‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Review

Director: Matt Reeves

Writers: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria and Amiah Miller

Synopsis: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mystic quest to avenge his kind.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Planet of the Apes was a movie that changed the movie scene due to its amazing practical effects, visual storytelling – apes of horses! – and vision of the future. Sure the series went to some crazy places and out there ideas. No serious watch them or look it up, but the series always had a special place in people’s hearts, and after a lackluster attempt with Tim Burton’s version – although credit where credit is due with those practical effects – the series got a much needed shot-in-the-arm with the reboot back in 2011 in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Lead by motion-capture pioneer Andy Serkis with WETA Digital helping with the groundbreaking special effects, Rise became an instant hit with fans and nonfans alike. Serkis’ Caesar was a compelling character that made us feel and root for him to win, which meant yes, humans are the bad guys and had to be stopped. We then got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which added an extra layer, it wasn’t humans vs. apes, it was humans vs. apes vs. apes, thanks to Toby Kebbell’s Koba, who hated what humans did to apes, and Caesar, who saw the good in humans once and believes that there could be peace. Now, of course, we get War for the Planet of the Apes, a great end to a great trilogy.

War picks up a couple years after the events of Dawn, and we now sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) with the remaining apes living in hiding in the woods from a group of soldiers lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). After two attacks on their home, Caesar has had enough and decides to get revenge. Breaking away from the apes, and sending them to a new promised home, Caesar is followed by his trusted and closest friends in Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite). Eventually they come across a young girl, played by Amiah Miller, who has lost the ability to speak, and Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), an ape that has learned to talk just be being around humans. What follows is Caesar struggling with his darker side to get revenge, but also still trying to remain the leader to his people

Despite the summer releases of all the films, and the massive – and impressive –special effects, this Apes franchise never really feels like a summer movie. They could have easily turned this into a full-fledged apes vs. humans series, but instead they made every film about making Caesar a fully fleshed out and complex character. The film could be looked at as character study on both sides. Are the apes the heroes, or are the humans. Yes, there are good humans like James Franco’s Will or Jason Clarke’s Malcolm, but for every good few humans, there are extremely bad humans like Harrelson’s The Colonel, who take the extreme.

Caesar fights for his people and to keep them safe, but so do the humans, and in this case Woody Harrelson’s The Colonel has a reasonable case for his actions. Although anyone in that kind of position will probably say their position is right, but in this case, he’s somewhat right. That said, that is another reason why I love this rebooted trilogy. It gives you both sides of the argument and lets you choose, but Caesar is such a great character and seeing his journey for three films now, you have to root for him.

Of course, some of that goes to Andy Serkis. Serkis’ subtle nuances always made Caesar feel more human, if that makes some sense. Here it’s the same, Caesar is still conflicted, but still has his purpose but is stuck figuring out if he wants to continue doing things his way or if he falls for the darkness that Koba told him he would and should do. That’s why his advisory here in Harrelson’s The Colonel is a great one. Like Caesar, The Colonel only has one purpose and will do whatever it takes to complete it.

When it comes to the rest of the cast, it’s hard to really judge all of them considering they are mostly all motion-capture. When it comes to the new characters in Bad Ape, he brings some humor to the otherwise dark toned film, and all of it works and is not forced. Then there’s Amiah Miller’s character who is a huge homage and Easter Egg to the original series that ties in where the future of the series can go, but also do their own version. Also, credit to Miller, who’s still relativity new to Hollywood, on what she was able to pull off here given that she doesn’t talk at all.

Speaking of homage and Easter Eggs, War does have a few more besides Miller’s character, but there is something that I really liked that they added that connects to the original. It was something that feels small, but when you look at past films, and potentially future films, it completely works and makes sense – although part of me kind of wishes they don’t make any more after this.

All in all, War for the Planet of the Apes has it all; action, drama, humor, beautiful cinematography by Michael Seresin and score by Michael Giacchino. More importantly, War is a fitting end to a near perfect trilogy that gave us a great character in Caesar played by Andy Serkis. While part of me would somewhat like to see where this franchise goes from here, the other part of me hopes they leave it at that.

War for the Planet of the Apes

4.5 out of 5

Spoiler-Filled Review Podcast for Wonder Woman and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

The Movie Pit Podcast is back with spoiler-filled reviews for the animated adaptation of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and the highly anticipated and much-talked about new addition to the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman. So sit back, take a listen and let me know what you think.

 

June Movie Releases

Hi there!

Can you believe it’s already June! How the time passes by. Anyway, the second month of the Summer Movie Season goes into full swing and, just like May, brings with it some highly anticipated movies. Let’s take a look shall we?

 

2nd

Captain Underpants (Animation – 20th Century Fox/DreamWorks Animation/Scholastic Entertainment)

Based on the popular kids books by Dav Pilkey, two mischievous kids hypnotize their mean high school principal and turn him into their comic book creation, the kind-hearted and elastic-banded Captain Underpants (voiced by Ed Helms). The voice cast also includes Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele, Kevin Hart, Kristen Schaal, and Nick Kroll.

 

Wonder Woman (Action – Warner Bros./DC Entertainment/Dune Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/Cruel & Unusual Films)

Directed by Patty Jenkins, an Amazonian princess (Gal Gadot) leaves her island home to explore the world and, in doing so, becomes one of the world’s greatest heroes. This has been a long time coming, but Wonder Woman is finally on the big screen with her own film, and it looks awesome. The film also stars Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Elanor Matuura, Said Taghmaoui, Samantha Jo, and Danny Huston.

 

 

9th

Limited Release: My Cousin Rachel

Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier, and adapted by Roger Michell. A young Englishman plots revenge against his mysterious, beautiful cousin, believing that she murdered his guardian. But his feeling become complicated as he finds himself falling under the beguiling spell of her charms. The film stars Sam Claflin, Rachel Weisz, Holliday Grainger and Iain Glen.

 

 

Megan Leavey (Biography War Drama – Bleecker Street Media, LD Entertainment) 

Based on the true life story of a young Marine Corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lived during their deployment in Iraq. The film Kate Mara, playing Megan Leavey, Common, Tom Felton, Will Patton, Ramon Rodriguez, Edie Falco and Bradley Whitford.

 

It Comes At Night (Horror Mystery – A24, Animal Kingdom)

Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge. The film looks completely eerie and one of those films I can’t wait to see now that trailer has been released. It Comes At Night stars Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbot and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

 

 

The Mummy (Action Adventure – Universal Pictures, Sean Daniel Company, K/O Paper Products)

The start of the new shared Monsters Universe that Universal is setting up, an ancient queen (Sofia Boutella) is awaked from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension. The film stars Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Javier Botet and Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll.

 

 

16th

Limited Release: The Book of Henry (Drama)

Colin Trevorrow returns to his smaller indie side with The Book of Henry that follows a single mother (Naomi Watts) raising a child genius (Jaeden Lieberher) that turns into something a little more darker. I honestly thought this was going to be a typical indie drama film, but once I saw the trailer it was something completely different, and honestly I don’t know how I feel. I am going to watch it, but my expectations have done a complete 180. The Book of Henry also stars Jacob Tremblay, Lee Pace, Sarah Silverman, Maddie Ziegler, Bobby Moynihan and Dean Norris.

 

47 Meters Down (Horror Thriller – Dimension Films, Tea Shop & Film Company, thefyzz)

Two sisters (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt), vacationing in Mexico, are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean, with less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby. The film also stars Matthew Modine.

 

 

All Eyez on Me (Biography Drama – Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Morgan Creek Productions, Program Pictures, Codeblack Entertainment)

Follows Tupac Shakur’s career from his time at Death Row Records, his involvement in the rivalry between East coast and West coast rappers, to his murder in 1996. I’m sure the audience will be there, but the trailer didn’t really hook me in, and what’s worst, is that it looks like a straight to TV movie. Hopefully it’s good for those that end up watching it. The film stars Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Annie Ilonzeh, Dominic L. Santana, Jamal Woolard, Cory Hadrict and Lauren Cohan.

 

 

Rough Night (Comedy – Sony Pictures/Paulilu Productions)

A male stripper ends up dead at a Miami beach house during a bachelorette party weekend. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz, Colton Haynes, Dean Winters, Ty Burrell and Demi Moore.

 

Cars 3 (Animation – Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world. The newest trailer really goes away from the darker toned teasers, which I’m kind of bummed about, but knew that was going to be the case.

 

 

21st

Transformers: The Last Knight (Action – Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. I just can’t with this franchise anymore. I really can’t.

 

 

23rd

Limited Release: The Bad Batch (Sci-Fi Romance)

A dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals. The film has a rather impressive cast of Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa, Diego Luna, Giovanni Ribisi, Suki Waterhouse, and Jim Carrey.

 

 

Limited Release: The Beguiled

Based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, and directed and written by Sofia Coppola, while imprisoned in a Confederate girls’ boarding school, an injured Union solider cons his way into each of the lonely women’s hearts, causing them to turn on each other, and eventually, on him. The film stars Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, and Oona Laurence.

 

 

Limited Release: The Big Sick (Comedy Romance)

Based on the true story of writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, a couple (Nanjiani playing himself while Zoe Kazan playing his wife, Emily) deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows. The film also stars Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar, Kurt Braunohler and Linda Emond.

 

28th

Baby Driver (Action Thriller – Sony Pictures, TriStar Pictures, Working Title Films, Media Rights Capital)

Edgar Wright directs this film about a getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort), who plays his own soundtrack due to a condition he has. However, he finds himself taking part of a heist doomed to fail and everyone after him. The film also stars Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Bernthal and Kevin Spacey.

 

 

30th

Amityville: The Awakening (Horror – The Weinstein Company/Dimension Films/Miramax/Blumhouse Productions/Panic Ventures)

A single mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moves her three children into a haunted house, unaware of its bloody history. I really hope this finally comes out, not necessarily because I want to see it, but because this film has been moved around so many times I think it’s best to just release it and take the hit. The film also stars Bella Thorne, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Spreitler, Thomas Mann, Mckenna Grace and Kurtwood Smith.

 

 

The House (Comedy – Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Gary Sanchez Productions)

A dad convinces his friends to start an illegal casino in his basement after he and his wife spend their daughter’s college fund. Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Allison Tolman, Andrea Savage, Rob Hubel, and Sam Richardson.

 

 

Despicable Me 3 (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)

Gru (Steve Carell) has to stop Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a child star from the 1980s, who has a scheme to take over the world. However, he also has to deal with his long lost brother. The voice cast also includes Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan and Russell Brand.

 

 

What are you looking forward to?

April Movie Releases

Well hello there!

It’s April, and to some studios, it’s the unofficial start of the Summer Movie Season. Although, it doesn’t seem too much like the studios are pushing their huge films like previous years, but there are big films coming out before the end of the month. Let’s take a look shall we?

 

7th

Limited Release: Their Finest (Comedy Drama)

Based on the novel by Lissa Evans, a British film crew attempts to boost morale during World War II by making a propaganda film after the Blitzkrieg. The film has a pretty impressive cast that includes Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Billy Nighy, Jack Huston, Paul Ritter, Richard E. Grant, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan Helen McCrory, and Jeremy Irons.

 

Limited Release: Gifted (Drama)

Frank (Chris Evans), a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary (Mckenna Grace), is drawn into a custody battle with his mother (Lindsay Duncan). Directed by Marc Webb, the film looks like a great small film for everyone involved. Gifted also stars Jenny Slate, Joe Chrest, Julie Ann Emery, and Octavia Spencer.

 

Limited Release: The Void (Horror Thriller)

When police officer Carter (Aaron Poole) discovers a blood-soaked man limping down a deserted road, he rushed him to a local hospital with a barebones, night shift staff. As cloaked, cult-like figures surround the building, the patients and staff inside start to turn ravenously insane. Trying to protect the survivors, Carter leads them into the depths of the hospital where they discover a gateway to immense evil. The film has released some creepy looking trailers, and it looks like an old school horror film, so maybe it could be great. The film also stars Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Art Hindle, and Kenneth Welsh.

 

Limited Release: Colossal (Sci-Fi Comedy Drama)

This wacky sci-fi comedy written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) follows a woman (Anne Hathaway), who after being dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) returns home and finds out her breakdown has given her – somehow – control over a giant monster in South Korea. The film has been getting a lot of love on the film festival circuit, and with a great cast and a director I really like, I’m looking forward toward this. The film also stars Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson.

 

The Case for Christ (Drama – Pure Flix Entertainment, Triple Horse Studios)

Based on the book by Lee Strobel, and a true story of award-winning investigative journalist, and avowed atheist, applies his well-honed journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife… and with unexpected, life-altering results. The film stars Mike Vogel, Erika Christensen, Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster and Frankie Faison.

 

Smurfs: The Lost Village (Animation – Sony Pictures Animation, Columbia Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures)

A reboot and fully animated film now follows Smurfette (Demi Lovato) who finds a mysterious map and set a journey along with her friends Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) through the Forbidden Forest leading to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history. Taking the film the fully animation route might be what the franchise needs after the poorly received CGI/live-action hybrid. The voice cast also includes Rainn Wilson as Gargamel and Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf.

 

Going in Style (Comedy – Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM)

A reboot of the 1979 film that follows three retirees, who live off social security checks, decide tey have had enough and plan a bank heist, problem is they are heavily under qualified. I’ve never seen the original, but with the cast, it could work. Going in Style stars Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, Matt Dillon, John Ortiz, Maria Dizzia, Ann-Margret, and Joey King.

 

14th

Limited Release: The Lost City of Z (Drama)

Based off the novel by David Grann, the film is a true-life drama centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who disappears searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s. The film looks very atmospheric and dark, and everything I’ve seen from the trailer has me really hyped up for this. The cast also includes Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Sienna Miller, and Angus Macfadyen.

 

Spark (Animated – Open Road Films, Gulfstream Pictures, ToonBox Entertainment, Redrover Co.)

Spark (Jace Norman), a teenage monkey and his friends, Chunk (Rob deLeeuw) and Vix (Jessica Biel), are on a mission to regain Planet Bana – a kingdom overtaken by the evil overlord Zhong (A.C. Peterson). The rest of the voice cast includes Hilary Swank, Susan Sarandon, Athena Karkanis and Patrick Stewart.

 

The Fate of the Furious (Action Adventure – Universal Pictures, Original Film, One Race Films)

When a mysterious woman known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) makes Dom (Vin Diesel) turn on those closest to him, the team will go through trials that will test them like they never have before. Let’s be honest here, you can laugh at how ridiculous these films are and they aren’t like “they used to be.” But, these films make a crap ton of money, and people – like me – watch them because there dumb fun. The move intriguing thing is how the films will handle Paul Walker. The cast of Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Natalie Emmanuel, Lucas Black, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell return along with new names like Theron, Scott Eastwood, Kristofer Hivju, and Helen Mirren.

 

 

21st

Born in China (Family Adventure – Walt Disney Company, Disneynature, Chuan Films)

A wildlife drama documentary that follows the families of endangered animals in China.

 

Phoenix Forgotten (Sci-Fi Horror – Freestyle Releasing, Cinelou Releasing, Scott Free Productions)

20 years after three teenagers disappear in the wake of mysterious lights appearing above Phoenix, Arizona, unseen footage from that night has been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition.

 

Unforgettable (Thriller – Warner Bros., DiNovi Pictures)

A woman sets out to make life hell for her ex-husband’s new life. Honestly, I feel like I’ve the film already based off the trailer, and I’ve never been the biggest Katherine Heigl fan, so I’m going pass. The film also stars Rosario Dawson, Geoff Stults, and Whitney Cummings.

 

The Promise (Drama – Open Road Films, Survival Pictures, Wonderful Films)

Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, the film follows a love triangle between Mikael (Oscar Isaac), a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), and Chris (Christian Bale) – a renowned American journalist based in Paris. The trailer doesn’t really grab me as much as I thought it would, but I’m sure it will be good – hopefully. The film also stars Jean Reno, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Rade Serbedzija, Angela Sarafyan and James Cromwell.

 

Free Fire (Action Crime Comedy – A24, Film4, Rook Films, Protagonist Pictures)

Set in Boston in 1978, a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two gangs turns into a shootout and a game of survival. I didn’t know too much about this movie until I saw the trailer, and it instantly jumped to my must-watch list. The film looks like a crazy fun good time and it helps that it has an impressive cast too. The film stars Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Sam Riley, Enzo Cilenti, Babou Ceesay, Noah Taylor, Jack Reynor and Sharlto Copley.

 

28th

How to be a Latin Lover (Comedy – Pantelion Films, 3Pas Studios)

Finding himself dumped after 25 years of marriage, Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) who made a career of seducing rich older women, must move in with his estranged sister (Salma Hayek), where he beings to learn the value of family. The film also stars Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Michael Cera, Raquel Welch, Omar Chaparro, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, and Rob Corddry.

 

Sleight (Sci-Fi Action Drama – WWE Studios, BH Tilt, Diablo Entertainment)

A young street magician is left to take care of his little sister after his mother’s passing and turns to drug dealing in the L.A. party scene to keep a roof over their heads. When he gets into trouble with is supplier, his sister is kidnapped and he is forced to rely on both his sleight of hand and brilliant mind to save her. The film stars Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Dule Hill, Storm Reid, Sasheer Zamata, and Brandon Johnson.

 

The Circle (Sci-Fi Thriller – EuropaCorp, IM Global, Likely Story, Playtone, Imagenation Abu Dhabi)

Based on Dave Eggers’ best-selling novel of the same name, the film follows Mae (Emma Watson), who lands a job at a powerful tech company called The Circle, where she becomes involved with a mysterious man. The film has Black Mirror-like vibe to it, and by the looks of it, always loveable Tom Hanks looks to play a villain-like character, who is the head of the company. The film also stars John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Ellen Wong, Nate Corddry, Poorna Jagannathan, Elvy Yost, Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton.

 

What are you looking forward to?

February Movie Releases

So how are those New Years Resolutions coming along? Kidding!

Anyway, we’re here for movies! Compared to last year, February is looking like a legit month with some huge films coming out. So let’s get to it!

 

3rd

Limited Release: The Comedian 

A look at the life of an aging insult comic, played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Hannibal Buress, Edie Falco, Patti LuPone, Gilbert Gottfried, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel and Billy Crystal.

 

Rings (Horror – Paramount Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment)

The third film in The Ring series, this film finds a young woman who finds out she is the newest target of the terrifying curse that threatens to take her life in 7 days. The film was suppose to come out last year for a while, before it got pulled a month before its release. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about this movie. The Rings 2 was nowhere near as good as the first film, but if the trailers continue to show stuff that looks interesting, then maybe I’ll give it a chance. Maybe.

 

The Space Between Us (Adventure Drama Romance – STX Entertainment, Southpaw Entertainment, Los Angeles Media Fund)

The first human born on Mars, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson) to find his father. The film got pushed back to this date after being scheduled to be released late last year, but for whatever reason it’s coming out now. The film looks okay, although it looks a bit too teenager romance to me, but the cast is pretty great. The rest of the cast includes Carla Gugino, Janet Montgomery, David House, BD Wong and Gary Oldman.

 

10th

Limited Release: A United Kingdom (Drama)

Based on the true story, Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of Botswana causes an international stir when he marries a white woman (Rosamund Pike) from London in the late 1940s. The film also stars Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

 

Fifty Shades Darker (Romance Drama – Universal Pictures)

James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, House of Cards) comes in to direct the second film for the popular – among some people – books. This time it finds Christian (Jamie Dornan) wrestling with his inner demons, as Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) confronts the anger and envy of the women who came before her. I never watched the first film, and have no intention to, but I know there are fans out there, so here you go. The film also stars Kim Basinger, Tyler Hoechlin, Bella Heathcote, Max Martini, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Fay Materson, Victor Rasuk, Eloise Mumford, Eric Johnson and Marica Gay Harden.

 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Action Thriller – Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures)

Legendary and mythical hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) comes out of retirement again when a former associate plots to seize control of an international assassins’ guild. The result is John going to Rome to stop it and with a bounty on his head. John Wick was a massive surprise to everyone, and the sequel is on most people’s radar – including mine – so I can’t wait to see how the up the ante and what they have in store action wise. The film also stars Common, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Peter Stormare, Bridget Moynahan, Peter Serafinowicz, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fisburne, and Ian McShane

 

The LEGO Batman Movie (Animated Action Comedy – Warner Bros., Vertigo Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Animal Logic)

A spinoff film from The LEGO Movie, it features, of course, LEGO Batman (voiced by Will Arnett). The film follows Batman/Bruce Wayne as he has to deal with working with others, and raising the orphan boy he adapted in Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera). LEGO Batman was a major highlight in The LEGO Movie, so seeing him get his own movie is, I can only imagine, a great move. The voice cast also includes Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn and Mariah Carey as The Mayor of Gotham.

 

17th

Fist Fight (Comedy – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/21 Laps Entertainment/Wrigley Pictures)

When one school teacher (Charlie Day) gets the other (Ice Cube) fired, he is challenged to an after-school fight. We probably aren’t expecting too much from Fist Fight, but the film looks decently funny, so let’s give it a show. The film also stars Christina Hendricks, Dean Norris, Jillian Bell, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Dennis Haysbert and Tracy Morgan

 

The Great Wall (Action – Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Atlas Entertainment/Kava Productions/Le Vision Pictures)

Directed by Yimou Zhang, the film centers on the mystery centering around the construction of the Great Wall of China. The film already has a lot of eyes on it with the “white washing” controversy, even though director Yimou Zhang said he wrote the role of Matt Damon specifically for Damon, and the film isn’t just about Damon’s “white” character saving everyone. Regardless of all that, The Great Wall has a great international cast of Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Numan Acar, Eddie Peng, and Tian Jing.

 

A Cure for Wellness (Horror – New Regency Productions/Studio Babelsberg/Blind Wink Productions)

Directed Gore Verbinski, the film follows a young executive (Dane DeHaan), who is sent to bring back the company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. However, he soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. The film looks really eerie and creepy, and I can’t wait to see what Verbinski does with this. The film also stars Mia Goth and Jason Isaacs.

 

24th

Limited Release: Bitter Harvest

Based on historical events, the film tells the story of the Holodomor, the genocidal famine created by the Joseph Stalin. The film follows a group of people that rebel and try to fight the powerful forces looming over them.

 

Limited Release: Tulip Fever

Based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, an artist falls for a young married woman while he’s commissioned to paint her portrait during the tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam. The film has a pretty impressive cast of Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Jack O’Connell, Cara Delevingne, Kevin McKidd, Tom Hollander, Holliday Grainger, Zach Galifianakis and Judi Dench

 

Rock Dog (Animation – Lionsgate/Dream Factory Group/Huayi Tencent Entertainment Company/Mandoo Pictures/Eracme Entertainment)

When a radio falls from the sky into the hands of a wide-eyed Tibetan Mastiff, he leaves home to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician, setting into motion a series of completely unexpected events. The voice cast includes Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon and Sam Elliott.

 

Collide (Action Thriller – Open Road Films, Silver Pictures, IM Global Film Fund, DMG Entertainment, 42)

An American backpacker (Nicholas Hoult) gets involved with a ring of drug smugglers as their driver, though he winds up on the run from his employers across Cologne high-speed Autobahn. The film was supposed to come out last year, and it didn’t look that bad from the trailers. It looked like a fun little action film that would be passable, but got pushed back for some reason. The film also stars Felicity Jones, Marwan Kenzari, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley.

 

Get Out (Horror – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment)

Directed by Jordan Peele, a young African American (Daniel Kaluuya) man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) cursed family estate. The film looks like a real psychological horror film, and the fact that’s directed by Jordan Peele is pretty interesting. Also that first trailer was just ridiculously crazy. The rest of the cast includes Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Caleb Landry Jones, Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford.

 

What are you looking forward to?

Mini-Review – Underworld: Blood Wars, Sleepless, Patriots Day, Live By Night & The Bye Bye Man

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This is a longer one than usual, due to me falling behind. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Underworld: Blood Wars

Director: Anna Foerster

Writer: Cory Goodman

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head and Charles Dance.

Synopsis: Vampire death dealer, Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.

 

The Underworld series started off as an interesting franchise that had some cool mythology and made Kate Beckinsale a big name to those not familiar with her. The sequel came along and was just okay which lead to a prequel for the third film. Then the fourth film came out and things took a turn for the worse. The series had lost its footing and became lost in its attempt to make itself relevant. This now leads us to Underworld: Blood Wars, which is more of the same, but thankfully better than Underworld: Awakening, which isn’t saying much really.

Blood Wars starts off by giving us a bit of a refresher on the series so far – leaving some things out – but also shows that Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is now a fugitive from the remaining vampires and new Lycan leader, Marius (Tobias Menzies), who wants the location of Selene’s daughter. The problem is that even Selene doesn’t know where her daughter is, and with the help of David (Theo James), his father Thomas (Charles Dance), and a vampire council member Semira (Lara Pulver), Selene is brought back into the fold to help deal with Marius.

Like I mentioned, Blood Wars is more of the same from the previous films – stylized action set-pieces, new mythology and characters being introduced and Kate Beckinsale in tight leather kicking-ass. Other than that, the film doesn’t really do anything that feels substantial. Things are brought up that would be considered twists or could have landed bigger if written better or anything the film did actually mattered.

The film is too rushed for its own good. Everything lands too quickly, and the final act of the film just happens. One particular part in the final act does mean something since it’s connected to the beginning of the film, but other than that the final act is structurally not sound.

When it comes to the cast, they all do the best they can with what they are given. Kate Beckinsale is the only real saving grace of the cast since she’s played the part so many times now. Theo James is just as bland as he was in the last film, while Tobias Menzies’ Marius is supposed to be this great Lycan leader, but doesn’t really do anything that frightening – also his cheap two dollar CGI wolf character doesn’t do him any favors. Lara Pulver as Semira could have been a great character if she had more screen time as could have Clementine Nicholson’s Lena, who is part of a new vampire clan, Finally, Charles Dance’s Thomas should have had more time, because you know, its Charles freaking Dance.

All in all, Underworld: Blood Wars is a passable sequel, and a better one than Awakening, but again, that’s not saying much. Things feel like they just happen, and the structure of the film is just off that you can never really feel any sort of enjoyment. One thing that really bothered me is the ending. I obviously don’t want to spoil it, but considering how it ends, it just felt like the whole film was for nothing.

Underworld: Blood Wars

2.5 out of 5

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Sleepless

Director: Baran bo Odar

Writer: Andrea Berloff

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union, Octavius J. Johnson, T.I., Dermot Mulroney, and David Harbour

Synopsis: A cope with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.

 

A remake of the French film Nuit Blanche, Sleepless takes place mostly in one location and is surprising a little better than I thought it would be, even though I had watched the original film years before.

Sleepless follows Las Vegas officer Vincent Downs (Jaime Foxx), who along with his partner Sean (T.I.) steal a bag of cocaine at the beginning of the film. Little do they know, the cocaine belongs to a crooked casino boss Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) who is going to sell the drugs to the dangerous Rob Novak (Scott McNairy), the son of a local mob boss. In order to get the drugs back, they kidnap Vincent’s son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson) and demand he return their product. Of course, things don’t go over smoothly as Internal Affairs agents Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour) become involved.

Like I mentioned, the film is a little better than I thought it was going to be, but Sleepless does run into some issues throughout. The film doesn’t do Jamie Foxx any favors besides making him look like an action hero. Foxx’s usual charisma is put on the backburner so he can be almost stoic at times, which is a bit of a shame. Although, the result does lead to impressive fight scenes, including a kitchen scene and a highly impressive hotel room fight.

The rest of the cast do their best with what they are given. Scoot McNairy is one of the best underrated and unknown actors around, and while he plays a villain well, they could have done just a little more with him. Michelle Monaghan plays the straight-laced IA agent who has her moments, and after watching this, I hope we see more roles like this from her, and her chemistry with the always reliable David Harbour is spot on. Dermot Mulroney looked like he enjoy playing a slimy villain, Gabrielle Union only has a handful of scenes, so her casting feels wasted and T.I. also has only a few scenes but all of his scenes feel the same when you look back afterwards.

All in all, Sleepless feels a bit hallow at times, but it does have its moments that make the price of admission worth it.

Sleepless

3.5 out of 5

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Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Jimmy O. Yang, Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O’Shea, James Colby, Michael Beach, Vincent Curatola, Jake Picking, Melissa Benoist, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: An account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorist responsible.

 

Considering Patriots Day is based off a real event, and one that I’m sure most of us remembering watching on TV as the events unfolded, I’m going to play with the “no spoilers” rule here a bit. The film follows the events at the Boston Marathon and what the first responders and FBI did to find and capture the Tsarnaev brothers.

The film has a lot of players on the board, we mostly follow Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a made up character based on several people, who is at the finish line of the marathon when the first bomb went off. The events bring everyone is like Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) to find Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) which involved shutting down all of Boston and lead to a dangerous shootout in Watertown.

Peter Berg really does have a knack for true-story films, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were great films, and all star Mark Wahlberg, but the thing that makes these films, along with Patriots Day is how he handles the material. Berg treats the events with tremendous respect and never tries to feed the audience a political agenda or lean the audience a certain way. He lets the story tell itself and lets the characters come to life in their own way, even though most of the characters are based on real people. It’s also a credit to the great cast that they are able to do so.

However, with a big cast like this, the film does have a lot of characters to follow that a lot of them don’t get real time to breathe and don’t get the justice they deserve. J.K. Simmons has a small, but good, role as the Watertown sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea play couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes who were close to the first blast sight, Jake Picking plays Officer Sean Collier, who was shot by the brothers, and Jimmy O. Yang plays Dun Meng, who has a dangerous encounter with brothers halfway through the film. Another thing Patriots Day falls into is some pacing issues before the final act of the film, but again, it’s the cast the keep the film together.

Two of the highlights of the film, if that’s what you want to call it considering the nature of the real life events, is the aftermath of the bombing. How Berg moves the camera through the destruction and through the eyes of Tommy is both horrifying and telling on how the first responders probably felt when they helped so many that day. The other is the shootout before Dzhokhar runs and hides in the boat he was later recovered from.

All in all, Patriots Day isn’t an easy film to watch due to the nature of the events and how Berg was able to recreate it. The cast, despite being one person too many, does a tremendous job paying respect to people they were playing and to those affected by the actions that happened that horrible day and what happened afterwards.

Patriots Day

4 out of 5

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Live by Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Robert Glenister, Remo Girone, Chris Cooper and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Based off the novel by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes and directs what has become a bit of a passion project for him, so it’s a bit odd to see what became of the film. Affleck has shown he’s a great to solid director with films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, but Live by Night will be – hopefully – the only blemish on his resume.

Ben Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a former World War I soldier and son of a police officer (Brendan Gleeson), who returns home and starts to see himself as an outlaw and runs heists throughout Boston. He eventually falls in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), who happens to be the mistress of Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). This puts him on the sights on White’s rival, Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) who wants Joe to work for him. Joe eventually does and Maso sends him down to Tampa to run his bootlegging operation. Once there, and reunited with his old partner Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina) and they make a nice empire for themselves. That all changes when Joe starts falling in love with Graciela (Zoe Saldana), and struggles to keep his moral code in place.

Live by Night is unfortunately a bit of a mess, which is odd considering Affleck was passionate about getting the film made, and took so long to make. That’s not to say there is some great stuff within the mess, but it is the scattered material that keeps the film from being great. Not only that, the film has a bit too much going on that by the end, it feels like the film is forcing itself to tie-up the loose ends that were introduced beforehand. It’s a bit of a shame too, considering Affleck has shown he can handle himself with great material.

The cast itself is great, but it’s a shame that some characters don’t have time to expand and get developed more. Chris Messina, who is always great with the right material, playing Joe’s right-hand man Dion Bartolo could have used more time onscreen as could Elle Fanning’s character Loretta, the daughter of Tampa sheriff Figgis played by Chris Cooper. Especially considering Fanning is involved in a big subplot. Zoe Saldana also pops in but doesn’t really do much after her initial introduction, and reminding Joe that he doesn’t need to be cruel to do the life he’s involved in. Brendan Gleeson’s glorified cameo suffers just a bit due to him using his natural Scottish accent that makes it a little hard to understand. Sienna Miller’s character could have been an interesting character, but her arc gets cut too soon.

Affleck does okay as the Joe, and even though we follow him throughout the film his moments of doubt and morality being tested are usually rushed to the point that it just feels like Affleck is trying to get to the next scene, which is odd considering the film is over two hours. When it comes to working with his production designer and cinematographer, he works well. Every scenic shot is beautiful to look at, and the sets look amazing.

All in all, Live by Night has some issues that could have been avoided, but sadly they aren’t which hurts the film in the long run. The cast is great, but none of their characters are developed fully or pushed to the wayside to tell Ben Affleck’s Joe story. While the action scenes are top-notch, Live by Night is just a tad underwhelming in the long run, but in no way should change your view on Affleck’s directing ability.

Live by Night

3.5 out of 5

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The Bye Bye Man

Director: Stacy Title

Writer: Jonathan Penner

Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Jenna Kanell, Michael Trucco, Cleo King, Leigh Whannel, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway

Synopsis: Three friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, a mysterious figure they discover is the root cause of the evil behind man’s most unspeakable acts.

 

It’s a bit of a shame that after the great year horror had last year – finally – a film like this comes along and washes all that away. Apparently based off a story called “The Bridge to Body Island” by Robert Damon Schneck, The Bye Bye Man has an interesting concept that falls apart once the film gets going. That’s only the beginning of this film’s issues.

The film follows three college friends in Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount) who buy and move into an old house off campus. Everyone seems okay at first until Elliot finds an old coin on his nightstand left by the previous owner. He then discovers writing underneath the drawer that says “Don’t Think it, Don’t Say it” and under that are craved words “The Bye Bye Man.” At first he laughs it off, but when the three start experiencing strange things in and out of the house, they soon learn The Bye Bye Man (played by the awesome character actor Doug Jones) is indeed real, and after them.

One of the problems with The Bye Bye Man – one of many – is we don’t get a sense of the characters, and hardly care for them. Elliot is the closet one to actually having a backstory, while Sasha is just the girlfriend who, at the beginning, tries to convince Elliot that what is happening is real, but after Elliot goes along with it, she becomes a bit annoying, and John somewhat disappears for a bit and we really don’t miss him. Jenna Kanell pops in as Sasha’s friend Kim, who is a psychic of sorts and, based off the trailers, is the one that gets killed by the train, which is the highlight of her character.

However, the saving graces of the film – cast wise – is the small roles by Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway and Leigh Whannell. Faye Dunaway appears near the end of the film and adds to some backstory of The Bye Bye Man, Carrie-Anne Moss plays a local detective that could have been played by really anyone else, but Moss adds some gravitas to the role. Leigh Whannell plays Larry Redmond a writer that “discovers” The Bye Bye Man and is involved in the best scenes in the film: flashbacks. Finally, Doug Jones does this best he can with what he’s given as the titular character.

All in all, the concept of the film sounds good at first, but once we start seeing what he does and really think about it afterwards, The Bye Bye Man fails to execute on its promise. The characters are bland and are never developed and a muddled story doesn’t help. The Bye Bye Man is almost passable film while watching, but nothing you’ll remember.

The Bye Bye Man

2 out of 5

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Let me know what you think.

‘A Monster Calls’ Review

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Director: J.A Bayona

Writer: Patrick Ness

Cast: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, and Liam Neeson

Synopsis: A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mum’s terminal illness.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the book by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the film, that was based off the idea started by Siobhan Dowd, A Monster Calls is a visually, beautifully story done so well that hits you on every emotional level that you won’t leave the theater with a dry eyes. The story is a simple one, but what director J.A Bayona was able to do with his behind the camera team is nothing short of amazing and heartbreaking to watch.

The film revolves around a 12-year-old boy named Conor O’Malley, played by newcomer Lewis MacDougall, as he deals with seeing his mother, played by Felicity Jones, go through the final stages of chemotherapy for her cancer. When things take a turn for the worse, Conor loses himself in his drawings, but one night the giant tree in the cemetery near his home comes to life and visits him. Simply called The Monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, he comes to Conor and demands he listens to his three stories, and when the time is over, Conor will tell The Monster a fourth, which will be Conor’s truth.

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Conor not seeing the meaning of this, of course, comes to terms and hears The Monster’s stories that come to life in beautiful animation that looks like watercolors. The moments in-between involve Conor dealing with his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) that wants him to move in with her, and Conor’s father, played by Toby Kebbell, coming to visit from America. However, Conor is left with The Monster to deal with the grief of his mother.

From the moment I watched the first trailer for A Monster Calls, I knew this film was going to be special, and while watching I knew I was right about the film. While the visuals of The Monster and his stories are amazing – seriously – The Monster is an amazing effect and almost looks real in some shots. Combine that with Liam Neeson’s voice that conveys both terrifying monster, but compassion in some scenes as well. It’s a fine line that Neeson walks, and he does it so well.

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However, the film is put on the shoulders of newcomer Lewis MacDougall, who handles it with ease. Technically his second film – he starred in Pan – it’s still hard to think that MacDougall is a newcomer. He handles himself with so much poise and maturity around seasoned actors like Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell. Conor, and really MacDougall, is the driving force of the film, and without him, and what he goes through, I don’t think A Monster Calls would have worked.

When it comes to the rest of the (human) cast, Felicity Jones as the mother is heartbreaking to watch, and while she doesn’t say too much, Jones says more than enough with her body language. Toby Kebbell has a small role as Conor’s father, but Kebbell brings a certain reality and humanity to the situation, while James Melville plays Harry, a bully at school. Finally, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother takes some time to really delve into what her really makes her tick, but is worth the journey as well.

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All in all, A Monster Calls is a film that keeps you invested from beginning to end, and never let’s go. The film is carried by its young star Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson as The Monster. Also, any film that can hook me in and have me on the verge of, or have me in, tears is going in my book. Seriously, bring tissues. Lots of them.

A Monster Calls

5 out of 5