January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

6th

 

Wide Release: Hidden Figures

Based on the book my Margot Lee Shetterly, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. I had the opportunity to watch the film on its limited release late last year, and I have to say it is a fantastic film. Do yourself a favor and go watch this. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell.

 

Wide Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily.

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (Action – Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns to once again try and end the war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire fraction that betrayed her. Blood Wars does look like a step-up from the last film, but I don’t know how the film will actually turn out. The film also stars Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and Charles Dance.

 

 

13th

Wide/Expansion Release: Patriots Day

 

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, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel, Eddie Falco and Billy Crystal.

 

Wide Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

 

Wide Release: Silence 

Based on the book by Shusaku Endo, Martin Scorsese directs this historic drama set in the seventh century when two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Catholicism. Based off the trailer the film looks very powerful, and the early word from its limited release has made that statement true. Now tith its wide release, hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that. Silence also stars Tadanobu Asano, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

The Bye Bye Man (Horror Thriller – STX Entertainment/Intrepid Pictures/Los Angles Media Fund)

An adaptation of the short story “The Bridge to Body Island,” by Robert Damon Schneck, the story centers on three Wisconsin college students in the 1990s, who move into an old house off campus. They unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to pretty upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate. The film looks okay, and a bit cheesy based on the first trailer – at least for me. This is actually the third move for the film as it was set for an October release, then a June release, then a early December release, and now this date.

 

Monster Trucks (Sci-Fi Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Paramount Animation/Nickeldeon Movies)

Another film that was moved three times now, although this one was done to complete post-production, Monster Trucks takes the idea of the popular derby and flips it on its head by making it literal. There are alien monsters that take over trucks and are on the run. Of course humans help them and what follows is some insane looking over-the-top action. Stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Samara Weaving, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and Danny Glover.

 

Sleepless (Action Thriller – Open Road Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Riverstone Pictures)

A remake of French film Nuit Blanche (which I highly recommend you watch), a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son. The film look okay, I was a huge fan of the original film, and this one does look like they’re upping the action, which is fine if the movie turns out good. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Monaghan, David Harbour, T.I., and Scoot McNairy.

 

20th

Limited Release: The Red Turtle

Produced by the famous Studio Ghibli, the dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

 

Wide Release: 20th Century Women

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Family Romance Comedy – High Top Releasing/WWE Studios)

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a washed up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of life is far from Hollywood. The film also stars Neil Flynn, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Liam Matthews, D.B. Sweeney, and WWE Legend Shawn Michaels.

 

The Founder (Biography Drama – The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/The Combine)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. Also, the studio has high hopes as they moved the film from its release date last year in August to prime Oscar contention time. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Split (Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan is back at it. The film stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sterling K. Brown and Betty Buckley. Honestly, this doesn’t look that bad. McAvoy looks like he’d nailing the role and it actually looks like a cool and effective thriller.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Action Thriller – Paramount Pictures)

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be dead, is bought back by his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead a team to stop a massive attack. The film also stars Nina Dobrev, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette, Rory McCann, and Deepika Padukone.

 

27th

A Dog’s Purpose (Dramedy – Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Walden Media/DreamWorks SKG)

Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dear John, The Hundred-Foot Journey), the film follows a dog (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, and Dennis Quaid.

 

Bastards (Comedy – Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/The Montecito Picture Company/DMG Entertainment)

Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Constantin Film International/Capcom Entertainment)

The last installment of the Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil series, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the series. The Final Chapter picks ups immediately after the events from the last film and follows Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors. The film will bring back Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker with new cast members Ruby Rose, William Levy, Eoin Macken, and international star Rola.

 

Gold (Drama Thriller – TWC-Dimension/Black Bear Pictures/Living Films/Hwy61)

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. The film is giving off a semi-American Hustle vibe and seeing Matthew McConaughey lose himself in the character should be interesting to watch. The film also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Camp, and Stacy Keach

 

What are you looking forward to?

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December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films, huh? December is also a tough month to set, because this is the big Oscar month, so a lot of films end up getting limited releases, expansion releases, and then wide releases. So if anything is off, it’s because of that. I’ll do my best to get everything where it’s suppose to go, and if not I’ll come back and update the schedule.  So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!

 

2nd

Limited Release: Jackie (Biography Drama – Fox Searchlight Pictures/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch)

Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy. The film has gotten a lot of love at the film festival circuit, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It probably helped that this film has been in the works for a long time too. Jackie also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudip, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, and Caspar Phillipson.

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Limited Release: La La Land (Drama Comedy Musical)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite for La La Land which follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The film is getting a ton of great reviews from the film festival circuit so this one is one you should keep your eye out for. Also the trailer really gives off the vibe that the film will be a nice tribute to films of old. The film also stars Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Hemky Madera, and J.K. Simmons.

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Incarnate (Horror Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/WWE Studios/IM Global/High Top Releasing/Deep Underground Films)

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, David Mazouz, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

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9th

Expanded/Wide Release: Nocturnal Animals

Expanded Release: La La Land

Expanded Release: Jackie

 

 

Office Christmas Party (Comedy – Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures/Bluegrass Films)

When his uptight CEO sister (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager thrown an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand. The film also stars T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Randall Park, Matt Walsh and Courtney B. Vance.

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16th

Limited Release: The Founder (Biography Drama)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Collateral Beauty (Drama – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Likely Star/PalmStar Media)

An advertising executive encounters three mysterious figures who encourage him to move on from the past. The film looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse with the cast, but the idea does seem odd, and one that you can probably figure out from the trailers. Hopefully the execution works. Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Michael Pena, and Helen Mirren star.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Adventure –Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm)

Gareth Edwards directs the first spinoff/standalone film of the new set of Star Wars films, which actually takes us back in time as it follows Rebels on a mission to steal plans for the Death Star. Listen, it’s Star Wars, people are going to go watch it. However, the film’s last two trailers were freaking awesome, of course the film however, will have some closer eyes as the “dirty” word in Hollywood has hit the film: reshoots. Nonetheless, the film looks great and more importantly it looks different. The film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, and Forest Whittaker.

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21st

Sing (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)

A koala named Buster (Matthew McConaughey) recruits his best friend to help him drum up business for his theater by hosting a singing competition. I don’t know if I’m over talking animal animated film this year, but I’m not getting behind the Sing train. The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz,  and Jennifer Saunders.

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Patriots Day (Lionsgate/CBS Films/Closest to the Hole Productions)

Directed by Peter Berg, the film is an account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s (played by John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Berg has already made a splash this year with Deepwater Horizon with Mark Wahlberg, so I can only think that this will be either as good or just as good. Patriots Day also stars J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, and Rachel Brosnahan.

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Passengers (Sci-Fi Adventure – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Start Motion Pictures/Company Films)

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years early. Two of the most liked and extremely talented actors in Hollywood are getting together for a film, and one that looks not too bad, I think we looking at a big hit here, don’t you think? Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia also star.

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Assassin’s Creed (Action – 20th Century Fox)

Based on the popular video game franchise, Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who with the help of revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, The Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Justin Kurzel, who directed the well-received and great film Macbeth, directs and reunites not only with Fassbender but Marion Cotillard as well. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Mathias Varela, Brian Gleeson, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

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23rd

Limited Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily. The film looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it does. The limited release is due to Focus Features trying to get the film an Oscar run. The film will come out early next year.

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Limited Release: Silence (Drama)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based off the novel by Shusaku Endo, the film is set in the seventeenth century, where we follow two Jesuit priests that face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. The film has been looking for a release date and what better date to come out in than in December around Oscar season right? The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and Tadanobu Asano.

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Why Him? (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Red Hour Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

A dad (Bryan Cranston) forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend (James Franco). The film looks decently funny, at least we can hope, and seeing Cranston on the big screen is always nice – even if it’s a film like this. The film stars Zoey Deutch, and Megan Mullally.

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25th

Limited Release: 20th Century Women (Comedy Drama)

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and Billy Crudup.

 

Limited Release: Paterson (Drama Comedy) 

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet, who also happens to be named Paterson (Adam Driver). I saw the trailer for the first time recently, and it looks like a great little indie film that will showcase Adam Driver.

 

Limited Release: Hidden Figures (Drama)

Based on a true story, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical date needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner.

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Limited Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

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Fences (Drama – Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions/Bron Studios/MACRO)

Based on the play by August Wilson, and directed by Denzel Washington, Fences follows an African American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson.

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So, what are you looking forward to?

‘Black Mass’ Review

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Director: Scott Cooper

Writer(s): Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth

Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Julianne Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, and Corey Stoll

Synopsis: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

 

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: I fell behind on my movie watching, so some anticipate some more reviews this week*

 

Black Mass is based on the book “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob” written by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, and based on the true life of arguably one of the most notorious gangsters ever, James “Whitey” Bulger. Whether or not all the events in the film happen or not – two of the real life people that rolled with Bulger say some stuff was not true – the film is a brooding, dark, gritty and tremendously acted film.

 

The film stars in 1975 as we get an idea of who James, or Jimmy, “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) is to the people surrounded by him. The film is introduced by Kevin Weeks (Plemons) as he’s being integrated and says that Bulger was a small time guy and suddenly he became one of the biggest names in South Boston or Southie as they called it. From there we’re introduced to John Connolly (Edgerton), who has returned to Boston and has joined the FBI. His first ambitious move, reunite with his childhood friend Bulger and convince him to join forces to take down the Mafia running North Boston. Bulger seeing this as an opportunity to take down the competition agrees and here is what beings his reign as the kingpin of Boston.

 

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The film isn’t just about Bulger, the film is also about John Connolly. The two get the same amount of screen time and Connolly gets his hands a bit dirty in his own way as much as Bulger. Connolly thinks Bulger is the FBI’s saving grace against the Mafia in Boston and it clouds his judgment from time to time, and it makes him – arguably – as corrupt as Bulger. All of it, done well by the great and always reliable Joel Edgerton.

 

Here is where I run into a problem with Black Mass. The film itself is just okay, but it is elevated thanks to the performances of the impressive and huge cast. Depp and Edgerton at the forefront and the supporting cast play their parts well. Depp is back to true form here. This is the kind of films I like Depp in, where he show his true potential and great acting prowess. Forget the wacky roles that he’s been playing for years now, it is when he plays a serious and real character that you remember how great he is, and playing Bulger is one of those roles. He’s terrifying and intimidating when he has to be, that includes scenes with Dakota Johnson’s Lindsey Cyr and Julianne Nicholson’s Marianne Connolly, the wife of John Connolly. As good as he is as Bulger, he can also be rather charming when he has to be, which is rather odd to see after all the scenes that involve him being a terrible person.

 

Edgerton, on the other hand, has his fair share of great moments with and without Depp, but his character at times is so blinded by the myth that is Bulger that he becomes a bit distracted of his real duties as an FBI agent. He also becomes a bit cocky that he managed to get one of the most wanted criminals the bureau ever wanted to work for them instead of taking him down.

 

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The supporting cast all plays their parts on point and all have their moments to shine, considering how big the film is. Jesse Plemons’ Kevin Weeks and Rory Cochrane’s Steve Flemmi provide framing devices for the most part, but also Bulger’s most loyal allies that will follow him to the end, as does W. Earl Brown as John Martorano. David Harbour’s John Morris plays the more conflicted FBI agent when it comes to working with Bulger and has one of the best and most tension filled scenes that involves a recipe. Kevin Bacon pops in as head of the FBI section in Boston as Charles McGuire as does the surprise cast member of Adam Scott as Robert Fitzpatrick.

 

Unfortunately, some cast members don’t fare that well as others. Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson and Juno Temple are the only real female characters in the film, but it feels like they don’t much as characters. Johnson and Nicholson have more substance to their roles but Johnson disappears after the first half hour of the film and her scenes with Depp are the best at getting some dimension from Depp’s Bulger, and you miss it afterwards. Corey Stoll appears at the end as new District Attorney Fred Wyshak and Peter Sarsgaard’s Brian Halloran is a bit all over the place and although his character calls for it, I could have seen anyone else playing that role. Finally, Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays U.S Senator Billy Bulger has literally about ten minutes – if that – of screen time and has only one real good scene with Edgerton near the beginning of the film. His brotherly connection to Jimmy Bulger isn’t even touched on too much, and they only have a couple scenes together. It’s kind of a shame really.

 

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So despite the great cast and performances, Black Mass doesn’t really do much in getting us more in the head of Bulger. It does early on with the scenes with Johnson’s Cyr but that’s about it. We don’t get more into his head at all and it probably tries to make up for it by giving those conflicted moral scenes to Edgerton’s Connolly, but great acting only takes you so far.

 

All in all, Black Mass is filled with by great performances led by Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton. The film is a bit grim and hard to watch in some scenes, but the slow burn to the film may turn off some viewers anyway. Black Mass isn’t the perfect film or tale of Bulger’s legacy, but it worth the watch.

 

Black Mass

4 out of 5

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‘Ant-Man’ Review

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Dir: Peyton Reed

Writer(s): Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, & Paul Rudd

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, T.I., Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, Hayley Atwell, and John Slattery

Synopsis: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Land must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes*

Marvel finally released Ant-Man. Yes, Marvel has been working on an Ant-Man film for years now. For those that don’t know, Ant-Man was one of the first films announced back at Comic Con during the very first Iron Man movie. Edgar Wright was attached and working on it for so long, and of course, the big thing was that Wright left due to creative reasons, which is why Peyton Reed came onboard. Thankfully – and rightfully – Marvel kept some of the story details from Wright and Joe Cornish’s script. So, does this long awaited movie work? Or do we feel the delay in the final product? Let’s shrink and see what’s inside.

Ant-Man starts off rather interestingly in that it starts off in the past with a young Hank Pym – played by Michael Douglas in the best looking “de-aging” effect I’ve ever seen – coming into the board of what was once S.H.I.E.L.D and says he’s leaving, for reasons that I won’t obviously get into because of spoilers. The movie then jumps ahead to the present to show Scott Lang (Rudd) getting out of prison after serving serious time after he hacked into his old job’s network to right a wrong. He reunites with his old cellmate Luis (Pena) and tells him about a job, but Scott doesn’t want to do it.

Scott wants to turn a new leaf and go clean so he can be a better father to his daughter, Cassie (the damn adorable Abby Ryder Fortson). It turns out to be harder when his ex-wife, played by Judy Greer, wants him to be a better person and her new husband (Cannavale) is a cop that doesn’t like Scott too much. Scott being an ex-con has a hard time finding a new job and turns to Luis, who says he has an “easy job” for Scott and their crew –Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (Dastmalchian)– little do they know, the easy job happens to be connected to Hank Pym.

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Meanwhile, Hank is dealing with his mentor Darren Cross (Stoll), who has taken over his company and is on the brink of breaking his tech to create the Yellowjacket suit. To make matters worse his estranged daughter Hope (Lilly) is by his side. Or at least it would seem that way. While Hope and Hank don’t get along, they know that if Darren succeeds in getting his suit working, it could cause total chaos. The two work together with Scott, although Hope at first doesn’t believe in him, to help Scott learn how to use the Ant-Man suit and stop Darren at all costs.

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I know that’s pretty vague and comic book fans will probably read over that and say why aren’t telling us everything. Here’s the thing. Ant-Man is a pretty much lesser known property. Yes, there are fans out there, but to the “mainstream” audiences Ant-Man is at the very bottom of list. One of the things that I liked about the movie is that is works a bit as an origin story, but also a passing of the torch story. In the comics, Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man and the mantle of the character has been passed on to others, with Scott Lang being one of them. Here, we see Scott Lang not only becoming the Ant-Man, but also go through a journey that takes him from low-level criminal to a man looking to do good by his daughter and become a hero. I guess you can also call Ant-Man a bit of a redemption story, although it more about Scott finding redemption in the eyes of his ex-wife – in terms that he can be a good father and has left the past behind him.

But it doesn’t start off that way. Ant-Man starts off and keeps the beats of a heist film. Hank and Hope want Scott to go in and “steal some shit.” You have the crew each with their own unique skill set and quirk. They lay out the plan and have to overcome an unexpected obstacle during the plan. More importantly, they all have their part to play and they look after each other. However, it’s not the perfect heist film, and some of the other aspects and themes overpower the heist film arch that you sometimes forget that is one the main points of the movie.

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However, if I was going to let you guys know what to expect from Ant-Man is, and you can probably tell from reading so far, is that this is different kind of Marvel movie. The movie is set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe – with an Avenger showing up in what is easily one of the best scenes in the movie – and makes a reference to the future of the MCU. But, director Peyton Reed, who deserves a hell of a lot of credit for pulling this off, does manage to make this movie a smaller (pun intended) movie. Yes, the action sequences are awesome – more on that in a moment – but the people of the movie are what stands out. The relationships they all have with each other matter and play a role in not just the movie, but with who they are and what they will become.

Now the action in the movie is pretty damn cool. The first time we see Scott use the suit is a pretty great wild ride. But it’s when Scott starts to learn how to use the suit and is able to communicate with the ants is when it becomes even better. There is one highlight for me when Scott is dodging bullets and it sounds like he’s in war zone. Honestly, anything with the ants was great. I almost don’t want to give anything away just so you can enjoy it yourself. But, I will say the heavily promoted Thomas the Train Engine sequence is fun to watch. It’s not just the action that great, it’s the humor. I didn’t think I would laugh as much as I did, but I did. The great thing is that Ant-Man isn’t cracking jokes every second, as one would assume since Peyton Reed is known as a comedy director. The humor comes naturally and doesn’t feel forced.

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However, Ant-Man wouldn’t work without its cast. Rudd is likeable and someone you can root for in the movie. Michael Douglas doesn’t phone it in but brings some levity to Hank Pym, a man that is dealt with a lot and finally has a chance of his own redemption. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne is pretty feisty and her relationship with Douglas’ Hank is one of – if not –the emotional core of Ant-Man. The supporting cast of T.I., David Dastmalchian and Michael Pena was fantastic and Pena is easily the scene stealer of the movie. Seriously, Pena is a highly underrated actor and if people didn’t know about him before, they will now.

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As for Cory Stoll’s Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, Stoll does the best he can with what he has. It’s been said by many that with exception of Loki, Marvel’s movie villains don’t work or are lackluster. Personally, they are only half right. Marvel nailed it when they casted Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Stoll, however, isn’t a close second, but is pretty unnerving in his own way. There is one scene, early on, that shows you who Darren is and how far he is willing to go to get what he wants. His motivation and actions are somewhat clear, but Darren is more of threat and menacing before he puts on the Yellowjacket suit. Don’t get me wrong, if I saw someone in the Yellowjacket suit and using it, I’d run in the opposite direction as fast as I could. But by the end, Yellowjacket is just there for Ant-Man get fight.

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All in all, Ant-Man is a different kind of Marvel movie. Instead of the jam-packed action – there are some of those in here – we get a more grounded and human story with great relationships. Ant-Man won’t be for everybody, but it shouldn’t take away how great and different it is, especially after all the trouble it took to get it made.

Ant-Man

4.5 out of 5

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‘This Is Where I Leave You’ Review

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Dir: Shawn Levy

Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer, Ben Schwartz and Jane Fonda

Synopsis: When their father passes away, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens

 

 

 

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

 

Based on the novel by Jonathan Tropper of the same name, This Is Where I Leave You follows the Altman family; after the father passes away mother Hillary (Fonda) tells her kids Judd (Bateman), Wendy (Fey), Paul (Stoll), and Philip (Driver) that his dying wish was to have his family “sit shiva” (a Jewish tradition, although the characters are Jewish) for seven days to mourn his death. But, turns out the family have their own dramas and being locked up together isn’t the ideal situation.

 

The movie starts out with Judd, who finds out that his wife Quinn (Spencer) has been cheating on him with his boss (Shepard) for a year. It’s after this that he finds out his father has died and goes back to his old home. There we meet his sister Wendy, a mother of two and the only girl, the oldest and serious brother Paul, and the youngest favorite/wild child Philip.

 

It is a pretty impressive cast and surprisingly they all have their moment to shine. Bateman’s Judd is the lead in the movie and it really isn’t until the middle of the movie where we get to see, possibly, the real side of him (obviously I don’t want to spoil it), and like almost every Bateman character, he’s funny and quick-witted – which isn’t a bad thing. He also has amazing chemistry with Tina Fey and make a very believable brother-sister duo. Fey also gives a really strong dramatic performance, which was nice to see considering she’s mostly known for her comedic chops, and she does have some great comedic jokes her as well, but it’s her dramatic performance that really stands out.

 

Stoll does his best as usual and despite a small sub-plot with his wife Alice (Hahn), he’s probably the least interesting of the siblings. Adam Driver will probably be a highlight for many as the youngest and playboy-y character of Philip. Driver does have some great comedic timing and manages to bring something different, although not a lot, to the cliché character. Jane Fonda as the Altman mother drops some wisdom on her children and tries to keep her family in line, all with some new boobs too.

 

The rest of the cast holds their own in their small roles, considering the movie is focused on the Altman cast. Rose Byrne plays Penny, she’s a bit of an odd-ball but not in the traditional sense and Byrne holds her own against Bateman. Timothy Olyphant plays Horry, who was Wendy’s former boyfriend and suffers from being a bit mentally impaired. Connie Britton plays Philip’s older girlfriend who wonders if she’s making the right choice, Dax Shepard plays his character the way you would think, Abigail Spencer does very little in her role but does have a moment. Ben Schwartz also pops up as the family rabbi and has some great moments, with a great nickname.

 

I will admit that the movie has a lot going on. So some of the arcs in the movie fall a bit flat compared to others but overall they bleed pretty well together. Director Shawn Levy does know how to make the real standout moments pop when necessary and when the emotional beats need to be made, Levy doesn’t hold back. There might be moments where he gets a little heavy handed but it is a movie about mourning a love one and dealing with a difficult family.

 

All in all, This Is Where I Leave You has it all; humor, love, anger, and tears. It’s a nice look that a dysfunctional family under one roof, that may or may not be like your family.

 

 

This Is Where I Leave You

4 out of 5

‘Non-Stop’ Review

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Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Anson Mount and Lupita Nyong’o

Synopsis:. An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

*Reviewer Note:  This is a spoiler free review as always.*

Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) boards a plane, win what he thinks will be regular flight.  Little does he know, a passenger on the plane sends him a text over the private network warning him a passenger will die every twenty minutes unless $150 million is transferred to a specific bank account, that later turns out to be his.  Now, over the Atlantic Ocean, Marks is in a race-against-time to find the man who is framing him and threaten to kill people on the plane.

Once we get in the plane, everyone is pretty much a suspect. Ranging from his seatmate Jen Summers (Moore), one of the many ticked off passengers (Stoll), tech app inventor (Parker) and the flight attendants which is lead by Michelle Dockery. With so many suspect and no good lead, Marks is desperate before the clock goes to zero. Marks badgers the passengers and occasionally grabs them roughly for some interrogation. With no one to trust, force is his only option, even if it makes him look like the bad guy to the people on board and the authorities on the ground.

Neeson does his thing as usual, playing the gruff badass character who is a little broken inside.  His character isn’t necessarily innocent, which gives the character some levity, but that’s getting into spoiler territory so I’ll let you witness that on your own.  Moore also does her thing trying to help Bill solve everything but, again, is somewhat suspicions.  Dockery’s flight attendant Nancy also tries to help Bill but when he starts to take extremes she starts to doubt whether the threat is real or not.

Other smaller roles include; the other prominent flight attendant Gwen played by 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o, co-pilot Kyle (Jason Butler Harner), Corey Stoll and Scoot McNairy.  Harner, Stoll, McNairy and Nate Parker characters give Bill some challenges along the way, but of course nothing can stop Bill from trying to find his target.

One of the nice things about the movie is that it could have gone into the usual thriller tropes but it keeps the viewer guessing until the very end.  It’s probably what makes this movie work so well in that aspect.  However, in the last act of the movie when we find out the person responsible it does kind of get to generic territory.

All in all, Non-Stop could have been a cliché/generic and predictable thriller but instead director Jaume Collet-Serra and co. bought their A-game and gave us an enjoyable who-done-it thriller.

Non-Stop

4 out of 5