Title: Dark Phoenix
Director: Simon Kinberg
Starring: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Tye Sheridan, Michael Fassbender, Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain
Well, the X-Men proper series of films under the Fox banner, limps to the finish line. The main issue with Dark Phoenix, is that nothing particularly exciting, or important happens. There are glimpses of what first time director, Simon Kinberg, wanted to do. The problem is, I don't think he should have been doing this all on his own. He never gets to where he wants to go, fully. Credit to him though; for a first outing, this could have been a lot worse. Working in his favor here, are three solid performances by McAvoy, Fassbender, and Sophie Turner. They manage to keep this excruciatingly dull story, interesting enough for us, as we drag to the credits. I believe it was something like and hour after the open, before an X-Man, or Woman, uses any power to, well, do anything. Aside from that, the only reason why this version of the Phoenix Saga is even watchable is because of Sophie Turner. The story itself, just isn't interesting enough. It's a repetitive slog of either talking about, Jean and how powerful she is, or, Jean pouting about what is happening to her. Kinberg, tries to sell us of this great threat, but it always falls into flat, cliche' territory. A lot of people just talk to each other about the threat. In between all of this, Jessica Chastain shows up, in a borderline embarrassing performance. Her character has virtually nothing to do here. And when she does, it's all just silly nonsense. That being said, there are a few moments throughout that are worth a look. The ending sequence is quite nice, and it shows that it was a re-shoot. The whole thing feels like a different movie. Dark Phoenix skirts by on very little. It's not overly terrible. It's watchable. I guess it could have been far worse. It's a dull, ending chapter for the Fox era of X-Men proper.
Title: Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Charles Dance, Bradley Whitford
I absolutely abhorred, Gareth Edwards' 2014 misguided Godzilla-less snoozefest. Besides the lack of the titular character in that film, the constant cutting away from the action onscreen, was a cinematic sin I will never forgive. In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, we do get more Godzilla. We do get more monsters. However, someone please tell me why in the ever loving fuck, are we constantly cutting back to a hamfisted family drama in the middle of an epic monster battle? AGAIN?! Nobody. Fucking. Cares. These characters are so thinly written, I didn't even remember their names in the film. If we are going to do stuff like this, write your damn characters better. Nobody bought a ticket to Godzilla: King of the Monsters, to watch a family go through therapy. And make awful, world-ending decisions, because of bad family history. And the cutting away from the action. Why are we still doing this? There is a shot towards the end of the film, where a plane purposely flies into frame, to BLOCK the action on screen. It's the same shit we did in 2014. Stop it. Do not do this in Godzilla Vs. Kong. For the love of Jebus, don't do this anymore. That being said, forget the story here. Forget the characters here. The monsters and the battles, are the bread and butter. Any time there is a monster onscreen, Godzilla: King of the Monsters is spectacular. It's a damn-near masterpiece. Until we have to cut away to catch up on family therapy, or read the book of plot exposition. It's a freaking shame. Because of how badly written these characters are, I have to wonder who's idea the family drama story was. It's clear Dougherty respects and loves these monsters. It's shown onscreen every time we see a Kaiju. That's the freaking movie. This family story is so bad, it feels out of place in this. It feels like an afterthought. The monster stuff is so well done, I have to wonder if that's the movie Dougherty wanted to make. And then some Warner Bros. Executive saw an episode of Stranger Things. Look, there's nothing wrong with cutting away from monster action, to catch up with characters and plot. To see how this is done properly, watch Jurassic Park. All of that being said, the epic Kaiju battles are worth a ticket. Just ignore everything else.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad
During the first fifteen minutes of Aladdin, every single one of my cinematic synapses was firing on all cylinders. This was going to be bad. I was bracing myself for the next two hours. And then, something happened. I'm still not sure what it was. However, Aladdin turned out... good. Truth be told, the film has quite a few issues. Guy Ritchie, was both the wrong and right person to direct this thing. It's clear that he has no idea how to shoot a musical. So instead, he relies on things he watched in other musicals. Yes, even the animated Aladdin. Aladdin very much feels like a traditional musical. It all looks like something you saw in another musical, and not just the animated feature. There's also a weirdness that shows through, which actually plays in favor of Guy Ritchie. There is a charm to all of this. It is this charm, that propels Aladdin to the finish line. This is very much a crowd-pleasing film. It's easily digestible, with a few pieces of gristle in its bite. Mena Massoud, and Naomi Scott, are both solid as Aladdin and Jasmine. However, let's talk about the big, blue, elephant in the room. Will Smith is really good as the Genie. In fact, I would say he's perfect. Oh, no, not Robin Williams perfect. He's Will Smith perfect. This is his Genie. And he does his Genie well. He's funny, he can sing, he's charming, he has heart, and he's basically carrying this entire thing on his shoulders. You could feel the tension in the theater the moment Aladdin, starts rubbing that lamp. Everyone basically stiffened and waited for blue Will Smith to appear, and say something. And once he did, you could feel everyone collectively sigh in relief. Marwan Kenzari, I would say is the weak link as Jafar. It's... a different take, but I kind of dug what he did. Bottom line is, Aladdin isn't bad. It's good. It has issues, but it's really entertaining to watch. I'm actually glad the internet didn't kill this prematurely. Especially, Will Smith's Genie.
Title: Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Director: Rob Letterman
Starring: Justice Smith, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Nighy, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Chris Geere
Detective Pikachu is delightful to watch. Is it the best video game adaptation so far? I still say that the original Mortal Kombat is the best example in that department. That being said, Detective Pikachu could be a close second in my book. While the film has some noticeable shortcomings, most are forgiven as the duo of Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds, sell this thing. And sell it they do. Both carry this crazy world on their shoulders. I know virtually nothing about Pokémon. My knowledge comes from my younger sister, who was into the franchise when she was younger. While some of the in-depth world of the little monsters may go over some heads, the knowledge isn't needed. Instead, the strength of Ryan Reynolds voicing probably the most famous of the Pokémon, Pikachu, is enough to warrant a view. Reynolds, gives the furry yellow character a life, and yes, some great humor. Justice Smith, adds a solid heart to all of this. There was quite a nice emotional story I wasn't expecting. The Pokémon themselves, are also really well done. This world, is fully realized. It's probably the best possible way to do a live action version of the material. It never felt out of place, and it worked nicely. Detective Pikachu does suffer from a bit of a weak and predictable plot. The story gets bogged down in the later sections of the film. Still, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a mostly solid, entertaining family adventure. I was smiling quite a bit in this. I think you will too.
Title: John Wick 3: Parabellum
Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Lance Reddick, Asia Kate Dillon
What started as a strange teaser trailer for what appeared to be a generic action movie starring Keanu Reeves, has turned into something else entirely three films in. John Wick 3: Parabellum is flashy, loud, pulpy, surprisingly brutal, and mesmerizing. It has gun fu, knife fu, dog fu, horse fu, motorcycle fu, sword fu, book fu, axe fu, and every fu in between. While the franchise has veered into true comic book territory with Parabellum, it surprisingly works. Some of it may be a little too inside baseball, but it's a welcome leap into this mythology. John Wick, is the perfect character for Keanu Reeves. It's an understated performance that fits for both the character and actor. The surrounding cast, all combine nicely. From the gravitas of Ian McShane, to the offbeat craziness of Laurence Fishburne, everyone is fun to watch. The action and spectacle taking place here, is something in another stratosphere. It's hard-hitting, edge of your seat thrills, that will have you gasping at the screen at times. There are moments, where things can feel a bit excessive, but in a strange morbid way, fits for this world. I can't state enough, how good some of these action sequences are. If you love the world that was set up in the first two John Wick films, this thing is something special. The first forty minutes alone, are worth the price of admission. This is a pulpy grand time, at the cinema.
Title: Long Shot
Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, June Diane Raphael, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis
Funny and sweet, Long Shot surprises with its charm, wit, and bending of the Romantic Comedy. Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, are really good together. Their chemistry drive this thing home. You really believe in these two. You want them to make everything work. It's kind of remarkable how much Long Shot hugs that cliche' line of the Romantic Comedy, yet still manages to surprise you as we go. Rogen, is doing himself (of course), and Theron, is really good as his better half. Everything just clicks here. The comedy is really funny; always switching between the romantic, the satirical, and the crude. Long Shot hits in all the right spaces, and it gives you an extra added sweetness, that only works because of Rogen and Theron's chemistry. The co-stars here, have some great moments to shine as well. Bob Odenkirk, is quite hilarious as the President, and Andy Serkis shows up chameleon style. Long Shot, is one of the best comedy's of the year. It's funny, sweet, and charming. It's is a great time.
Title: Avengers: Endgame
Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo
Starring: Charis Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Mark Ruffalo
It is legit hard to surprise me at the cinema these days. It is even harder to surprise me with a Marvel movie these days. After 20 plus films, the MCU was starting to feel the same. I'm not as big on some of these films, as most of the world. However, I do enjoy most of them. I just don't put them on that high pedestal that some do. That said, Avengers: Endgame surprised me. I will keep this brief, so I don't slip up with a spoiler or 2. Endgame caps off this first 10 years of the MCU nicely. Kudos to the Russo Brothers, for pulling this off too. Not only is Endgame a lot of fun, it has a ton of heart to go along with it. It takes the MCU that preceded it, and treats it with respect. It goes overboard sometimes with the schmaltz and fan-service, but that's OK. Endgame feels like it can get away with it. Even some of the stuff that really didn't work for me, I was able to look the other way with. Endgame is popcorn cinema done correctly. Now, bring on the next stuff.
Title: The Curse of La Llorona
Director: Michael Chaves
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Tony Amendola
The biggest sin of The Curse of La Llorona, is that nothing really happens. Music swells, there are long stares into darkness, there are noises (oh, yes, there are noises), and then La Llorona jumps out and goes "boo!" Or, more accurately, she screams and reaches her arms out. That's it. That's basically her power move. And it gets repetitive. Over, and over again. However, there is a slight fun charm to the film. Linda Cardellini and Raymond Cruz, really sell this thing. The kids are also quite fun. The titular character, is designed well, and she does come across as a force. The Conjuring connection, while cool, seems like a shoehorned afterthought which is a shame. The Curse of La Llorona comes out mostly unscathed, but ultimately feels useless. It's a quick cash-grab, but there are a few nifty sequences that are quite fun to watch. You just have to slog through a lot of it.
Title: Pet Sematary
Directors: Kevin Kolsch, Dennis Widmyer
Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jete' Laurence, Obssa Ahmed
A little bit of history. I first read Pet Sematary when I was nine years old. It was the first "adult" book I ever read. It fucking terrified the ever loving shit out of me. I was hooked on Stephen King from then on, and I went on a King reading binge for many years after that. Really, there has been no book since my first, that has wrecked me as badly as Pet Sematary. I was really pulling for this. We are kind of in the middle of a King renaissance, when it comes to adapting his horror. Stephen King, is very hard to translate. Only recently, have people really been able to crack that code. Unfortunately, Pet Sematary kind of falls short. I was totally cool with the "switch" that was revealed in the trailer. However, I think the film kind of went a little overboard when it comes to the liberties it takes. The ending to this film, and the sidelining of Jud Crandall as little more than a glorified stereotype, is going to piss off A LOT of people. I'm still not sure if I like ALL the changes, or absolutely hate them. I did enjoy a lot of the film though. There is some very effective sequences, and the titular place of burial, is done really well. The actors are mostly fine. John Lithgow is probably the standout here. The little girl who plays Ellie, while I found kind of annoying alive, is actually really, really, creepy as dead Ellie. And the cat does a great job. Pet Sematary is just a mixed bag overall. While some of the liberties it takes are fine, others leave you scratching your head, and it totally misses the point for the sake of just being creepy. I do think there is just enough to warrant a watch. It's better than the original, but that's not saying much.
Director: David F. Sandberg
Starring: Asher Angel, Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Mark Strong, Djimon Hounsou
Oh, what a treat Shazam! is. David F. Sandberg, most known for his horror films Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation, has made quite the entertaining ride here. Shazam!, is packed full of laughs, heart, and adventure. Not shying away from his horror roots, Sandberg, throws in some chills along the way too. Anchoring here, are the absolutely charismatic performances of his three leads. Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, and Jack Dylan Grazer, are wonderful here. Levi, totally embodies the titular character, while allowing his child-like wonder to flow off the screen. Levi's younger self, Asher Angel, is also great here. Angel and Levi's chemistry with Jack Dylan Grazer, make this film something truly special. The family dynamic here, is played so well, and it pays off in spades at the end. Mark Strong, is also solid as the villain. It's nice to see him get redemption for his Sinestro turn. Shazam!, is kind of unlike any superhero film we have today. It has a very throwback style feel. They don't make these kinds of superhero films anymore. And they need to make more. Shazam! is monstrously entertaining.