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?

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‘Ghostbusters’ Review

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Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Paul Feig and Katie Dippold

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray

Synopsis: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: Stay for the credit sequence and for the post credits.*

 

Ghostbusters for some reason, although justified for some, received a lot of hate when it was announced. It didn’t help, for those against it, that they decided to gender-swap the leads from male to females. Many thought, for some reason, this lessen the Ghostbusters franchise and automatically went out of their way to make sure they spread their negativity to anyone that would listen or read their comments. Thankfully, some remained optimistic or at least open-minded to the idea of the reboot – because that’s what it is, a reboot – and gave it a chance. With a pretty descent cast and a reliable director in Paul Feig, Ghostbusters to me looked to be in good hands. Then again, I’m not against remakes or reboots like most people, especially if it does something different to elevate itself, but let’s be honest too, some movies could use a reboot/remake. Was Ghostbusters one of them? Probably not, but it’s here and guess what? It’s not that bad.

This Ghostbusters follows physicist Erin Gilbert (Wiig), who finds out her former friend Abby Yates (McCarthy), has put their old paranormal activity book online and when she goes to try and convince her take it down, she is informed of a ghost-sighting. Erin then lets it slip to Abby, so Abby, Erin and Abby’s engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) go to find the ghost and when they do their finding goes public. However, the event is only the start as they find out ghost appearances are happening more often, when MTA work Patty Tolan (Jones) goes to them and shows them her findings. She eventually joins the team and they form the Ghostbusters, along with the dim-witted assistant Kevin (Hemsworth), they learn someone is actually causing ghosts to appear, and they are more dangerous than they thought.

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The team does a great job of making Ghostbusters their own, but they do make a healthy amount of nods to the original, including the cameos by the original cast – not including Rick Moranis, who retired from acting – and some plot points. But, for the most part this new version establishes itself as the new Ghostbusters. The movie doesn’t try to make the characters new versions of the old characters, they all have their own strengths and different personalities that makes their characters their own. It does have some tonal confusion as the film tries to balance comedy, action and horror. Some of the combinations in the scenes work, while others are a bit jarring, but overall the tones do fit for what the film is trying to accomplish.

Of course, some people won’t see that. All they will see is actresses playing the new Ghostbusters, which is sad and, I’m not really that sorry, pathetic. Having the leads be female does nothing to change what Ghostbusters is all about. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones have great chemistry together, and are one of the reasons – if not the only reason – this reboot works. McKinnon is definitely one of the highlights of the film as the weird, enthusiastic about her science, and bursting with energy in every scene she’s in Holtzmann. She also has probably one of the coolest scenes in the final act of the film that I, obviously, won’t spoil here, but it was pretty badass.

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The other casting highlight is the much talked about Chris Hemsworth as Kevin. Hemsworth already showed he had comedic chops in Vacation, but here, he plays the dim-witted character so well, I won’t be surprised if we see Hemsworth casted in more comedies down the line. Wiig and McCarthy do their usual best, and this also “proves” that McCarthy doesn’t have to use her weight to be funny. Jones is as equally funny, and while many feared that she would be screaming her lines, it does happen, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s funny as hell in the film too.

Neil Casey plays the “villain” in the film, Rowan North. I put villain in quotes because you can arguably saw the ghosts are the bigger threats throughout, until we realize what Rowan’s plan really is. Rowan’s arch in the film is underdeveloped and since we only get a few scenes with him in the film before he does he reveal-evil-plan-to-heroes thing, we get enough time with him. The rest of the supporting cast is played out by Andy Garcia playing the Mayor, Cecily Strong playing his assistant, and Michael Kenneth Williams and Matt Walsh playing government agents. Of course, the original stars make cameos in the film, but I’ll leave you to experience those first-handed.

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One of the things I was really impressed with was the CGI. It was one of the things I noticed in the first trailer and had me at least hooked. Thankfully, the CG works and never looks wonky or unfinished in any way, and it does add to scenes. It also helps that whenever the ghosts appear, especially in the great final act Times Square face-off, the film pops with color. This is the other big thing that sets this version apart from the original. Feig makes his version standout when he gets the chance, and when he does, that’s when the film works the most.

All in all, many people won’t give the film a chance because the main characters are female and because it’s a reboot – I stress again, not a remake – of the original film. But screw those people; Ghostbusters is well worth the watch especially when Paul Feig goes out of his way to make this version his own. The cast is great and delivers their comedic lines to perfection. Some jokes do fall flat, but that’s the case with all comedies. I thoroughly enjoyed Ghostbusters, and yes, can’t wait to see what they do with this new potential franchise.

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Ghostbusters

4 out of 5

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?

 

 

3rd

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Comedy – Universal)

A Lonely Island movie that, of course will star Andy Samberg as Connor4Real, a pop/rap superstar whose album fails to sell records and goes into a tailspin and watches his celebrity life begin to collapse. Desperate to keep his fame, he’ll try anything including trying to get his old band together. The film also stars Sarah Silverman, Imogen Poots, Jorma Taccone, Tim Meadows, Martin Sheen and many, many more. I hate to admit it, but I’m not the biggest Andy Samberg fan, and from the trailers so far, I’m not really buying what their selling.

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Me Before You (Drama – New Line Cinema/MGM)

A girl in small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she’s taking care of. I know these kinds of films have a core audience, but doesn’t it seem like they are coming out more often? Anyway, the film stars Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis, Vanessa Kirby and Charles Dance.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Action Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Nickelodeon Movies/Gama Entertainment Partners)

Personally, the rebooted first film left little to be desired for me. There were some potentially great moments that could have saved it, but instead, the film was a bit too targeted to the younger crowd (which was fine, whatever). So that has left me a bit underwhelmed for the sequel, despite what the studio is trying to do by adding fan favorite characters – Casey Jones played by Stephen Amell, Bebop played by Gary Anthony Williams and Rocksteady played by Stephen Farrelly aka WWE Superstar Sheamus – and “promising” a much better film this time around. The trailers look alright, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to go watch it. The film also stars new cast members in Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman, Brian Tee as Shredder (a new one), Brittany Ishibashi as Karai, and Laura Linney.

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10th

Limited Release: Genius (Biography Drama)

Based on the book by A. Scott Berg, the film is a chronicle of Max Perkin’s (Colin Firth) time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and other. Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney and Vanessa Kirby also star.

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Now You See Me 2 (Action Thriller – Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment)

The Four Horsemen – Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco and Lizzy Caplan replacing Isla Fisher’s character entirely (due to Fisher’s pregnancy) – are back a year after the events from the first film. The reason is to expose the unethical practices of a tech magnate Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who also threatens the Horsemen into pulling off their most impossible heist yet. I enjoyed the first film and wasn’t as bad as people lead others to believe. I don’t know entirely how I feel about a sequel but the cast is great, so let’s hope they can at least make it enjoyable enough as the first. The sequel also stars Sanaa Lathan, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Jay Chou, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine.

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The Conjuring 2 (Horror – Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/Evergreen Media Group/Dune Entertainment/The Safran Company)

A sequel to the surprising hit The Conjuring, the sequel sees Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) traveling to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by malicious spirits, in what at the time was called the London Amityville. James Wan returns to direct with a new cast of Franka Potente, Frances O’Connor, Simon McBurney, Sterling Jerins, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, and Maria Doyle Kennedy.

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Warcraft (Fantasy Action Adventure – Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Atlas Entertainment/Blizzard Entertainment)

Based on the popular video game, World of Warcraft – or WoW for short – the film has a ton of weight on its shoulders. For one, some are pegging this film as one of the video games film to save the video game adaptations from sucking, and two, their taking a property that could alienate those who aren’t interested in watching a fantasy action film. I’ve never played the games, so I’m only basing everything off the trailers, and personally, I’m still not completely sold. It could be because I’ve never played the games. Warcraft sees two different nations, human and orc, on the brink of war and the top soldiers from both sides trying to stop it. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Dominic Cooper, Ben Foster, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Clancy Brown, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, and Ben Schnetzer.

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17th

Limited Release: Clown 

The horror drama follows a father who finds a clown suit for his son’s birthday party, only to realize that it is not a suit at all. Interestingly, Clown has been sitting on the shelf for about three years and is just now getting a release here in the States thanks to the Weinstein Company and producer Eli Roth. But what is more interesting is the film is directed by Jon Watts, who will soon be directing the new Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

 

Central Intelligence (Comedy – Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/Universal Pictures/Bluegrass Films/Principato-Young Entertainment)

Kevin Hart, a former cool guy in high school and now works as an accountant, is lured into the world of international espionage when his former high school classmate – and former fat friend – played by Dwayne Johnson shows up. Kevin Hart has slowly grown on me and I’ll watch anything (well, almost anything) with The Rock in it. Thankfully, this looks like a total Johnson project as he’s playing to his strengths here. Central Intelligence also stars Amy Ryan and Aaron Paul.

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Finding Dory (Animation – Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

A sequel to Finding Nemo, the focus now turns to the friendly-but-forgetful blue fish Dory, one again voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, that starts to remember things about her family and works to reunite with them. Dory was definitely a highlight in the first film, but the question is whether or not Dory can be enough to lead a movie, as opposed to be a supporting character. The voice cast includes Albert Brooks returning as Marlin, Diane Keaton, Ed O’Neill, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell, Willem Dafoe, Dominic West, and Idris Elba.

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24th

Limited Release: Swiss Army Man

Aka the movie where Daniel Radcliffe plays a farting corpse, no I’m not kidding. The movie follows a man, Paul Dano, who is stranded on a deserted island, finds and befriends a dead body (Radcliffe) and try to find a way home. The movie looks weird, to say the least, but it made some buzz – good and bad – during the film festivals.

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Limited Release: The Neon Demon 

Nicholas Winding Refn (Bronson, Drive, Only God Forgives) is back with his new film that follows an aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning) who moves to Los Angeles. Her youth and vitality are devoured y a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has. Refn obviously has his own style and it seems in full force here, not only that but the trailer is pretty eerie itself. The Neon Demon also stars Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Desmond Harrington, Bella Heathcote, Jamie Clayton and Alessandro Nivola.

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The Free State of Jones (Drama – STX Entertainment/Route One Films/Vendian Entertainment/Larger Than Life Productions)

Directed by Gary Ross, set during the Civil War, a poor farmer (Matthew McConaughey) from Mississippi leads a group of rebels against the Confederate army. It should be interesting to see how this plays out and with McConaughey at the lead, it should be pretty cool. Although, this doesn’t really seem like a Summer Movie Season movie, but more of a October or November movie. The film also stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali and Keri Russell.

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Independence Day: Resurgence (Sci-Fi Action Adventure – 20th Century Fox)

A long overdue sequel to one of the most cult classic sci-fi films, Resurgence is set twenty years after the events of the first film were the world has come together and was able use and advance their own technology from the leftover alien technology. They have made a new Space Defense Program waiting for the day the aliens come back. Unlucky, for them, the aliens have return and with a vengeance. Again, the sequel is long overdue to the point that I’m not really that sold on it yet. I’m sure I’ll go watch it, but I would have been more excited probably if it came out a few years ago. Independence Day: Resurgence stars Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vivica A. Fox, Maika Monroe, Jessie Usher, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Bill Pullman.

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29th

The Shallows (Horror Drama – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Ombra Films/Weimaraner Republic Pictures)

A mere 200 yards from shore, Nancy (Blake Lively) is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills. The film looks to have more of an emotional battle for Lively’s character, instead of it just being a mere survival thriller, which could help. I’m not totally sold on it to be honest, but if the word of mouth is good, I’ll give it a chance.  The film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Non-Stop, Run All Night) and stars Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada, and Sedona Legge.

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What are you looking forward to?

‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ Review

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Dir: Christopher McQuarrie

Writer(s): Christopher McQuarrie

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Simon McBurney, Jens Hulten, Simon McBurney, and Alec Baldwin

Synopsis: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

 

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

 

20 years ago the first Mission: Impossible movie was released. Yes, twenty years ago, and it is holding strong all these years later with only five films. The franchise knows what it is and Tom Cruise is without a doubt still the face, and will continue being the face of the franchise as long as he can still run and do those crazy action sequences. The Mission: Impossible films have always been a ton of fun and while taking some missteps *cough* Mission: Impossible 2 *cough* it still manages to find its way to our hearts. So with the fifth film now out, Rogue Nation shows the franchise still has life in it and won’t stop any time soon.

 

Director Christopher McQuarrie takes over script duties and the director’s chair, but has some big shoes to fill after the success and great entries of Mission: Impossible 3 and Ghost Protocol – which have a special place in my heart. McQuarrie doesn’t waste any time either; he gives us the tone and pacing right in the opening scene and doesn’t let up. His action sequences are done really well and you never lose yourself in the scene.

 

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As for the story, Rogue Nation continues off where Ghost Protocol left off, Ethan (Cruise) is on the hunt for The Syndicate, a shadow organization that has been committing a string of terrorist attacks across the world that is lead by Solomon Lane (Harris). Meanwhile, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Baldwin) wants to dissolve the IMF for good, seeing them and Ethan as having too much free reign during their missions, and even seeing Hunt as an “arsonist and fireman.” This puts Ethan in Hunley’s radar and makes him a wanted man in the eyes of the government. Of course, that doesn’t stop Ethan from hunting down The Syndicate, especially once he makes an unlikely ally in Ilsa Faust (Ferguson), a Syndicate agent whose allegiance to both sides is questionable. So he also brings in Benji (Pegg), Brandt (Renner) and Luther (Rhames) to finally take The Syndicate down.

 

The Mission: Impossible films always feel like soft reboots with small trends and plot points that carry over from the previous films. Rogue Nation is no different. Obviously the team is the same, with the exception of not having a woman team member – Ilsa doesn’t really count. If anything, that would be one of my only nitpicky complaints about the films, in that they don’t bring back any of their female agents. However, Rebecca Ferguson is a damn fine addition to the cast.

 

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Speaking of the cast, Cruise is as comfortable as always playing Ethan Hunt and is even hinted of being a bit of a mythic figure within the organization. Simon Pegg, thankfully, has more to do this time around since joining the series. He isn’t just the comic relief, but actually part of the team. The previously mentioned Rebecca Ferguson is easily one of, if not, the highlight of the cast as Ilsa. Ferguson is relativity new to the scene, with her only other big screen performance being the mostly forgettable Hercules from last year. However, Rogue Nation shows that Ferguson should be someone you should keep your eye on.

 

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The supporting cast is okay, but not great as they usually are. Again, Pegg and Ferguson are the standouts while Jeremy Renner, who was once rumored to take over the franchise, takes a limited role here and doesn’t get into the action as much as he did in Ghost Protocol. Ving Rhames has a tad more to do here, but still takes a back seat for the most part. Alec Baldwin’s CIA Director Hunley is a natural antagonist for Ethan and it feels like he’s going to stick around.

 

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The Syndicate is the real villains of the film. The group is filled with agents from different organizations that are presumed dead and as Ethan finds out and Benji says, they’re “an anti-IMF.” The group is pretty much filled with no-named thugs with the exception of Ilsa and Jens Hulten’s Janik “The Bone Crusher” Vinter, who is a right hand to the group’s leader and lead villain Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris. Harris isn’t the strongest villain in the series, he is menacing for some of it, but he lacked a bit something for me, which is a shame since Harris is a great actor.

 

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But like the previous films, Rogue Nation has great action scenes. Of course, the heavily promoted hanging off an airplane scene is impressive to watch – especially in IMAX – and is even more impressive once we find out that Cruise actually shot the scene himself (with a safety harness of course). For me though the standout is the other heavily promoted scene that involves a car chase with some motorcycles. The other is gadgets, and the film does have some cool gadgets that do fit within the world of the Mission films, although some are very subtle.

 

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All in all, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a ton of fun. The action is great and the standout of the cast isn’t just Tom Cruise, but Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson, who I hope returns for future installments. I don’t know if Rogue Nation is as good as the last two films, but it is definitely up there.

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

4 out of 5

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‘Vacation’ Review

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Dir: John Francis Daley & Jonathan M. Goldstein

Writer(s): John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein

Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Catherine Missal, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Beverly D’Angelo, and Chevy Chase

Synopsis: Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a road trip to “Walley World” in order to spice things up with his wife and reconnect with his sons.

 

 

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

 

 

The Vacation movies have always had a loyal fanbase and in some cases have a special place in people’s hearts. To be honest, I was never a hardcore fan of the movies – I’ve actually only watched two – but I could see why they are well liked. So when Vacation was announced, I wasn’t up in arms like most people. In fact, I wasn’t really anticipating much from it. So, does Vacation really stand on its own like Rusty claims in the trailer? For the most part yes, yes it does.

 

Vacation follows an adult Rusty Griswold (Helms), who sees that his family is in a funk, and doesn’t want to take them on their annual vacation spot, which happens to be a cabin, decides to take them and recreate his trip to Walley World. So he rents a foreign car, that is truly outrageous once we see all its “features” and tells his wife Debbie (Applegate), oldest and a bit nerdy son James (Gisondo) and youngest who actually picks on his older brother, Kevin (Stebbins) to pack up and get ready for an adventure. Of course, in classic Griswold fashion, it all goes downhill from there.

 

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Writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who will write the new solo Spider-Man movie for Marvel and Sony) show that they do love and respect the original films with small references to the original movies, but never going over-the-top and hitting us over the head with them. Even if you didn’t watch the original movies, you’ll still enjoy, or at least hopefully enjoy, the movie. It never tries to copy the original beat for beat, which honestly helps the movie be its own thing. Of course there are obvious callbacks like the flirty beautiful girl in the convertible.

 

Vacation does fall into the more common raunchy joke territory that some comedies are doing, and while some work, others just fall flat or aren’t even funny. The movie also has some “dirty” (poop and puke jokes) humor that, again, work every now and then. In fact some of those jokes – at least to me – worked better than the raunchy jokes that felt thrown in just for shock value. Then again, comedy is subjective, so you may find more jokes funnier than I did, but I will say I laughed a lot watching this.

 

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However, the jokes wouldn’t be funny without the delivery of the cast. Thankfully the cast works together. Ed Helms, who I’m not the most huge fan of, is relatable as Rusty here. All he wants is to get his family together and try to have a fun experience, but he’s funnier reacting to the situations that are going on around him. Christina Applegate isn’t the overbearing, non-supportive wife but has her moments to shine and holds her own. The brother dynamic is flipped on its head as the older brother is actually getting picked on by the younger brother. Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins work really well off each other and are given great material to play out. The great thing about the family is that they are all given different personalities and we can see them as individuals instead of just being a family unit. I know that probably sounds dumb, but sometimes we just know a family in the movie because they all act similar to each other, here, we know each character separately, which helps when they’re paired off with each other or have their own moment to shine.

 

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The supporting cast is also pretty great, but also feels like some opportunities were missed over just passed over. Chris Hemsworth looked like he enjoyed himself playing Rusty’s brother-in-law and full of himself TV weatherman Stone Crandall, who is married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey played by Leslie Mann. Hemsworth’s extended cameo adds some great laughs to the film, while the always reliable Mann is underused to the point that it feels like they wanted another big name to the movie or are hoping that sequels are announced so she can have a big role. There is another part to two that is merely touched upon that I kind of wanted to see more of, but seeing that movie is about Rusty and his family, it makes sense that they are not a focus.

 

There are some other cameos like Charlie Day’s water rafting guide, which is actually a better scene than I would have thought. Keegan-Michael Key’s scene happens early on in the movie and is just okay. There are two other cameos that I didn’t even know was going to happen so I’ll just leave you to enjoy them. However, the “big” cameos are from original stars Beverly D’Angelo and Chevy Chase as Ellen and Clark. Unfortunately, this element of the movie is lackluster. Chase feels like he’s trying to hard in the small amount of screentime he has and D’Angelo is barley seen. The scene is near the end of the movie and it actually derails the movie. Again, the movie is about Rusty and his family, but these two character of Clark and Ellen were what started all this, and to see the two characters essentially pumping the brakes on a movie that is for all intent-and-purposes a continuation of the legacy they paved.

 

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All in all, Vacation works on most levels. The main cast is great and gel really well together while delivering their lines to almost perfection. Some of the humor works better than others, but for the most part you’ll be laughing with your theater. There are some missed opportunities here and there, but overall, Vacation is worth the watch.

 

 

Vacation

3.5 out of 5

‘Southpaw’ Review

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Dir: Antoine Fuqua

Writer(s): Kurt Sutter

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence, Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson, Miguel Gomez, Skylan Brooks, Beau Knapp, and Naomie Harris

Synopsis: Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Willis to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.

 

 

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

 

 

Everyone loves a great redemption story and director Antoine Fuqua with first-time feature film writer Kurt Sutter (FX’s Sons of Anarchy) have bought just that to us with Southpaw. The film goes through the motions and even hits the usual clichés we see in usual comeback stories, but it’s the performances by lead Jake Gyllenhaal and the direction of Fuqua that keep the movie enjoyable and powerful.

 

The film starts with Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllenhaal) beating a boxing opponent retaining his victory record. When doing press, an up-and-comer boxer Miguel ‘Magic’ Escobar (Gomez) taunts Billy saying he wants a shot at him. However, his wife Maureen (McAdams) worries about Billy and tells him he should take a break and spend time with her and their daughter Leila (Laurence). Billy considers it, but Escobar continues to taunt Billy at a gala and the two go at it. In the chaos, Maureen gets shot and dies leaving Billy alone and going on a tailspin that eventually ends up with Billy losing everything and putting Leila in child services.

 

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However, not wanting to lose his daughter, he slowly tries to clean up his act and goes to a local gym that is run by a former boxer, Tick Willis (Whitaker), who reluctantly agrees to let Billy train at the gym. Eventually, Billy gets a chance to get back in the game and possibly get Leila back if he takes on one huge fight.

 

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One of the things that bothered me, as well as others, is the fact that the first trailer gives away that McAdams’s Maureen dies. It’s one of the pivotal plot points in the movie and essentially starts off the real story of Billy’s rise after everything is taken from him. It probably would have been hard to get around it, since it does happen early in the film, but it did take away a little bit from the scene, especially even more, because the actual scene is really strong. Also, if you go in thinking to see a lot of boxing action in Southpaw, you’ll probably be a little disappointed. There is some great boxing action in the film, which I’ll get to in a little bit, but Southpaw is a drama through-and-through. In fact, it is a bit hard to watch sometimes. Not because it’s bad, but because Billy is constantly having to push through both physical beatings and emotional beatings. If Sutter was trying to prove how resilient Billy is as a boxer and a person, he succeeds for the most part, although it takes some time to get to that point.

 

However, the only reason is works is because of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance. Make no mistake, this is Gyllenhaal’s movie and is one of the only reason the film works so well. Gyllenhaal has pulled out some great performances as of late and Southpaw is no different. He is able to bring out every emotion in Billy that makes us sympathize, root and even relate to him.

 

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The rest of the cast is hit-or-miss. Forest Whitaker’s no-nonsense Tick Willis is tail-made for the actor and nails every scene he’s in, with a standout scene near the end of the movie. Rachel McAdams, who doesn’t have a ton of screen time, still manages to bring a nice mix of charm, attitude, and toughness to Maureen. Oona Laurence’s Leila Hope has her moments to shine, but is otherwise an outside driving force to Billy’s actions throughout the movie. However, make no mistake, when she’s onscreen, it is great to see – in a non-creepy way.

 

“50 Cent” plays a greedy and morally questionable manager who you’ll love to hate, but think “yeah, this kind of guy probably exists in real life.” Miguel Gomez as Escobar pretty much disappears through the middle of the movie, and only pops up at the end of the movie for the unavoidable final fight of the movie. It’s no fault to Gomez, he’s only doing the best he can with what he’s given. The movie isn’t about him, it’s about Billy and his road to redemption. Unfortunately, Naomie Harris gets the short end of the stick playing a social worker assigned to Billy and Leila’s case. Harris does okay, but an actress of her talent and caliber being reduced to a small supporting role kind of sucks.

 

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Like I said, Southpaw is a drama through-and-through, but the boxing scenes are great to sit back and enjoy. Fuqua really tries to put us the viewer in the ring with the characters and what is going in their head. The boxing scenes feel almost raw and brutal and are probably some of the best scenes in the movie, camera-work wise.

 

All in all, Southpaw feels like a familiar structure and fits into some clichés and common threads in other redemption/underdog films we’ve seen in the past. However, Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance and Fuqua’s direction in some of the bigger scenes make the film pop and standout in its own right. Southpaw may not the easiest movie to sit through, because of the drama, but it is highly enjoyable at the end of the day.

 

Southpaw

4 out of 5

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‘Pixels’ Review

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Dir:  Chris Columbus

Writer(s): Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Matt Lintz, Jane Krankowski, and Brian Cox

Synopsis: When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.

 

 

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

 

 

Based on the 2010 short from French director Patrick Jean (which I highly recommend), Pixels extends the idea of classic video games attacking major cities to aliens disguising themselves as classic video games to attack. I was pretty excited to learn they were making a movie based on the short, but was less excited when I heard that Adam Sandler was involved with his Happy Madison Production company. I’ll even admit that the first trailer didn’t do much for me and wasn’t even looking forward to this. The second trailer came out and I was warming up to it. Now, watching the movie itself, well my mind was changed. Pixels is not perfect, but it still is pretty enjoyable.

 

The movie starts off in the early 80s when friends Sam Brenner (Sandler) and Cooper (James) go to a grand opening of an arcade. Sam becomes a local favorite because he’s really good at the games and Cooper tells him to enter a championship league. There they meet Ludlow (Gad) and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Dinklage). Skip ahead to the present and Cooper is now the President of the United States, while Brenner works as an installation guy. However, Cooper soon has lot on his plate when a military base is attacked overseas in the form of Galaga.

 

Cooper and Lt. Col. Violet van Patten (Monaghan) – who early on in the film had already meet Brenner and the two don’t completely get along – bring in Brenner and Ludlow, who is a conspiracy theorist and is the one that actually brings up the notion of aliens disguising themselves as classic video game characters, in to help the military lead by Admiral Porter (Cox) to take them down. They also need the help of a now jailed Eddie to take down the aliens.

 

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Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t really looking forward toward Pixels. I, probably, like many of you, thought this was going to be another unfunny, dumb, lame joke (although there are flat jokes in there) movie by Adam Sandler. Also, like I said, Pixels is not a perfect movie. Once you get past the notion that Kevin James is playing the President somehow, they never mention how he became president, and how everyone somewhat accepts the idea that it is aliens disguising themselves as classic video games OR even that they bring in civilians to deal with the situation, Pixels is enjoyable for the most part. All that sounds nitpicky, but it’s hard to avoid it once you watch the movie.

 

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The idea behind the aliens thinking that the capsule that was sent up to space to make communication them was an act of war is pretty interesting, but it is never really fleshed out. It is bought up, but they way they handled it was off to me. Even some of clichés the movie brings up didn’t bother me so much as it will probably other people. The clichés, dare I say this, work for the movie, but only to a certain extent. Some of the references are dated, but considering the concept of the movie you don’t necessarily have to forgive it, but it helps you experience the movie better. I’m not making excuses for the movie, but at the end of the day it is an Adam Sandler movie.

 

Speaking of Sandler, he does okay here. Although, I haven’t really watched a Sandler film in a long time, it does look at times like he’s phoning it in sometimes. Josh Gad has his funny moments and plays a bit the role a bit over-the-top, but the role calls for it and Gad nails it. Peter Dinklage looks like he’s having fun playing the role and even has some scene stealing lines as the arrogant and egotistical video game player. The personality fades away a bit near the end unfortunately, but he will no doubt be a fan-favorite, if not for the character then at least for fact that it’s played by Peter Dinklage.

 

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Michelle Monaghan, the only real female actress of the movie besides Jane Krakowski who doesn’t really do anything than being the First Lady, has her own moments to shine as well. Although, without spoiling it, the character feels a bit inconsistent when you first see her to later in the final act. Still she holds her own with what she’s given. Kevin James also doesn’t get a lot to do here, sure he has a couple good moments, but for the most part he’s a supporting character that pops in every now and then.

 

The rest of the supporting cast don’t do much and play into the clichés that I briefly spoke of earlier. Brian Cox’s Admiral Porter is the tough and no nonsense-type that doesn’t believe in “the arcaders.” While Ashley Benson’s Lady Lisa doesn’t show up until the final act and doesn’t even speak a line of dialogue. A nice surprise is fan favorite Sean Bean pops in a small role as another military leader that also doesn’t believe in the “arcaders.”

 

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If you don’t like the story or the characters then the action sequences should at least be fun for you. The heavily promoted Pac-Man chase scene is pretty fun to watch in its entirety and the King Kong fight is probably the next highlight, if not the highlight of the movie. The special effects is pretty cool and during the action sequences really elevate the scenes a little more.

 

All in all, Pixels was surprisingly enjoyable. Some of the jokes fall flat, but for the most part you’ll laugh for sure at some of the jokes. The movie does seem targeted a bit toward families, but pay attention to the rating, it is PG-13 for some language. If you’re a video gamer, especially the old-school games, you’ll enjoy some of the references scattered throughout. Pixels isn’t going to win any awards – maybe some Razzies – but go and judge for yourselves. Pixels is a lot of fun for the most part, and this is coming from a guy that wasn’t looking forward to it.

 

Pixels

3.5 out of 5

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