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.
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.