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.
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Nicole Parker, Finley Hobbins
Well, at least they did Dumbo right. The flying pachyderm and most shots with him in it, are the best thing this movie has going for it. Unfortunately, we have to spend the rest of the film's runtime with a plethora of horrible characters, a DOA screenplay, and a lethargic Tim Burton, trying to remember how to direct a movie. Seriously, what happened to Tim Burton? Most of Dumbo is missing that Tim Burton flare. Outcasts are what Tim Burton does best, and he bungles it here. The Dreamland stuff is the closest thing we get, and that comes way, way, way, into the film. Every actor here, minus Danny Devito, is either on autopilot, or sleepwalking their way to the finale. Most of Dumbo is so damn dull, it hurts. There's so much potential here, but nothing is ever really satisfying. The pacing is weird, and there is something off all the way through this thing. However, everything involving Dumbo, is done right. Despite some wobbly effects work, every time "Big D" bats an eye, you are back into the movie. Dumbo is hands down, one of the worst live-action Disney remakes to date. It's bound to be forgotten in the annals of history. In fact, I've already forgotten it.
Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph
There's no doubt, that Jordan Peele, is a gifted and talented filmmaker. His love of film combined with a keen eye for making them, solidifies he's here to stay. Here's the thing with Us though; parts of the film ooze brilliance, and other parts are an absolute mess. Oddly, when the film is crushing under its pretentiousness, you can almost feel Jordan Peele reach out from the screen and grab your hand, reassuringly, as he tugs you along this journey. Us, is a journey. How you react to this journey, is going to depend on you. Some people are going to absolutely hate this movie. Others, will be confused. Still others, will leap for joy. I fall somewhere in the middle. Lupita Nyong'o, and Winston Duke, are an absolute joy here. Nyong'o, gives a stellar performance. Duke, reminded me of Clark Griswald a lot, and it 100% works. The kids, are fantastic as well. All the performances are solid. Where Us falters, in its story. Peele, tosses out a lot of the foundation in solid storytelling, for something that is anchored by the visuals. Us, is visual storytelling. The viewers mind is left to fill in a lot of the story, based on what we're seeing on screen. Peele, is putting a lot of trust in his audience to just take it all in, and come along with him. It's ambitious, which I admire. However, it doesn't always work. I do think Us offers enough of a showcase for Jordan Peele as a filmmaker, which is really the star of the show here. This is also a film that begs you to see it more than once, which I am going to have to do.
Ttitle: Captain Marvel
Directors: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Jude Law, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg
Not only is Captain Marvel one of the weakest entries in the MCU, it's also one of the shoddiest made. It's a shame, as this character has so much potential. Captain Marvel is horrendously all over the place. Tonally, it's a mess and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, are almost clueless as to how to juggle any of this. It's painfully obvious at times, the two are way out of their league here. Also unfortunate, is Brie Larson. She is such a wonderful actress, but throughout most of this movie, she felt miscast and out of her element. I'm still trying to process if this was her fault, the screenplay, or the directors here. I hope that in Endgame, she had better guidance from the Russo Brothers. Something was just off here. Captain Marvel isn't a total loss though. It still has moments that salvage some entertainment out of this mess. Samuel L. Jackson is fun as a younger Nick Fury (even if some stuff here seems like a retcon). One of the biggest problems, is Captain Marvel can't decide what kind of film it wants to be. Overall, Captain Marvel is a mostly forgettable entry in the MCU.
Director: Joe Penna
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen
Arctic is methodical, tense, taught, and effective. The film is part Cast Away, part Gravity, part The Grey and part 127 Hours, thrown in for good measure. Mads Mikkelsen, is more than capable of carrying this film all by himself. Arctic has very, very little dialogue and that technique, only brings the audience into the survival journey even more. There is one element you might think will go one way, but thankfully it doesn't go that way. This obviously isn't the first survivalist film we've seen, it's definitely one of the best. While a few of the beats can get a little repetitive, the film manages to keep the narrative moving. You are with Mads, every step on this journey, and you want this man to succeed. That brings us to the ending, which may divide some people, but I enjoyed it. Arctic, is one of the best. It's a great journey.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein, Idara Victor
Alita: Battle Angel is not great. It's not good. It's barely passable as OK. It does this because of two factors. The first, is Rosa Salazar, as the titular character. She is so good, so likable, and so charismatic as Alita, the film is salvaged; strike that, watchable because of it. The second, is the mind-boggling special effects. Alita, and her world, are so believable and brought to life stunningly. However, everything else here borders on an epic fail. The script is excruciatingly bad. Dialogue is beyond cringe worthy at times. Moments meant to be played out as serious, are laughable. Christoph Waltz, is the only other thing worth mentioning as a positive. He is solid, and plays off of Salazar, nicely. Mahershala Ali, on the eve of probably winning another Oscar, is so, so, so, bad in this. Jennifer Connelly, is beyond wasted here as well. I hope Cameron, used this as practice for writing a screenplay, as he needs to shake off all that rust before his bazillion Avatar sequels. This thing makes me nervous for those (and yes, I'm still a fan of the first). While Rodriguez, doesn't do him any favors (aside from getting the effects right), the biggest problems with Alita start and end with this dreadful screenplay. Salazar, is letdown by all of this. It's a damn shame.
Title: Happy Death Day 2U
Director: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis
The first Happy Death Day, played like a new take on the slasher genre. Happy Death Day 2U, feels like a crazy 80's Sci-Fi comedy adventure. There's less horror this time around, which might throw some people off the Happy Death Day train, which is just barreling along a different track at full speed in this movie. I found this highly entertaining. It's funny, bat-shit insane at times, and surprisingly sweet at parts. Jessica Rothe, is the glue here. The first time her character realizes that she's back in the death-loop, is some of the most entertaining moments I've seen on film this year. It's hard to tell how some people will react to the drastic shift in tone here. If you go into Happy Death Day 2U expecting the first film, you might find yourself surprised at what you get. And I think, in a good way. It reminded me a bit of The Purge franchise, in that the sequels don't resemble the first film at all. Happy Death Day 2U, is a good time.
Title: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Director: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Alison Brie, Stephanie Beatriz
The Lego Movie 2 might lack some of the pizzazz the first film had, but it still packs an entertaining punch. The voice cast assembled here, is fantastic. Pratt and Banks, anchor again, however, Tiffany Haddish brings a fresh charm to her, Queen Whatevra Wa'Nabi. Will Arnett's Batman, returns in a solid extra outing. Like the first film, Lego Movie 2, has an emotional core message. The first, was about a father and son. This time around, the message is just as special and works nicely. The creative angle is still here, and the animation style is still something unique. In fact, it feels like there have been some improvements. While I don't think it's as solid a movie, it's still extremely entertaining.
Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos
I know I am late to this party, but man, A Star Is Born is electric. Not bad for a film that has been done quite a number of times in the past. While there are a few elements that come across as a bit cliche', Bradley Cooper gives it his all. Not just as a first-time director either. His performance is haunting, and it sticks with you. Lady Gaga, gives an outstanding performance in her own right. The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga, is what binds this film together. Cooper's steady hand as a director, make it all work in the end. Surrounded by some great music, and a talented supporting cast (Sam Elliott is fantastic as well), A Star Is Born is some great cinema. It's simple, yet very effective storytelling.