaper headlines left lying around. As such I found myself wondering why certain defensive options and offensive tactics were not used as to me they seemed to be common sense approaches. For a film with such a fresh premise and strong performances, the ending did seem to depend a bit too much on some of the usual Hollywood stereotypes but it did not keep the film from being highly entertaining and effective. As I watched the film I kept thinking that there could be a connection to "Cloverfield" especially based on aspects of the creatures. The film was made for a very small budget so hopefully we will be seeing a sequel in the near future as "A Quiet Place" was a very enjoyable film and one of the best surprises of the year.
4 stars out of 5
Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)
Seen It All Before But Engaging And Entertaining
T has been ten years since humanity triumphed over the invading Kaiju in "Pacific Rim". The world has begun rebuilding from the devastation caused by the conflict and for the most part humanity has moved on. However for Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), he exists as a hustler in a yet to be recovered zone that was heavily damaged by the conflict. Jake lives for the hustle, finding and trading one item of value for another from cookies and cereal to parts from down Jaegers.
Looting and operating parts from the former combat giants is very illegal but with the massive payout from their parts, the lure is too great for Jake to ignore. This pursuit leads him into trouble and reluctantly paired with young scrapper Amari Namani (Cailee Spaeny). Jake gets a choice of prison or returning to train Jaeger pilots as he is the son of the late hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), and naturally has many unresolved issues of sharing the name of the beloved hero. Figuring training a class beats jail, Jake agrees to teach Amara and a new class of Jaeger pilots with his former rival Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood), and to say they still have issues with one another would be an understatement. Despite this, training moves along as planned and Nate and Jake even work well enough to pilot a Jaeger at a ceremony that will usher in a new but controversial new age in protection for humanity.
When an unexpected threat arrives and causes mass devastation and chaos, Jake and Nate must get to the bottom of the threat. As their investigation moves along a massive threat is discovered which pits them and their untested recruits against a threat old and new which threatens to end humanity. What follows is a FX laden finale where cities are laid waste to and massive combatants engage is a truly impressive visual spectacle
While "Pacific Rim: Uprising" does use a familiar plot threads, it does so in an engaging way. The film does have a very basic plot and does not delve too much into character development and leaves some of the threads it opened unresolved. What it does have is a good amount of action after a slower than expected buildup. The action is visually appealing and exciting and delivers a much better experience than the last few "Transformer" films did. The cast works well with one another and it was nice to see Charlie Day and others from the first film return as Day always makes his scenes engaging. While you may have a sense of seeing much of this before in giant monster and robot films, it is done in an appealing way. There is much of the film that you can see was clearly included to make sure the film appeals to audiences in China and Japan but in the new global film market, it is vital for films to do well in those markets, and with a film based in the Asian Pacific Rim, it only makes sense to do this. Eastwood and Boyega work well with one another and the finale opens the door wide open for a third film that looks like it would extend the franchise by taking things in a new and exciting direction. 3 stars out of 5
Tomb Raider (2018)
Slow To Get Started But Better Than The Two Prior Films
The third film in the "Tomb Raider" film series has arrived and much like
the recent entries in the video game series that inspire it; the film
serves as a reboot of the franchise.
This time out Alicia Vikander takes over the title role from Angelina
Jolie and brings us a younger and far less experienced Lara Croft who
toils as a bike messenger struggling to get by in London. She has a feisty
and competitive nature but is haunted by the absence of her father
(Dominic West), who has been missing for seven years and is presumed dead.
As such, Lara is his sole heir and is being pressured to sign documents
that will legally declare him dead and turn over a vast corporation and
fortune to Lara. True to her nature, Lara resists this as she is
unwilling to move on from her father and cannot bring herself to declare
him dead and take her inheritance.
In time Lara learns that her father was also a dabbler in the supernatural
and artifacts and may have vanished trying to find a secluded tomb on a
remote Japanese island.
Undaunted, Lara sets off to get answers and finds herself in the company
of a boat Captain named Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), who reluctantly takes her to
the dangerous island. Danger arrives first in a storm then in the form of
a Mercenary named Matthias Vogel (Walton Goggins), who wants to find the
mysterious tomb as well for nefarious reasons and will stop at nothing
including murder to get it.
Lara is soon faced with the fight of her life as she must battle Vogel and his men as well as the island and other forces in order to survive and protect the world.
The film moves at a pace slower than you might expect as the first half of the film is mostly setup but there are a few moments of action included to keep things interesting. While many of the action sequences may seem like they are either restrained or influenced from other films, they do still work and entertain. While some may call this a female "Indiana Jones" film, Lara is very much her own character as she has a spunk and grit that makes her equal adapt in a cultured setting as she is solving a dangerous trap or mixing it up with deadly threats.
Vikander also portrays Lara with a sense of vulnerability as she does get injured, bruised and tormented. This is not an unstoppable action machine, but rather a real person who knows there is a time use your brain and then a time to take action, but is also remorseful about the consequences of her actions at times.
The film does move to a satisfying finale and sets up a further chapter very well. There are some great nods to prior games in the film which was refreshing as I joked to my wife during some of the more intense scenes that I feel like I need to be pushing the X and O button on our Dualshock 4 controllers to help Lara run faster and jump higher.
In the end "Tomb Raider" is a satisfying if safe reboot for the franchise that I expect should keep fans of the series happy. I do think that audiences in North America may want a bit more action but the film should play well in the Asian and European markets.
3.5 stars out of 5.
Death Wish (2018)
An Effective Blend Of Action And Drama That Holds Up Well
For Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis), life is good but at a crossroads. With his birthday coming up, his daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) is preparing to leave their affluent Chicago home to start college in New York.
His wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) knows this is a good thing for their daughter but also knows that it is a turning point in their lives as they will soon be facing an empty nest.
Sadly their ideal life is turned upside down when a home invasion and robbery turns unexpectedly violent leaving Lucy dead and Jordan in a coma. A distraught Paul finds little solace in therapy or in the support of his brother Frank (Vincent D'Onofrio) who is putting his own life back together.
Frustrated by the inability of the police to find those responsible and bring them to justice; Paul becomes even more and more frustrated as the weeks pass. Paul eventually comes into possession of a gun and begins to practice with it which eventually leads him to taking to the streets in a Hoody. When a chance encounters has him gun down two criminals, Paul finds a sudden rush from his experience, especially when it was captured by an onlooker and posted online. Thanks to his face being hidden, the media dubs him the "Grim Reaper" and Paul begins a campaign of vigilante justice as he tracks down those responsible for his suffering and looks to exact a brutal revenge.
The movie directed by horror icon Eli Roth is a faithful update of the Charles Bronson classic. Paul is now Doctor Vs an Architect and Chicago not New York serves as the setting, but the tone and subject matter of the film is very much the same. Roth does show his horror background with a couple of killings that are a bit gruesome but they are not overly gratuitous as he cuts away from the carnage instead of lingering on it.
What I found most satisfying is how the film moved at a slow and almost deliberate pace. This was not a run and gun action film like many of the past films Willis has done. His Kersey is an everyman who decides to take extraordinary measures when he believes the law has failed him. He moves at a steady pace and even in the most frantic moments, moves with the speed one would expect of a man of his years who has only recently fired a gun. Although effective he is at times unsteady with his shorts and actions and his inexperience shows.
It was refreshing to see combat on screen by a character that seemed real vs a polished officer or combat vet.
The cast was solid and really worked well with one another and you could see the struggle they faced with the situations presented to them. The audience at my press screening responded well to the film and seemed to get behind Paul as he embarked on his crusade. I am very curious to see in this time of controversy about gun laws how the film will be received.
For me, "Death Wish" is a very entertaining retelling of a well-known story that still holds up and still asks many difficult questions about our society and how to best protect the ones we love.
3.5 stars out of 5.
Game Night (2018)
Not A Comedy Not A Drama, But An Interesting Hybrid
Max (jason Bateman), and his wife Annie (Rachel McAdams), are a loving
couple who met during a trivia night at a bar. Gaming has been a regular
part of their lives, and they are often involved with hosting game nights
for their friends. Max and Annie seems have it all save for a family and
when it is determined that stress may be leading to the problem Max
attempts to resolve the issue. Max has issues with his older brother
Brooks (Kyle Chandler), who he sees as ultra-successful and rubbing his
success in his face. The fact that Max has not seen his brother in a while
is not an issue, the fact that the brother who seems to beet him in
everything has returned is enough to set the mild-mannered Max on edge.
After an enjoyable game night, Brooks offers to host the next one and
although Max knows this is just Brooks looking for a way to show off his
house, he accepts the invitation.
Upon arrival, Brooks tells Max, Annie, and their friends that they will be playing a mystery night where a group of actors will stage a kidnapping and they must unravel clues to solve the mystery. The fact that Brooks is offering a prized car that Max has long coveted is all the motivation he needs to winn the competition.
The game starts and a group of goons arrive and rough up Brooks and kidnap him in front of the guests who all think this is part of the show. They soon come to reallize that Brooks may not be the person he claims to bend that the kidnapping may indeed be real and not part of a scripted game.
What follows is a mix of comedy and dramatic mystery that while unfolding slowly at times,is filled with some funny moments and great characters. Bateman has his likable everyman persona down well in the film and the supporting cast does a great job playing in the wacky adventure without every getting to madcap. The breakout star of the film is Jesse Plemons who plays Max and Annie's creepy police neighbor who is deeply disturbed following the breakup of his marriage and has taken things to a new level. You will want to stay through the credits as there are some extra scenes which round out the film nicely. "Game Night", is a pleasant enough film that cannot quite determine if it is a comedy or dramaedy, but it does enough good things to make it an enjoyable outing.
3.5 stars out of 5.
Black Panther (2018)
Marvel Has Done It Again
The latest film in the Marvel Universe has arrived with "Black Panther" and it continues the tradition of big budgeted event films from Marvel. The film follows T'Challa (Chadwick Bodeman), as he prepares to assume the throne of the country of Wakanda after the death of his father. He is destined to lead over a nation that to the outside world seems impoverished and rural, but is secretly a very technologically advanced society thanks to their Vibranium resources. The resources allow them to keep their capitol city hidden from the world.
As T'Challa attempts to assume the throne and rule over the various tribes of his country; a threat from his past both known and unknown arises. Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) surfaces, T'Challa mounts and effort to bring him to justice which in turn sets a chain of events into motion. A mysterious and deadly figure known as Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), plans to obtain the Vibranium to exact a plan of revenge so severe it will lead to the nations of the world being subjugated and will divide even the most loyal citizens of Wakanda.
T'Challa must use his powers as The Black Panther and guardian of Wakanda to save his people and the very world from a threat that holds the fate of the world in the balance.
The film takes a while to get going as Director/Co-Writer Ryan Coogler takes his time introducing audiences to the world of Black Panther and especially the various characters. The strong supporting cast features Lupita Nyong'o, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman, and so many others that it is great to see such well-rounded characters.
The film does take a while to get up to the action but when it arrives; it delivers making the wait worth it. What I really liked was that the characters were well-defined as were their motivations. You did not have some cartoon mega-villain with some insane scheme, but rather a realistic and believable threat whose motivations were understandable though misguided. Marvel has again delivered a very thrilling story that fits well into their extended universe and you will want to make sure to stay through all the credits for the two additional scenes which sets up future events for the Marvel Universe. "Black Panther" is a rousing success all around continues Marvel's Cinematic Universe in grand style.
4.5 stars out of 5
Fifty Shades Freed (2018)
Better Than The Two Prior But Stil Lacking
The third and final entry in the "Fifty Shades" series has arrived with the release of "fifty Shades Freed". The story opens with the wedding of Anastasia (Dakota Johnson), and Christian (Jamie Dornan), and follows their honeymoon in the lavish locales of France.
There getaway is cut short by an act of sabotage at Christian's company and it soon becomes clear that a person from their past has taken things to a dangerous level which requires Christian to implement security measures for Anastasia and their extended family.
In between the intrigue presented by the threat, we also have numerous scenes of nudity and eroticism as Christian is not going to give up his dominating needs anytime soon.
Combine this with a new revelation that threatens to disrupt the crafted and controlled world he has created for himself and Anastasia; the tensions rise between them making a dangerous and stress-filled situation even more complicated.
While the film does have a better plot and is more engaging than the previous films in the series it is hampered by many of the same issues that hindered the series. The two leads have zero chemistry with one another and their supposedly highly erotic scenes are so routine and by the numbers they lack any form of excitement or real titillation. The film also has this message that behavior that would be considered highly unacceptable in others seems to get a pass for Christian as he is a handsome billionaire. He is a very selfish and controlling individual who demands obedience. While Anastasia does have a strong enough character to stand up to him, she tolerates behavior that would be considered unacceptable by many and seems very quick to give him a pass when lavish gifts and trips are bestowed upon her. I wonder how romantic and acceptable his behavior would be if he was a struggling musician who did not have the financial resources to create fantasies and buy his apologies. I know the film is supposed to be romantic fantasy but this really annoys me as he exhibits much of the behavior that is considered unacceptable and to be avoided at all costs, yet it is all wrapped up in a sweet bow of forgiveness.
That aside the series does seem to be losing steam as the last film earned less than the original film and "Fifty Shades Freed" is tracking to open well below the last film as well. Fans of the series will likely enjoy it as a satisfying finale, but I really expected more from the final moments of the series as after following the characters, the ending seemed very anti-climactic.
2.5 stars out of 5.
Easily One Of The Best And Most Enjoyable Entries In The Series
The eagerly anticipated next chapter in the Star Wars saga; "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" has arrived and it is by far one of the best films in the series and a significant upgrade over "Star Wars: The Force Awakens". The film picks up where the last film concluded as Rey (Daisy Ridley), has located the long in hiding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and attempts to recruit him to return to fight the evil First Order and train her in the ways of the Force.
At the same time, the First Order has commenced an assault on the retreating forces of the Resistance and this has caused a rift when key members of the command staff are lost/injured leaving Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) in charge. Her style does not mesh well with the impulsive Poe Damron (Oscar Isaac), and in a move of desperation, he oversees a mission for Finn (John Boyega), and Rose (Kelley Marie Tran), to make a desperate move to allow the forces to escape the relentless assault and pursuit of the First Order.
For many films, the above scenario would be enough to comprise the bulk of the movie but in the case of The Last Jedi, it is simply part of a much larger and far more intricate storyline that is at times much deeper and darker than one would expect from a Star Wars film.
Rey finds Skywalker a broken and bitter man who is consumed with his past failure regarding his Nephew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and wants no part of his former glory and praise believing the best thing for the Universe would be for the Jedi to end.
Ren at the same time is a conflicted mess as he is eager to win the approval of his brutal master Snoke (Andy Serkis), while being drawn to Rey who believes he can be redeemed. It is this conflict as well as the tug of war between Snoke, Ren, and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), that shows a much more dynamic and complicated connection between the characters as well as drives home their complexity of their relationships and the situations they find themselves in.
The late Carrie Fisher is captivating as General Leia and her presence lifts the scenes she is in. She portrays Leia with a calm yet feisty and determined edge which shows that she is always in control no matter the situation.
The action in the film comes in waves and when it arrives, it is a wonder to behold as the lavish visuals and complex action sequences are dazzling but unlike the Prequels, never once overwhelm the cast as this is first and foremost a character driven story.
The film does put more of an emphasis on the new characters vs the old, but as this was always the plan, it is nice to see that older characters are not shoved aside or given a token cameo, they are still central to the plot just let the younger cast do more of the heavy lifting, but still get plenty of moments to shine.
Writer/Director Rian Johnson has done a masterful job in crafting a new entry into the series that not only entertains, but gives a deeper and dark look at the universe which makes the film easily one of the best Star Wars films ever made. There are sequences that will delight and surprise fans, and when it was over and I could catch my breath and reflect upon what I had just seen, I found myself saying that I could not have asked for a better sequel as it not only entertained thoroughly, but provided plenty of unexpected moments that makes me all the more anxious to see how the new trilogy concludes in 2019. "Star Wars": The Last Jedi" is the film that fans have been waiting for as it contains all of the best elements of Star Wars and boldly moves the franchise ahead.
5 stars out of 5.
Justice League (2017)
Better Than Expected But Deeply Flawed
The long anticipated "Justice League" has finally arrived finally combining the biggest stars of the DC universe into one film. The proposed film has faced many obstacles on the way to the big screen ranging from script issues, massive reshoots and a change of Director for said reshoots due to a family tragedy that Director Zack Snyder suffered.
The film follows Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Godot), as they look to assemble a team of other gifted individuals to help fight off a pending invasion. The death of Superman has left a void on the Earth, and this has paved the way for an ancient evil to return as he attempts to conquer the planet after he collects the three needed artifacts that his plan requires.
In a race against time, Batman and Wonder Woman recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher), to battle to save the planet. Naturally they battle amongst themselves as well as their massing enemies but ultimately decide on a dangerous plan that can tip the odds in their favor and save the day.
The action in the film is good but it often plays out like a video game. With so many blatantly obvious CGI backgrounds, the movie looked like a video game. There were numerous scenes that looked like they were lifted from Injustice and Injustice 2 that I muse d to myself that someone must have used their Power Up for the shot. Affleck and Gadot are good and work well with one another, but there are some serious casting issues with the film. The biggest for me was Ezra Miller as The Flash. I did not like his effeminate, nerdy, socially awkward, and neurotic and at times cowardly take on the character. This is not the Barry Allen I grew up reading in comics or the one that has been portrayed twice in a much better fashion on television. His comic relief status grew old fast and his character really offered little to the film.
It has been well-documented that Joss Whedon not only handled the rewrites for the film but took over directing duties to complete the film. You can see elements of his humor scattered throughout and the film does move along at a steady pace without dragging.
The biggest issue is that so many of the characters are just stiff and one-dimensional. They really are not overly interesting so it is hard to really connect with them and the tasks they are facing. Unlike Marvel who have excelled with dysfunctional groups who fight amongst themselves as well as the forces of evil, this group seems to be going through the paces rather than being fully engaged with the task at hand and each other.
In the end "Justice League" is better than I expected, and the two bonus scenes in the credits show some interesting potential down the road. As it is, it is flawed entertainment that requires audiences to overlook a lot of issues. 3 stars out of 5