Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

Reviews for Current Films, Classics, Video Games and Lots of Other Cool Stuff For Parents and Children

In Theaters: The Hitman's Bodyguard, Batman and Harley Quinn, Wind River, The Nut Job 2, Annabelle: Creation, Kidnap, Detroit, The Dark Tower, The Emoji Movie, Atomic Blonde, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Girls Trip, Dunkirk, Wish Upon, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Big Sick, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3

Coming Soon: Logan Lucky, Birth of the Dragon, Leap, Death Note, Home Again, It, 9/11, Mother, American Assassin, Kingsman 2, Ninjango, Friend Request, American Made, Flatliners, Blade Runner 2049, The Mountain Between Us, My Little Pony, The Foreigner, Happy Death Day, Geostorm, Only the Brave, Another Madea Monstrosity, The Snowman

Rating system:

★★★★: Classic  

★★★½: Very Good   

★★★: Good  

★★½ : Eh

★★: Could've Been Worse, Could've Been Better  

★½: Is It Too Late To Get A Refund?  

: Hope You Have A Good Date  

½: Little To No Redeeming Value

No Stars: Rethink Your Life Choices

The Hitman's Bodyguard                                    by James Eagan                                          ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the hitmans bodyguard movie imagesImage Deadpool and Nick Fury's Wackily Violent Adventures

Okay lets all be honest here, this is pretty much a 90s action comedy that just somehow got released in 2017. I can't necessarily explain it, but the 90s were known of movies like this. Crazy, over the top action, with big name stars playing characters with plenty of quirks and personality, the sheer amount of whimsy on display despite all the excessive death and carnage, and so many clichés to the point of parody. I grew up with movies like that and it morphed me into the young man I am today.......That actually explains everything the more I think about it. 

"The Hitman's Bodyguard" starts with special protection agent, "Michael Bryce" (Ryan Reynolds) miserably failing to protect one of his clients, resulting in him losing his credibility, his dignity, and ruining his relationship to Interpol agent, "Amelia Roussel" (Élodie Yung). 2 years later, Bryce is now depressed and protecting coked up businessmen, but ends up getting a call from Amelia to protect someone who is going to testify against ruthless European dictator, "Vladislav Dukhovich" (Gary Oldman) to the International Court of Justice. 

Turns out this person Bryce has to protect is notorious/possibly lunatic hitman, "Darius Kincaid" (Samuel L. Jackson), who Bryce has had run-ins with in the past. Bryce only agrees to the mission to get back his old job (and possibly patch things up with Amelia) and Kincaid just wants to get his wife, "Sonia" (Salma Hayek) free from prison in exchange for his testimony. Due to a possible leak in Interpol, Bryce and Kincaid are on their own as they make their way to Dukhovich's trial, with Dukhovich's men hot on their trail, and the fact that the both of them hate each other's guts. 

"The Hitman's Bodyguard" is definitely a throwback to all those action comedies we grew accustomed to during the 90s, or at least that's what Director Patrick Hughes is going for. The film goes through as many action movie clichés it can possibly cram into 2 hours, and while sometimes you get the idea the writers appear to just be going for easy, most of the time it feels intentional. The wacky antics and sheer gleefulness of the violence goes from brutal to cartoonish in a matter of seconds, while retaining a sense of humor throughout. (Although even the tone can be a little off from time to time)

The film's biggest saving graces would be it's performances, especially from Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. "Motherf*ckin" Jackson, who may or may not just be playing variations of themselves. They have plenty of chemistry and banter with one another, with Reynolds' snark and Jackson's constant disregard for life making for some of the best laughs. Gary Oldman has played these kind of villains roles before (And he can probably do it in his sleep) and yet still finds a way to be menacing as Hell. Salma Hayek also gets a few moments to shine, stealing whatever scene she's in. (A rather hilariously, brutal, yet somewhat heartwarming flashback to where she and Jackson met is hands down the funniest moment in the film.) Élodie Yung does fine with whats she's given and Joaquim de Almeida (as "Foucher", a superior Interpol officer) is here to do exactly what you think he's going to do. 

"The Hitman's Bodyguard" goes through every standard 90s trope you can expect, and while the action is well done, the sheer excess displayed on screen might come across as more unsettling to some. (Especially when the film gets really dark out of nowhere) But in the end, you're just here to see some great actors portray some fun characters getting involved in all kinds of chaos. I can't necessarily say it's that good of a film (I mean, a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes is harsh, but probably warranted), it's just I would be lying if I said that I didn't have an immense amount of fun with it. There are better movies out there to see, but if you want to get a few good laughs and some good old fashioned, popcorn movie absurdness, this will be right up your alley. 3 stars. Rated R For Abundant Violence And Constant Use Of The Word Motherf*cker.

Batman and Harley Quinn                                by James Eagan                                    ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for batman and harley quinnImage: "I said I wanted the the number 4 combo!"

 Last year's animated adaptation of the beloved DC one shot, "The Killing Joke", kind of hit a sour note with fans. And Lord knows DC comics has gotten a bit of rep for going too dark all the time. So you can't blame them for simply saying "Lets just have fun with this". Batman needed to take a chill pill. 

 "Batman and Harley Quinn" opens with former botanist, turned supervillain, "Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy" (Paget Brewster) and humanoid plant monster, "Jason Woodrue/The Floronic Man" (Kevin Michael Richardson) orchestrating a scheme to replicate what turned Dr. Alec Holland into that big tree monster, "Swamp Thing" (John DiMaggio) in hopes of turning all human life into plants. It's up to "Bruce Wayne/Batman" (Kevin Conrroy) and "Dick Grayson/Nightwing" (Loren Lester) to stop them. Realizing that this situation will definitely require some help from someone previously close to Ivy, they form an awkward alliance with the Joker's former girlfriend/henchwoman, "Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn" (Melissa Rauch) to find her. The three of them then embark on a wacky adventure to save the world  

 "Batman and Harley Quinn" is basically a farce, going for straight up comedy compared to what you usually see from the source material with a rather simplistic plot that feels secondary. While that doesn't exactly make it a necessary watch, there's still plenty to enjoy. One being the animation which has been stylized to give the look of the classic "Batman: The Animated Series", where the character Harley Quinn originated from. The movie also takes time to establish why the character has resonated with so many people. 

 While it can be a bit jarring to hear someone new taking on the role of the beloved on again/off again supervillain, but Melissa Rauch makes the character her own, remaining cute, funny, and oddly lovable throughout (And hot. Should I mention hot? C'mon, every straight guy is in love with Harley!). Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester (Returning to voice the characters they did in the "Animated Series") perfectly contrast with Harley Quinn's antics, while Paget Brewster and Kevin Michael Richardson make for amusing villains. The film is also filled with many references to previous DC comics, and even a few to the original animates series. (There is a funny bar scene filled with henchmen that many should recognize from the old show.)

 "Batman and Harley Quinn" does take a bit to figure out exactly what tone it's going for, and even then, it has some trouble keeping it completely focused. Overall, the movie is pretty much here just for laughs, and it provides some pretty good ones. It's not something I would say is entirely important to see, and it's nothing compared to "The LEGO Batman Movie" (Which is way funnier and more clever), but for any DC fan who doesn't take their comics too seriously, its plenty of pointless, goofy fun. Loosen up, Bats! 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And That Nightwing/Harley Quinn Ship I'm Sure Someone Has Been Wanting. (Still Less Disturbing Than That Whole Batman And Batgirl Thing.) 

Wind River                                                                    by James Eagan                                  ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for wind river movie imagesImage: The New Adventures of Hawkeye and Scarlett Witch. 

 When you see the words "From the Writer of "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water" acting as director", its hard not to get a little bit excited. You just know you're going to get something dark, maybe a little hard to watch at times, but thoroughly well written with some excellent characterization. Director Taylor Sheridan certainly doesn't disappoint in that department. The guy does complexity really, really well.

 "Wind River" starts with US Fish and Wildlife Service agent, "Cory Lamber" (Jeremy Renner) discovering the dead body of a young Native American girl, "Natalie Hanson" (Kelsey Chow) in the snow within the Wind River Indian Reservation. The FBI sends in inexperienced rookie agent, "Jane Banner" (Elizabeth Olsen), after its been discovered that the girl was also raped at some point before her death, implying that this was actually a murder. Knowing little about the unrelenting, frozen environment, Jane hires Cory to serve as her tracker to find the person responsible, while she is forced to witness the dark world within this community and how the environment affects them during the rather harsh winter with little actual assistance from anyone.

 "Wind River" is pretty much to the point, just throwing you into the dark and brutal situation, filling you with suspense all the way through as the mystery unfolds. While the mystery itself is intentionally secondary (Meaning we are never given any clues as to who did it until we actually see him), the film is more focused on it's complex characters, the dialogue between them, and the setting, which itself is almost it's own character. With the beautiful cinematography, the time dedicated to showing the unbearable setting and just how hostile the cold can be adds atmosphere to the film. (Also, the AC in the theater was for some reason low to the point it was freezing in there. It's as if I was there!)

 The dialogue is smart, injecting moments of humor that never feels out of place, and further humanizes it's characters. Jeremy Renner is terrific, and honestly doesn't get the credit he deserves as an actor. Elizabeth Olsen, who yes, is totally adorable, is also wonderful in the film, having excellent comradery with Renner. (The film thankfully never once implies a romantic relationship between them). We also get some great supporting work from Gragam Greene (As "Ben", the sheriff who assists Jane) and Gil Birmingham (As "Martin", the distressed father of Natalie), who is good in everything he's in. We also get a cool cameo from an actor I would rather not spoil. 

 "Wind River" has a fascinating story, with a good point to make, and while the mystery isn't exactly a mystery per se, you will constantly be wondering what will happen next while on the edge of your seat the whole time. It's one of those movies that after you see it, you just have to talk about it. (Especially once you reach the rather nontraditional ending) If you can handle the bleakness (and one unsettling scene). It's a modern day western that's definitely worth a look. If It's darkness doesn't consume you whole....Nah, you'll be fine. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And Disturbing Content.  

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature            by James Eagan                                                    ★★ out of ★★★★


Related imageImage: "That's the last time we let them grab our nuts!"

 Well, of course they would make a sequel to 2014's "The Nut Job". It didn't cost much to make and proceeded to gross over $100 million worldwide, which for a movie like this is pretty solid. Not to mention home video sales and the fact that it seems to have a pretty solidly sized fanbase. So even though its not the best animated film in the world (And has some sort of strange fetish for edible kernel), I can see the appeal. 

 "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" starts sometime after the first one, with "Surly Squirrel" (Will Arnett), still being hailed as a hero by the animal community. They all currently live inside the now abandoned nut shop, where they spend all day just eating, sleeping around, and getting fat. The smart female squirrel, "Andie" (Katherine Heigl) wishes everyone would go back to the old ways of living in the park and working for their food, warning that this lifestyle can't possibly last. Surly assures everyone that they have nothing to worry about, just before the whole nut shop randomly explodes  

 The animals are forced back into the park, hoping to get used to returning to their old way of life. But trouble arrives when the corrupt "Mayor Muldoon" (Bobby Moynihan) intends to tear down the park and replace it with a new amusement park and make a lot of profit off of it. When Surly decides that the animals fight back, Muldoon hires a lunatic animal control officer, "Gunther" (Peter Stormare) to exterminate the animal population and tear down the park. Eventually, Surly's pug buddy, "Precious" (Maya Rudolph) is taken by Muldoon's bratty (and somewhat sadistic) daughter, "Heather" (Isabela Moner), and it's up to Surly and his mute rat buddy, "Buddy" to save her and the rest of the park animals from certain destruction. 

 "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature" is pretty much not much better than the first, but pretty much not any worse either. The animation has vastly improved since then, and considering the studios behind this movie ("Open Road Films" and "ToonBox Entertainment") previously gave us "Spark: A Space Tail" earlier this year, this is pretty solid animation. While the studio has improved in terms of it's animation, story still seems to escape them. They settle for generic and predictable, while feeling somewhat thinly plotted overall, and there is quite a bit of padding and convolution.

 The film isn't without it's charms, in particular it's voice cast. Will Arnett is typically pretty great here and Surly is a fun character. (Sort of a Daffy Duck type). Katherine Heigl does actually have a bit more of a role this time around, while Maya Rudolph and Bobby Cannavale (as "Frankie", Heather's pet French bulldog who falls madly in love with Precious) have a cute, but pretty pointless subplot. Jackie Chan (as "Mr. Feng", a cute karate mouse, who hates being called cute) is quite funny, despite only getting 10 minutes of screentime. The most enjoyable characters would be the villains, with Bobby Moynihan and Isabela Moner  being enjoyably laughably evil, and Peter Stormare always being a welcome delight. 

 "The Nut Job 2" gets a few solid laughs in, some good messages, and a few inspired moments, but it drags on for too long,  and rarely does anything you wouldn't expect. There isn't much to offer for adults here. With that said, it's perfectly fine for kids, and compared to "The Emoji Movie", it's a masterpiece. Hey, maybe someone will quote me in a TV spot for the film. "The Nut Job 2" is a masterpiece! It's going to happen at some point. 2 stars. Rated PG For Cartoon Violence And Flagrant Nut Hording.

Annabelle: Creation                                            by James Eagan                                      ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for annabelle creationImage: What a little doll.

 Freakin' dolls man! I mean, look at those things. They always look like they're staring into your soul, judging you when your back is turned, and when you turn back, you could swear it moved closer. (Or maybe that's just me being paranoid. But I'm not) Evil or not, these old fashioned dolls are creepy looking as Hell and Annabelle personifies that. Sure her first movie was crap, but don't blame that on her. Perhaps this prequel to a prequel can remind us why we were so freaked out about her brief appearance in 2013's "The Conjuring".

 Telling the true origin story of that creepy ass doll, "Annabelle: Creation" starts with the happy "Mullins" family living a happy life, with the father "Samuel" (Anthony LaPaglia) and mother "Esther" (Miranda Otto) raising their lovable daughter "Annabelle" (Samara Lee). But things can't stay happy forever as Annabelle is tragically killed by a speeding truck. 12 years later, a group of orphaned young girls, along with their loving caretaker "Sister Charlotte" (Stephanie Sigman) come over to live in the Mullins house, where now Samuel is a depressed old fart and Esther wears a mask and remains in bed all the time.

 Two of the young girls, the disabled "Janice" (Talitha Bateman) and her best friend "Linda" (Lulu Wilson) start to suspect something nefarious about their new home, especially involving a room that's meant to be locked. Janice ends up finding her way into the room, coming face to face with the "Annabelle" doll herself and the demon that controls it, who also wants Janice to be it's new host. Everything comes together as the Mullins' horrifying secret behind their "Resurrected" daughter is revealed, as is the doll's evil plan for all the girls. 

 "Annabelle: Creation" being better than it's predecessor, 2014's "Annabelle", is an obvious one. It's story is stronger and actually provides real and necessary backstory to it's titular villain, with Director David F. Sandberg providing actual atmosphere and imagery to fill you with consistent dread, rather than rely on jump scares to constantly pop out at you. (Although there are still quite a few.)

 Where this movie really succeeds is with it's characters, who are much more likable and fleshed out, making you actually care about them and fear for their safety. Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson are excellent young actresses, conveying the heart of the film, which makes it all the more tragic as to where this eventually leads. (You saw the other movies, so you know where this one is gonna go) Stephanie Sigman is also quite good, along with the rest of the young girls, although Philippa Coulthard and Grace Fulton (as "Nancy" and "Carol", the oldest and more rebellious of the girls) appear to be a bit more mature looking than the movie is implying. (They're like in their early 20s.) While Anthony LaPaglia and Miranda Otto provide good supporting work. 

At times (And typical for certain horror flicks), some of the characters in "Annabelle: Creation" will make a dumb decisions, (Such as the obvious being, who thought bringing young girls (One of which with a disability) into a house with a demon inside it was a good idea?) but luckily the movie does call out some of the characters' actions, and with the backstory explained later in the movie, you do see how this situation came to be. I also like that this time around, most of the girls find the doll horrendously creepy from the start, compared to the first movie where the main character thought it was cute. (Look at that thing. It's like someone beat it with an ugly stick). 

 The climax relies a bit too heavy on jump scares, where you can tell that the filmmakers were likely starting to run out of ideas, but it luckily ties up nicely to the rest of the "Conjuring" franchise and even finds a way to make the first film make a little more sense. (It still sucks though. It's just relevant now.) "Annabelle: Creation" isn't perfect, but it tells a solid scary story with characters you can get behind and a few memorable chills. It certainly shows that the creepy little doll still can send a shiver down your spine. They all do. And they're watching you. 3 stars. Rated R For Horrific Images And Horny Demons....I Mean, Horned Demons. 

Kidnap             by James Eagan           ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for kidnap movie 2017 imagesImage: "You have been offered an all expense vacation....Wait, don't hang up!"

 Alright, let's get through this as quickly as the scriptwriters did. Because I'm honestly having trouble remembering too much about this movie despite having only seen it 24 hours ago. There is nothing other than Halle Berry to see here, and because the filmmakers don't know how to hold a damn camera still, all it did was give me a headache.  

 "Kidnap" starts off with divorced mother, "Karla" (Halle Berry) taking her six-year old son, "Frankie" (Sage Correa) to the local carnival. While there, Karla gets a call telling her that her ex husband intends to make it so he has full custody over Frankie because he's a dick.  Although Karla isn't making that good of a case for herself because Frankie is randomly kidnapped right from under her nose by a couple of dumb rednecks (Lew Temple and Chris McGinn), who load up Frankie into their car and make a quick getaway. So Karla decides to hunt them down in her minivan, partaking in a wild car chase that causes tons of property damage, pointless casualties, and leading up to a climactic fight between Karla and those white trash bumpkins in the bayou. Wee Doggie!

 "Kidnap" is just one of those movies that you would see for a cheap price at Wal-Mart, that would cause you to question the series of events that lead up to it somehow roping in an excellent actress into it. Another casualty of the whole Relativity Media bankruptcy incident, the film was pulled from a release schedule multiple times sine 2015. One has to wonder what was the point of it all.

 When it the movie begins, it doesn't start off bad, as it shows the relationship between our protagonist and her son, which actually comes across as cute and kind of charming. But that's just the first 10 minutes. The rest is basically one long action scene, complete with constant shaky cam, horrendous editing, and all around cheapness. The film's length doesn't even reach an hour and a half (Despite what the theater listing says), and you wonder what it had to do to even get a  theatrical release.

 Poor Halle Berry is trying her absolute best, and she certainly elevates what little material she is give. She really deserves better than this, but there isn't much to say about anyone else because hardly any of them actually do anything. "Kidnap" is not exactly the worst film of the year, and maybe I could see where someone thought the premise could work, but the movie has so little to it, with it's preposterous story and over the top dialogue, that it is forgettable at best and laughable at worst.  Its just a waste of time that will fade away, never to be seen or heard from again. Wait, what are we talking about? 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For.....Um....Slight Violence? Why Was This Rated R? 

Detroit          by James Eagan              ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for detroit movie imagesImage: From this image alone, you know this is gonna be an uncomfortable sit.

Boy in some ways, things really don't change. There isn't some magic reset button that just fixed everything involving racism, the difference between the black community and the white community, along with the obvious discord between the black community and the police in general doesn't just go away because a bunch of guys in suits (or loudmouths on the radio) said so. I mean, slavery was abolished in 1865, and yet it took nearly a century for African Americans to be given actual rights. Why did it take so long? What makes you think any leftover racism or even just stereotypical ways of thinking would just go away immediately afterwards. Look, you can make arguments about how on occasion some people in certain groups like "Black Lives Matter" react to certain situations, but do you honestly believe that its so unlikely that people in power can abuse said power? Is it that hard to believe that it could be racially motivated? Is it more likely that black people are just angry people, who are angry for no reason, and are just making this all up just because they can? Everyone needs to remember, crap like this has happened before. Rant over.     

"Detroit" takes place during the infamous 1967 Detroit riots and is separated into separate sections, following different characters before, during, and after. First, starting with the escalation of the discrepancy between the mostly white police force and the African American community that turns the city into a war zone for several days. Then, while the riots are going on, two band members, "Larry" (Algee Smith) and "Fred" (Jacob Latimore), in an attempt to avoid the chaos, stay for the night at the "Algiers Motel", coming across two young white girls, "Julie Ann" (Hannah Murray) and "Karen" (Kaitlyn Dever) who happen to be staying at the hotel. When one of the occupants, "Carl" (Jason Mitchell) decides to screw with the police and army force a few miles away by firing a toy gun, this results in the police knocking down their door to find the so called sniper.

One racist, sadistic officer, "Phillip Krauss" (Will Poulter) takes this opportunity to terrorize and torture the occupants to find a gun that isn't real and to justify his own horrible action while African American security guard, "Melvin Dismukes" (John Boyega) is left no real choice but to watch. Finally, the incident leads to the deaths of three black men, with the rest beaten and traumatized, and a court case to convict the officers responsible that will sadly go exactly the route you would probably expect it to go. 

Despite mostly being based on speculation and eyewitness accounts (Because very few people survived to tell the story and that's not suspicious in the slightest.),  makes a film like "Detroit" work is the absolutely brilliant direction from Director Kathryn Bielow ("Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker), who just drops you right into the middle of the situation. You are forced to endure the horrors of what happens on that night, witnessing the pointless chaos and death that followed through the eyes of the people caught in the crossfire. 

The script by Mark Boal (Who also wrote "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker") is smart, with realistic dialogue between the compelling characters, who are all portrayed wonderfully by the ensemble cast. With standouts including newcomer Algee Smith, who gives a gripping performance with the equally terrific Jacob Latimore. Will Poulter is Oscar worthy, in a role that is spine chillingly villainous, creating a character that is the stuff of nightmares (The scary part being that this is a person you could see existing in reality and possibly did exist). The rest of the cast, which includes a memorable John Boyega, Jason Mitchell, Kaitlyn Dever, Hannah Murray, Ben O'Toole (as "Flynn", another racist cop), John Krasinski (as "Attorney Auerbach", Krauss' lawyer), and Anthony Mackie (as "Greene", a returning veteran stuck in a bad situation) are all amazing. Also, props to this movie for getting a really good performance out of Jack Reynor (as "Demens", one of the cops who appears uneasy about the situation), who is much better here than he was in "Transformers: Age of Extinction). 

"Detroit" is brutal to sit through. Not just because of the haunting images and violence, but also because you know exactly where this story is leading to and what the outcome will be. It never shies away from the topical subject, while portraying the terror (and of course, the racial aspect) in a way that sticks with you and damn near makes you sick to your stomach. Its a powerful look into what it would feel like to be stuck in this kind of circumstance, and might even open the eyes of people who just want to pretend there's nothing to see here. (That is if they're even willing to listen). It just goes to show that if African Americans clearly weren't making this sh*t up back in the day, what makes you think they're doing it now? 4 stars. Rated R For Disturbing Images And Rage Inducing Acceptance Of Hatred. 

The Dark Tower                                                       by James Eagan                                                ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: All right, guys. Your big kissing scene. Don't blow it.

 Boy has this movie been through a lot. Based on a rather beloved series of Stephen King novels (That somehow all tie-in together with most of Stephen King's other many novels), the stories of "The Dark Tower", "The Gunslinger", and "The Man in Black" might be just as much a staple in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre as say "The Lord of the Rings", "The War of the Worlds", etc. So the fanbase has been pumped for someone to make a big, blockbuster film adaptation (or in this case, continuation) of their favorite saga. Being tossed around in development hell for almost 10 years, with big name directors like J. J. Abrams and Ron Howard at one point attached to direct, the film has finally hit the big screen.......And, thud.

 "The Dark Tower" starts with our young protagonist, "Jake Chambers" (Tom Taylor), who is experiencing strange dreams involving a strange apocalyptic world where the evil "Walter, The Man in Black" (Matthew McConaughey) is using his rat people in human skin henchmen to harvest children brains in an attempt to destroy "The Dark Tower", that is meant to protect all worlds and realities from darkness. Jake also dreams of the heroic, "Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger" (Idris Elba), who is attempting to avenge his dead father (Dennis Haysbert) and kill the man in black.

 Jake has begun to draw the images he is seeing in his dreams and hopes to find out what these dreams means, confusing his loving mother, "Laurie" (Katheryn Winnick). Jake eventually discovers that these dreams are in fact real, getting teleported away to "Mid-World", where he comes across Roland and the two of them work together to stop the man in black from destroying the tower, and unleashing the horrifying creatures of darkness onto the world. 

 Honestly, "The Dark Tower" makes me kind of sad for several reasons. It's troubled production aside, the film has many cool and fascinating ideas that are sadly let down by mediocre direction from Director Nikolaj Arcel.  "Tower" has inconsistent pacing, and the fact that the film has been obviously edited into oblivion in an attempt to get the film down to 95 minutes is obvious. I also just feel bad for the fans who have been dreaming of the day this movie actually became a reality. It just sucks when something that clearly had a lot of work put into it, just doesn't work.

 "The Dark Tower" feels like it's been trimmed down, which explains some awkwardly edited sequences, such as us being introduced to our hero and villain through a random flashback that seems to jump mid-scene, or much of the mythology and lore of the story being reduced to throwaway lines, which provides little explanation for whats going on. By the end, there is much left unresolved. The film also can never find the right pace, ranging from going much too slow or just speeding through everything without taking a moment to breathe. 

 It's all a shame because the film isn't without it's merits. This world that the film sets up is undeniably cool, with some pretty original set pieces and action scenes. We get an occasional good line or moment of excitement, and luckily, none of our actors fare badly at all. Idris Elba just personifies cool and makes the best of his underdeveloped character, with Tom Taylor actually handling himself well in the film's more serious scenes and surprisingly carries most of the movie. Matthew McConaughey looks like he is having a blast, devouring the scenery in the best way possible, oozing charm and menace. Although shame on this movie for not utilizing Jackie Earle Haley (as "Sayre", Walter's main henchman) to his best abilities.

 "The Dark Tower" has some imaginative creatures and some decent enough effects. However, you can tell some of it's pretty fake and starts to look even more so by the end. The movie feels like what should of been a big two hour epic (Or maybe would of served better as a big budget TV show), has been reduced to a chopped up kids movie, that after a while just sort of stops instead of actually ending. This is not a bad movie by any means. If it weren't for the rushed ending, I might of even still somewhat recommended it. There are some good stuff here, but it's just stuck in a cluttered mess, with most of the best aspects likely missing. The fanbase can tell you better than I can. Whatever we were supposed to get, it isn't there. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Rat People And Lots And Lots Of Bullets. 

The Emoji Movie                                                        by James Eagan                                               ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Meh, they all look alike to me.

 Finally, the movie everybody has been dreading since the moment it was announced. At first, it seemed like a joke. Sony Pictures Animation, who has given us great films like "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and "Arthur Christmas" (Although also gave us "The Smurfs" franchise and "Hotel Transylvania". So this isn't too unexpected.), was making a full length movie based on Emojis. The little faces kids send through texts instead of words because we've become too damn lazy. From the minute it was announced, to the release of the first poster and trailer, it's been mercilessly mocked and has been seen by many as the downfall of cinema and maybe society itself. But don't give this movie too much credit. To have accomplished that goal, that would have required significantly more thought and effort than this. 

 "The Emoji Movie" takes place in the amazing world that's within all of our cellphones, in the city of "Textoplois", where all those "Emojis" live. In this city, all Emojis are instructed to have one personality trait and make one face for their phone's owner, "Alex" (Jake T. Austin). One "Meh" Emoji, "Gene" (T. J. Miller) seems to have more than one emotion, much to the dismay of his "Meh" parents, "Mel" (Steven Wright) and "Mary" (Jennifer Coolidge). Gene is finally given his chance to shine when Alex tries to send a text to his crush "Addie" (Tati Gabrielle), only for Gene to panic and make the wrong face. All the other Emojis consider Gene to be a malfunction, and the sadomasochistic leader, "Smiler" (Maya Rudolph), decides that Gene must be terminated and sends her killer robot drones to delete him.

 Gene escapes with the help of High-Five Emoji, "Hi-5" (James Corden), who offers to take Gene through Alex's phone, along with a hacker, "Jailbreak" (Anna Faris) to find a way to fix Gene, while avoiding Smiler's forces. Meanwhile, Alex starts to think his phone is acting up and is considering erasing all data on his phone, including all the Emojis (So from this point on, I kind of have trouble describing what's going on). Our heroes go from app to app, heading to "The Cloud", getting into all kinds of wacky situations, and basically doing nothing creative or clever with it's premise and setting.

 It's not that I thought that "The Emoji Movie" was going to be good, but I simply shrugged it off as nothing to get bent out of shape over. In some ways, the film is about what I expected.  Yet somehow, it's quite a bit worse, due to the film being horrible for different reasons. This is a movie lacking so much in creativity, originality, or even actual humor, while failing to understand it's own audience and even what it could do with it's silly premise, that the final product comes across as undeniably shallow and sloppy. "Emoji" is also shockingly boring beyond reason, leaving you with so little of an emotional connection to anything going on in the movie (For a movie about emotions, that's pretty ironic don't you think?)

 This didn't have to be bad. Studios have taken ideas based around other products and pop culture icons, and turned them into instant classics (Like "Wreck-It Ralph" and "The Lego Movie"). However, "The Emoji Movie" feels like it's been made by people who have never even talked to a child, let alone have any idea what they like, or even know what makes Emojis popular. Really the fact that the characters are all Emojis doesn't play much of an actual role in the movie. In fact, most of the side characters are kind of horrible. (Why were they all just going along with Smiler's plan to basically murder Gene and his friends? It's like never referenced again. Most Emojis are Nazis I guess.) All it does is drag down the colorful and vibrant animation, and it's talented voice cast.

 T. J. Miller has officially lost his mind, and I feel as if this movie is somehow responsible for it. Anna Faris has an adorable voice, but her character has nothing to her other than she's a so-called feminist. (It's almost as if this was written only by men who have never been on a date with a girl) Steven Wright and Jennifer Coolidge are actually perfectly cast and could of brought many of laughs, yet like everything else in the movie, its always utilized in the poorest of ways. Maya Rudolph does come across as more terrifying than I think the filmmakers even expected, even for a villain. The most enjoyable character probably comes form James Corden, who gets the closest thing to what you could consider a laugh in the film. Also, I'm not sure if Sir Patrick Stewart (as "Poop", the Poo Emoji. Obviously) is funny or depressing. Either way, here, he's crap (Even though he is barely used. So what was the point?)

 "The Emoji Movie" goes from Point A  to Point B in the most predictable, blandest, and most imagination free way it possibly can go. There is little connecting between the phone world and the human world, so you don't care about any of that, and due to hardly any real attempts at humor (Which range from bad to just plain awkward and confusing), you feel emotionally drained from not feeling anything for an hour and a half. It's not as annoying or as deadly as we were expecting, but it somehow makes it worse in which there just isn't anything to the movie. It's a waste of good animation, precious time, and gives nothing in return. The worst kind of "Meh" you could possibly imagine. That alone makes it downright offensive. 1/2 star. Rated PG For Poo, Laziness, and Good Time That Could Of Been Spent Talking On The Phone. 

Atomic Blonde                                                          by James Eagan                                             ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for atomic blonde movie imagesImage: Did you hear the one about the blonde? No, because she killed the guy who was telling it.

 So why can't we have female James Bond? Or a female "007" of sorts? Aside from the fact that we're that we're so insecure about our masculinity of course. Seriously, an attractive female, using all kinds of disguises and gadgets, kicking ass, seducing men, seducing women, and blowing stuff up for king and country. We as men love that crap. Why wouldn't we support that? Honestly, "Atomic Blonde" is probably what it would look like. "James Blonde?"

 "Atomic Blonde" takes place in 1989, around the time the Berlin wall was falling ("Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!") MI6 agent, "Lorraine Broughton" (Charlize Theron) is currently being interrogated by her MI6 superior, "Eric Gray" (Toby Jones) and CIA agent, "Emmett Kurzfeld" (John Goodman) on what the hell happened on her mission to Berlin that took place a few days before. Flashback to that time, where Lorraine is brought in after the death of another agent, "James Gasciogne" (Sam Hargrave), who also just so happened to be Lorraine's lover. Turns out Gascoigne had hid a list with all the names of all the known MI6 agents, including the identity of a traitor, inside a watch, and Lorraine is tasked with finding it. She is forced into an uneasy and complicated alliance with bizarre Berlin station chief, "David Percival" (James McAvoy), and it's up to the two of them to cooperate to find the list before it gets into the wrong hands. 

 Okay, comparing "Atomic Blonde" to the "James Bond" series (Especially the newer, more reality-based ones), might be a little extreme mostly because this film is a bit more like a comic book than a spy thriller. But the pieces are all there to where you can make the comparison. From Director David Leitch (Co-Director of "John Wick"), the film is stylized, action packed insanity full of blood, bullets, karate, and the use of everyday objects as weapons (You can use high heels for that!?). The plot is not exactly anything new and can get a little too complicated at times, but it's serviceable as the film never takes itself too seriously. 

 "Atomic Blonde" always retains a sense of humor about itself, whether it be with it's dialogue, Charlize Theron's reactions, or the intentionally odd music choices. However, where the film truly shines is in it's elaborate fight scenes, including one that happens in a stairway, which goes on for several minutes and appears to have all been done in one ongoing cut. (It's nothing short of amazing). Then we have Charlize Theron herself who, aside from being ridiculously pretty, completely owns this role. She is pure badassery, while remaining a complex and fascinating character. James McAvoy (Who is having a great year so far) is utterly terrific, playing eccentric in the most delightful way an actor possibly can. John Goodman and Toby Jones are always welcome in any movie, while we get some excellent work out of some of the supporting cast, which includes Eddie Marsan (as "Spyglass", an MI6 ally with a photographic memory of the list) and Sofia Boutella (as "Delphine", an inexperienced French spy who gets, um "Close" with Lorraine).

"Atomic Blonde" falters a bit towards the end, seemingly ending a couple times before it finally does. The film is still a blast of chaotic, skillfully filmed action, utilizing the awesomeness that is Charlize Theron to her best abilities. Seriously, how did she not get an Oscar nomination for "Mad Max: Fury Road"? Because she's a blonde, that's why! And now, she'll make them pay.  3 stars. Rated R For Bloody Violence And What Can Only Be Described As Hot, Steamy Lesbian Action.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets                               by James Eagan                            ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Lost in space.

 3D seemed to be dying out lately, and rightfully so. Not every movie in theaters needs to be forced into a 3D conversion, which most of the time adds nothing, raises the ticket price even more than it needs to be, and, instead of leaving you mesmerized, you're just left with a massive headache.. Yet even when the movie itself is only mostly ok, A good filmmaker can still find a way to make the whole 3D gimmick work.  And I might not need an Advil.

 "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" takes place in the 28th century, following two agents of the human space police, "Major Valerian" (Dane DeHaan) and "Sergeant Laureline" (Cara Delevingne). Valerian is hopelessly in love with Laureline and hopes to make her feel the same. Valerian is also having strange dreams involving an unknown race of humanoid aliens and a destroyed planet. After a mission to apprehend a cute little alien thing, called a "Converter" that poops magic pearls of power (That isn't a joke actually. It's what it does) from space pirate "Igon Siruss" (Voiced by John Goodman), Valerian and Laureline return to "Alpha", a space station that now houses millions of creatures from all over the galaxy. They are instructed to protect the Converter, along with the obviously not evil "Commander Filitt" (Clive Owen), who warns the agents of an unknown force that is threatening the station. (Which is something he totally has nothing to do with.)

 Suddenly, the station is attacked, and Filitt is captured by the humanoid beings that Valerian previously saw in his dream. Now its up to Valerian and Laureline to track Fillitt down along with his kidnappers, interacting with the many odd creatures and inhabitants of the station, all while uncovering a conspiracy that connects everything together. And still, Valerian needs to find time to woo Laureline. (When your coworker is Cara Delevingne, what do you expect a guy to do? Priorities.)

 "Valerian an the City of a Thousand Planets" in terms of it's use of 3D and it's jaw-dropping special effects, is absolutely stunning to look at. Despite being based on a French comic series, "Valérian and Laureline", the film feels completely original, creating creatures and locations that aren't like anything you've ever seen. Director Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element") fills every frame with imagination and world building, mixed in with an excellent use of the 3D, which enhances the experience, it's a delight to watch. 

 Too bad that in terms of it's script and story, "Valerian" seems to be solely focused on the world it's created than the actual structure of the story. The film takes several detours in the plot that offer some enjoyable moments and visual wonder, but most of the time really doesn't go anywhere. Sometimes the movie's quirky sense of humor and tone can make for many awkward moments. They are probably intentional, considering Luc Besson's love for the odd and totally weird (To the film;s credit, the fact it never takes itself too seriously. and that's a positive). Still, there is such thing as too much weirdness just for the sake of weirdness. (Was that a "Taken" reference? And a "Roger Rabbit" reference?) 

 Dane DeHaan isn't so much bad in the film. He just feels very miscast, and lacks any chemistry with Cara Delevingne, who is admittedly lovely (Those eyebrows man!), but doesn't have enough range to match how much she is given to do. Clive Owen has little screentime, and looks kind of bored most of the time. A hilariously over the top Ethan Hawke shows up out of nowhere (as "Jolly the Pimp", who's profession is self explanatory), as does Rihanna (as "Bubble", a shapeshifting stripper), who still doesn't have much acting chops, but certainly makes for one of the film's most memorable characters. 

 The strange creatures and side characters in "Valerian" are a lot of fun, and there are some clever action sequences. But the plot rarely has focus, and distracts itself often, while our main characters are nowhere near as interesting as the world around them. Its enjoyable enough, and certainly imaginative enough to recommend seeing in theaters, though the film's massive budget (Over $200 million) pretty much spelled out "Box Office Bomb". Sometimes weird just isn't enough to sell tickets. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Pearly Poop. 

Dunkirk                                                                         by James Eagan                                        ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for dunkirk movie imagesImage: Dear God.

 Christopher Nolan is a freakin genius, and he might be one of the best, and certainly, one of the most reliable directors working today. From the excellent "The Dark Knight Trilogy" to the amazing "Inception" and "Interstellar", he goes for originality, mixed in with an expert use of music, sound, and a utilization of the filmmaking process that is all his own. "Dunkirk" is no different, and might be one of his best films yet. Can you imagine what he'd with a "Transformers" movie?

 "Dunkirk" follows the events of the Dunkirk evacuation, which took place during World War II, where thousands of Allied soldiers are surrounded by German forces, with little to no hope for escape. The story is told in a nonlinear narrative (Meaning it's all out of order), following different characters and locations throughout the course of the evacuation. The first thread, which takes place over the course of a week, follows a young British private, "Tommy" (Fionn Whitehead), along with two other soldiers, "Gibson" (Aneruin Barnard) and "Alex" (Harry Styles), who are all desperately trying to find some means of escape off the beach as evacuation on "The Mole" begins.

 The second thread, which takes place over the course of a day, follows "Mr. Dawson" (Mark Rylance) who, along with his son "Peter" (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter's friend "George" (Barry Keoghan), take Mr. Dawson's boat out to aide in the evacuation. But things become more complicated by the arrival of a shell shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy), who has no intention of returning to the battlefield.

 The third thread, which takes place over the course of an hour, follows a couple Royal Air Force pilots, "Farrier" (Tom Hardy) and "Collins" (Jack Lowden), who are currently making their way to help the trapped soldiers, only to run into their own problems, such as enemy fighter planes and only a small reserve of fuel. Eventually, through all the death and despair, everything comes together as we witness not just the horrors and bleakness of war, but also the bravery and heroism that comes from the people forced into it. 

 "Dunkirk" could be seen as more of an experiment than an actual movie, and I mean that in the best way possible. The idea to tell this story in this fashion could sound odd at first. But once you experience it for yourself, it is nothing short of sheer brilliance. The characters aren't delved into their background or personal stories, and the dialogue is limited, but that's not the film's design. What we see is the basic goals of each character as they try to survive a horrifying situation. There's no forced romance, or subplots involving the politicians or villains There is no scene of a Soldier talking about his wife and expecting child, who ends up dying two minutes later (Our empathy is already there with them). In fact, you don't even see the Germans themselves. You see what the characters see, or in this case, hear what they hear. Which is nothing but gunfire and bombs, all aiming right for them. It's both poignant and terrifying.

 The use of sound and the score by Hans Zimmer (Nolan's good luck charm), also enhances the experience. It's loud and booming, but also incredibly scary when it needs to be, making you feel the dread and terror that the characters are feeling, and the suspense never stops. "Dunkirk" has an absolutely terrific ensemble cast, with Fionn Whitehead perfectly suiting the average guy, thrown into the middle of a failing battle. Harry Styles (You know, that dreamy guy from "One Direction". Or so says my sister) is also quite good in the film, holding their own alongside the rest of an amazing cast, which includes Kenneth Branagh (as "Commander Bolton", the one overseeing the evacuation), James D'Arcy (as "Colonel Winnant", who works closely with Bolton), a suitably psychologically unhinged Cillian Murphy, the always wonderful Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy, who's eyes show enough expression to know his story. Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard, and Barry Keoghan all deserve recognition, as the film never just focuses on one specific character. Much like the evacuation in the film, it's the definition of a group effort. 

 With Nolan's attention to detail and eye for practical effects, "Dunkirk" is the best representation of what a theater experience needs to be (And I didn't even see it in IMAX, so it probably looks even better there), and also shows how to do pure spectacle the right way. It never forgets to convey the emotional weight and power that comes from the harsh reality of war, and despite a lack of much blood and gore, you still feel every death. Whether it be a sacrifice or just some random (And almost pointless) casualty that serves as a reminder in war, anyone can die at any moment, and its not always big and dramatic. It's a beautiful, mesmerizing film that once we reach the end, it's bound to bring a tear to your eye. (Yeah. It got to me). Its another great addition to Nolan's filmography, and another great film to come out of possibly the best movie season I've had in some time. Please. Don't forget about it come Oscar time. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For War Violence And The Sheer Terror Of Never Ending Water.

Girls Trip                                                                      by James Eagan                                        ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★ 

Image result for girls trip movie imagesImage: I want to fly with these girls.

 Clearly, I'm not the audience for certain movies. And there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that some films are geared toward specific cultures and races. And that's perfectly understandable. Now, this may come as a shocker to all of you who have never seen me, but....I'm not black. I'm a White/Hispanic hybrid (Bet you didn't see that coming. Take a moment to absorb this shocking revelation).So it's no surprise that "Girls Trip" is not designed for my amusement. Toss in the fact that it's pure chick flick, it makes it even more of a surprise. I guess charming and funny are common denominators. And I learned something today.

 "Girls Trip" follows four lifelong friends, "Ryan" (Regina Hall), "Sasha" (Queen Latifah), "Lisa" (Jada Pinkett Smith), and "Dina" (Tiffany Haddish), who have all started to grow apart in recent years. When Ryan, who is a best selling author, is given the chance to bring her friends to the "Essence Music Festival" in New Orleans. Their sisterhood faces complications with the reveal that Ryan's husband, "Stewart" (Mike "Luke Cage" Colter) is having an affair, along with the many changes that the four of them have gone through during their time apart. 

 "Girls Trip" may not be for me, but it certainly knows it's audience, and to it's credit, it works well for the kind of comedy that it is. It for the most part sticks to the comedic chops and the chemistry of it's main actresses, and utilizes them to their best abilities. We get really great performances from Regina Hall and Queen Latifah, while Tiffany Haddish (Who is at her most wild) and Jada Pinkett Smith steal every scene they are in. The film doesn't make Mike Colter out to be evil, instead just making him a jackass (Which is much more welcome than what you usually see in these kinds of films) and we get a few pretty good laughs out of Kate Walsh (as "Elizabeth", Ryan's overbearing agent). There is an unnecessary romantic subplot involving Larenz Tate (as "Julian", Ryan's old friend/soon to be love interest), which by this point, you know that no film can win me over with that obvious plot device.

 Director Malcolm D. Lee ("Barbershop: The Next Cut" and "The Best Man Holiday") does avoid getting too into any melodrama here (Despite a couple of fairly serious moments), instead showing more focus on the film's characters and the solid laughs. It's a raunchy R-Rated comedy that actually benefits from it's R rating, but also nothing but the best of intentions and a good heart. With that said, the film is a bit too long and a lot of the dumb moments you saw in the trailer are still present. (Could of done without the peeing scene, thank you).

 "Girls Trip" is perfectly fine for it's demographic, and while I would never watch it on my own, it's hard not to recommend it as a whole. The film offers some good laughs and a charming cast, with some genuinely heartfelt moments, positive messages of female empowerment, and enough intelligence to know what it can and shouldn't do. It will certainly make for a solid girl's night out. 3 stars. Rated R For Raunchy Content, Old Man Dick, And, "The Grapefruit". 

Wish Upon              by James Eagan          ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for wish upon movie imagesImage: Just wish for a Pony.

 I guess you could say a generic ass PG-13 horror movie deserves a generic ass PG-13 movie review. But I like to at least attempt to add a little bit more of interest to my reviews. No matter how blandly uninteresting the movie is. But if you find my review boring and uninspired, please know that I've probably put more thought into it than these filmakers. 

 "Wish Upon" follows a young high school girl, "Clare" (Joey King) who only lives with her dumpster diving father, "Jonathan" (Ryan Phillippe) after witnessing her mother (Elisabeth Röhm) commit suicide years before. Clare deals with bullying popular girls, high school crushes, her dad's embarrassing job, and the fact that she lives in a rundown, crappy house. Things take a turn when her dad finds a strange box with Chinese writing on it. Not understanding what she's doing exactly, Clare wishes for one of the mean girls to go rot (Which she does. Literally.). Clare eventually starts to realize what she has found and what she can do with it, being given 7 wishes, but with every wish, somebody has to die in some shape or form. Clare kind of becomes a terrible person as her wishes continue and the body count rises until she finally starts to realize this might not be the best idea in the world.

 "Wish Upon", which is directed by John R. Leonetti (Who previously directed "Annabelle" and....."Mortal Kombat: Annihilation"?), is the most by the book, unoriginal attempt at safe horror you could possibly get. Trying to be dark and gruesome, but not too much so that they get the young audience to show up. Its never scary in the slightest, with the many deaths in the film ranging from silly to hilarious, while generally being over the top every time. Sadly it's never in a way that makes for a so bad it's good experience. Mostly because the film does so little with it's somewhat interesting idea, inconsistently tying the deaths and the wishes together, and taking too much of it's already short runtime. Instead, the film wastes it on blandness.

 At least we benefit from the usually reliable Joey King, who is honestly too good of a young actress for this. She has plenty of personality and acting chops to carry the movie on her own, despite the fact her character is a selfish little sh*t. We also get actually pretty solid work out of Ki Hong Lee (as "Ryan", Clare's helpful love interest) and Shannon "Justice for Barb" Purser (as "June", one of Clare's friends and one of the only people to realize that something is messed up about the situation). Ryan Phillippe is.....weird. Don't really know what else to say about that. Its just an odd casting choice/performance. 

 "Wish Upon" starts to pick up in the last act, when stuff actually start to happen. The movie suddenly realizes how horrible the decisions it's main character makes and finally calls her out on it. And to this movie's credit, it throws in a pretty clever last second surprise that feels like a fitting way to end a horror film like this. Too bad it takes too damn long to get anywhere. By that point it's too late, and you've already sat through the most simplistic, uninspired form of teen horror that only the 12 Year Olds will find scary. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Death By Rug And A Pokemon Go Ripoff.

War for the Planet of the Apes                   by James Eagan                                           ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: He looks pretty upset. I think you should give him that Oscar nomination already.

I think we can all admit that lat summer's "Blockbuster" films was pretty bland stuff. (I mean, "Ghostbusters" was as good as it got for the most part). This year however, we have had original movies ("Baby Driver"), big superhero flicks ("Wonder Woman", "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2", and "Spider-Man: Homecoming), and some good laughs and big heart ("The Big Sick" and "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie"). Now we're getting possibly one of the most powerful, emotional dramas you will see in theaters this year. Except with Apes. Damn, Dirty Apes. 

 In a world where humanity is being wiped out by a disease that instead makes apes smarter, "War for the Planet of the Apes" starts a few years after the last one ("Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"), with beloved, intelligent talking Ape, "Caesar" (Andy Serkis) trying his best to protect his Ape followers and loved ones after his former friend turned enemy, "Koba" (Toby Kebbell) pretty much screwed everyone over and started a war between the humans and apes. Now Caesar's clan is being hunted down by a military group led by a bloodthirsty man only known as "The Colonel" (Woody Harrelson), who has even recruited some of Koba's former followers, including a large Gorilla, "Red" (Ty Olsson), who wants revenge on Caesar. Caesar plans to move his followers to a save haven, but a betrayal results in the Colonel attacking and murdering Caesar's wife, "Cornelia" (Judy Greer) and oldest son, "Blue Eyes" (Max Lloyd-Jones).

 Caesar sends his followers on their own, planning to go after the Colonel on his own to kill him. Caesar is joined by his Orangutan best friend "Maurice" (Karin Konoval), chimp second in command "Rocket" (Terry Notary), and loyal gorilla "Luca" (Michael Adamthwaite) to track down the Colonel's base. They come across a young mute girl, "Nova" (Amiah Miller), who Maurice becomes a foster parent to, and an eccentric Chimp, "Bad Ape" (Steve Zahn), who leads them to where the Colonel and his forces are located, currently using Ape slave labor to build a wall to keep out some bad hombres. So the war for the planet truly begins, along with the internal war for Caesar's soul as his lust for revenge start to lead him down a dangerous path.   

 I know I have been whining about "Transformers: The Last Knight" a lot lately, but trust me. It's important to mention that movie when I talk about this one. (I swear. This is the last time). Compared to what that movie does (Or doesn't do), "War for the Planet of the Apes" represents the exact opposite. It actually gives you what you want, focusing on the characters you want them to focus on. Characters who are actually fully developed, and where the visual effects enhance the experience. Visually it is just incredible to look at, with the Apes themselves looking more real than the actual people in the movie. There is just so much detail and time being put into their designs, and so much focus on their facial expressions, which adds to the emotional impact of the film. 

 "War for the Planet of the Apes" is a beautifully crafted film, not just in terms of it's jaw dropping effects, but also in it's direction by Matt Reeves (Who previously directed the last film and is set to direct the next "Batman" film), who adds a dark beauty to the movie. The film is very bleak, filled with nightmarish imagery of war, torture, slavery, and humanity at it's worst. (In fact, I think it does a better job at showing the complex morality of humanity in the apocalypse better than any zombie movie in the last few years). Its powerful, compelling stuff, yet despite how brutal it can get, whether it be the exciting action or the captivating drama, the film has this heart to it that adds hope to the situation. 

 The impressiveness of the special effects and motion capture work aside, we also get amazing performances out of the actors who are utilizing them to their best effect. Andy Serkis (Who the Academy will never acknowledge ever in the history of forever. And until they do, I shall never forgive them), is just utterly terrific in the film. Along with the skillful visual effects rendering, it's all his movements, his voice, and his expressions that bring to life our conflicted hero. Steve Zahn is also wonderful in the film, bringing in much needed humor and a lovable personality to lighten the dark mood. Woody Harrelson is realistically terrifying, portraying a great villain that sticks with you after the movie is over. The rest of the Ape cast (Who take up more of the screentime than any of the humans), including Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite and others, bring these Apes to life to the point that you forget than none of them are actually real. We also get a breakthrough performance out of Amiah Miller, who's expressive face convey plenty of feeling, and serves as the heart of the film.

 "War for the Planet of the Apes" is an intelligent, thought provoking film that treats it's audience with respect. The film never spoon feeds you. It expects you to know what something is supposed to mean and and to come to conclusions on your own. Unlike that garbage talking robot movie (Damn it! Sorry. Couldn't help it), it has the balls to take risks, not just with it's story, but with it's hero, who's story arc continues from the first two and occasionally goes down a dark path. (Something you don't really see in your average summer blockbuster). In fact, much of the first half of the film is subtitled sign language, with little actual talking (Aside from Caesar and Bad Ape). Top it all off with a mesmerizing score by Michael Giacchino, and you are sucked in instantly. 

 This isn't just why we all gather at the movie theater during the summer, this is why we see movies in general. "War for the Planet of the Apes" is the perfect representation of the modern movie going experience. It is thoughtful, powerful and boldly told, culminating in a spectacular finale that is bound to get even the strongest human a little choked up. I'm honestly running out of adjectives to describe it. "Apes" Is great filmmaking, and I can't wait to see it a second time. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For War Being Hell. 

The Big Sick                                                                  by James Eagan                                      ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the big sick movie imagesImage: "So, did you hear he one about the Muslim and...."

If you've followed this site, you know knows my thoughts on the Romantic Comedy genre as a whole. I just generally find many of the movies in the genre to lack many real laughs or actual romantic chemistry, have thoroughly predictable plots, and usually seem to find themselves more charming than they actually are. It just always feels fake to me. Now ladies, please don't think I'm a heartless bastard. I am a film critic after all. In my defense, I was just waiting to be proven wrong.

"The Big Sick" is loosely based on the life of Kumail Nanjiani, who plays well, um, "Kumail", a struggling comedian who also works as an Uber driver on the side. His family desperately hopes he will continue their old fashioned Pakistani Muslim tradition of arranged marriage. During this time, Kumail meets a cute girl, "Emily" (Zoe Kazan), and the two of them are essentially perfect for each other, sand they start a relationship, despite Kumail keeping his family's plans for him a secret from Emily, and keeping his relationship a secret from his family. Emily discovers this, and seeing that Kumail himself cannot truly commit, she breaks the relationship off.

Some time later, Kumail finds out Emily is in the hospital with a sickness so bad that the doctors have to put her into a medically induced coma. Kumail meets Emily's parents, "Terry" (Ray Romano) and "Beth" (Holly Hunter), who are also going through their own personal issues. Eventually Kumail starts to bond with Terry and Beth, realizing the mistakes he made with his relationship with Emily, and the mistakes he is making with his family, as they can only hope that Emily pulls through. 

"The Big Sick" is one of those films that comes across as real and honest. Director Michael Showalter takes this tired genre and not only finds a way to make the formula work, but also serve as what I feel other romantic comedies have tried desperately to do. The film is funny, heartfelt, and thoroughly charming beyond reason with it's genuine characters and a smart script written by Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon (The inspiration for the "Emily" character in the film) 

The clever and at times, profound dialogue is expertly delivered by the terrific cast, with Kumail Nanjiani giving a comical, yet sincere performance that is nothing short of wonderful. Zoe Kazan is perfectly cast (And perfectly adorable beyond reason), and has great chemistry with Nanjiani. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano both provide plenty of laughs and plenty of heart, and the film's supporting cast all have their roles to play. The way the film treats it's cultural themes is both funny, complex, and understanding. 

"The Big Sick" is essentially what I think any romantic comedy should aspire to be. None of the laughs feel forced, the romance and drama is handled well and with the respect it deserves, and the charm just comes naturally instead of being obviously fake. The film is hilarious, emotional, and infectiously sweet, surprisingly making for one of this year's best films. Not even a hardened critic like myself could walk out of this movie without a big smile on my face. My cold, cold heart has melted. And I'm finally ready for love. 4 stars. Rated R For A Strong Amount Of Language And For Smart And Hilarious Cultural Jokes.

Spider-Man: Homecoming                                  by James Eagan                                          ★★★★ out of ★★★★

Image: First, we'll start with a sensual massage.

 Too soon? Aside from "Batman", everyone favorite web slinging teenager, "Spider-Man" is probably the most rebooted superhero out there. We have had three different film versions of him in the past ten years. We've seen the same origin twice now. I mean, poor Uncle Ben just exists simply to die, really. With that said, it's understandable why Spider-Man is so beloved. He's us. He's that lovably nerdy high school students who deals with every day problems. Who just so happens to have superpowers. And luckily, Marvel's got him now (Although Sony is still gonna be making money off him), and they may of perfected the fan favorite hero. 

 "Spider-Man: Homecoming" begins after the events of "Captain America: Civil War" where "Peter Parker/Spider-Man" (Tom Holland) was called in by his hero, "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (Robert Downey Jr.), with his whole "Captain America Gone Rogue" problem, Tony rewards Peter with a new spidey suit, while telling him to continue his current job of saving cats out of trees, and the Avengers will call him when they need him.

 Peter is now forced to deal with his superheroics, while trying to balance out his school life.  His best friend "Ned" (Jacob Batalon) discovers his secret identity, he develops a crush on the popular girl "Liz" (Laura Harrier), and a new supervillain arrives in the form of  "Adrian Toomes/The Vulture" (Michael Keaton), a former salvage company owner turned arms trafficker after getting screwed over by Tony Stark's new clean up division. Peter, obsessed with becoming an Avenger like his hero, starts to learn what it truly means to be Spider-Man and the responsibility that comes with it. "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" and whatnot.  

 Unlike the previous outings, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" this time chooses to skip the backstory that we all already know by this point, and instead decides to focus on our main character himself, along with a more personal story that remains a superhero film, but can also serve as a a terrific coming of age story. The high school setting has never been more fitting, which also makes for some of that Marvel humor that we've all come to love.

 As the sixteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" also finds humor in everyday situations with the typical civilian's reaction to seeing superheroes in action less amazed than usual, instead this time treating it as something you would see any other day. This also makes the film's smaller scale fit more within the story, which is a major theme as well. Peter's journey throughout is him trying to become part of something bigger, while learning the importance of helping the little guy.

Look. I love Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. They made excellent versions of the character. But Tom Holland is just perfect. He's immensely likable, funny, and acts like any teenager would act if given superpowers. The character has the charm that you want him to have and his problems are relatable. (You know, with the exception of the whole webs shooting out of his wrist thing). I'd be happy to have Robert Downey Jr. on screen for one scene, but he plays an important role in the film, yet never outshines our hero. Jon Favreau (as "Happy", Tony's loyal bodyguard) is always a welcome addition in these movies. Marisa Tomei (as "Aunt May", Peter's very attractive, protective aunt) has a certain warmth to her that you want to see in this character. And Michael Keaton makes for a intriguing, and oddly sympathetic villain, while also remaining menacing throughout. We also get some good work out of the younger cast, including a hilariously nerdy Jacob Batalon, a suitably dickish Tony Revolori (as "Flash Thompson", Peter's rival), and a wonderfully weird Zendaya (as "Michelle", one of Peter's classmates who just sort of appears now and again) Another memorable standout includes Jennifer Connelly (as "Karen", the AI in Peter's suit).

 "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is probably the best Spider-Man film we've ever had, even better than the Raimi films, and also serves as one of the most endearing entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Jon Watts balances out the fun action with the film's sense of humor and genuine heart, with a great cast of characters and a more personal story. Its further proof that Marvel still does what their job better than anyone else. (Okay. DC came close with "Wonder Woman"). But with "Marvel", we already knew it before we saw it. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content, Though It's Perfectly Suitable For Kids.

The House             by James Eagan        ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: First you get the money....Then you get the power.

 Just because you know people are good at improvisation, and generally make you laugh when they do it, doesn't mean they should use up an hour and a half to do as much as they can with a thinly written script. Nobody can do that. Not even Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler. No matter how funny they are. 

 "The House" starts with husband and wife, "Scott" (Will Ferrell) and "Kate" (Amy Poehler) hoping to get their daughter, "Alex" (Ryan Simpkins) into an expensive college. Thanks to city councilman, "Bob" (Nick Kroll) going back on the city's plan to offer a scholarship in exchange for a big ass pool, Scott and Kate left desperate to find a way to pay for Alex's tuition. They end up finding "help" from Scott's friend, "Frank" (Jason Mantzoukas), who has a gambling problem and is going through a bad divorce because of it, to come together and open an illegal casino in his basement to make the cash they need. And that's about it. I honestly hate when this happens. Nothing but Shenanigans. You know the drill. 

 "The House" has a funny premise, and maybe a good laugh or two (Most of which were in the trailer), but it never seems to have much going for it outside of that. In terms of plot, it's more of a series of scenes that either rely on the actors improvising what little they have to work with, or are just build up to mostly just one joke that takes too long to wrap up. It generally seems that the screenwriters (One of which is first time Director Andrew J. Cohen) didn't  really come up with much after the basic idea. 

 Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are two of the funniest people on the planet, and while its not like they're completely unfunny, its just that they can't salvage as much as they probably thought they could. The whole thing with Nick Kroll doesn't really add up to much other than to have some kind of bad guy, same goes for Jeremy Renner's glorified cameo (as "Tommy", a gangster). On the bright side, Jason Mantzoukas gets some of the biggest laughs, easily stealing the movie and just seemingly finding more to work with than anyone else. 

 "The House" really falls apart by the end, where it appears the writers sort of wrote themselves into a corner and just couldn't think of a way to end the movie. (Was that last 15 minutes really all that necessary?) Though the film isn't completely without laughs, they're mostly just occasionally sprinkled throughout a sloppy, underwritten movie that still somehow feels too long at only an hour and a half. Just watch Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler on "Saturday Night Live". We gotta' have more cowbell! It's much funnier, shorter, and cheaper. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language Galore And Terrible Parenting.

Despicable Me 3                                                         by James Eagan                                              ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for despicable me 3 movie imagesImage: "Conceal yourself! Children are watching!"

 Want to truly comprehend how long the "Despicable Me" franchise has been going on for? About as long as this website has been going on, but unlike the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" franchise, it's still a ridiculously successful franchise with a large following that also kickstarted Illumination Entertainment. It also, of course, gave us those little, Twinkie like Minions that appear everywhere you turn, whether you want them there or not. 

 "Despicable Me 3" starts with former failed supervillain, "Gru" (Steve Carell) failing to capture former 80s child star turned mad supervillain, "Balthazar Bratt" (Trey Parker) after he attempts to steal the world's largest diamond. This failure results in Gru and his wife, "Lucy" (Kristen Wiig) being fired from the Anti-Villain League by their new director, "Valerie Da Vinci" (Jenny Slate). They are worried that they wont be able to provide for their adopted daughters, "Margo" (Miranda Cosgrove). "Edith" (Dana Gaier), and "Agnes" (Nev Scharrel), leaving Gru to feel like he hasn't accomplished anything since he quit being a villain.

 To make matters worse, those little gibberish speaking cheesy poofs known as "The Minions" (Most voiced by Pierre Coffin), led by rebellious minion "Mel", want to go back to their villainous ways and quit working for Gru, only to wind up in prison. Gru learns from his neglectful mother, "Marlena" (Julie Andrews) that he has a rich twin brother, "Dru" (Also Steve Carell). Gru takes his family to meet Dru, who reveals that their father was a well known villain and wants to team up with Gru to return to villainy all while Balthazar Bratt plots to reclaim the diamond and use it to destroy Hollywood for canceling his show (Get in line).

 "Despicable Me 3" doesn't do too much new with the franchise, and it certainly is the weakest film in the trilogy (Though a bit better than the "Minions" spin off). The movie still offers plenty of solid laughs, bouncy and colorful animation, and cuteness overload to keep the kiddies interested, with the occasional "Getting Crap Past The Radar" joke that the adults will appreciate.

 Illumination Entertainment's in your face style of marketing aside, they still do an excellent job when it comes to animating characters. Sometimes even the best gags come from the movements and cartoonish nature of how they're animated, with a funny visual joke waiting in the background. Sometimes it's over the top, scattershot style can be a little much, but the film uses it to it's advantage. Especially in terms of pacing, which makes "Despicable Me 3" a quick, easy sit.

 Steve Carell, this time playing two characters, is still perfectly cast and plenty lovable as Gru, While Kristen Wiig is both funny and adorable like she always is. The minions, whose constant appearances have started to become a bit old by this point, still give the film some of it's best laughs. However the real scene stealer this time around would be Trey Parker ("South Park"), who is suitably over the top of an overly flamboyant villain, serving as a bizarre representation of the 80s in the most hilarious way possible. 

 "Despicable Me 3" at times can feel like it's starting to run out steam, with a few unnecessary subplots that add little to the overall film, but it's a solid continuation of the series and feels like a good place to end (But it probably won't. Please don't become "Ice Age"). The heart and sweet nature is still there, and you're bound to laugh at least a few times. (The Minions prison scene is undeniably funny stuff). While the film may not be much compared to 2017's better animated comedies, such as "The Lego Batman Movie" or "Captain Underpants", it's still a fine little family diversion to pass the time until "Spider-Man: Homecoming" next week. 3 stars. Rated PG For Cartoony Action And More Hardcore, Yet Tasteful Minion Nudity. 

Baby Driver                                                                  by James Eagan                                        ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for baby driver movie imagesImage: "He kinda' looks like a baby!"

 Gotta' give 2017 credit for something. They're certainly trying out some new and weird material. Once you get past all the sequels, franchises, and cinematic universes, we've still found time for some truly inspired, original filmmaking. Like "Get Out", "Colossal", etc. And Edgar Wright's weird, strangely intelligent and at times oddly brilliant "Baby Driver" is no exception. I live in Austin. Weird can be good. Weird is in.

 "Baby Driver" follows "Baby" (Ansel Elgort), a young getaway driver who, after an accident when he was younger that caused the death of his mother, listens to music constantly to block out his tinnitus. Baby has been forced to work for a criminal mastermind, "Doc" (Kevin Spacey), and drives around different bank robbers, including the particularly unfriendly "Griff" (John Bernthal), a charming party animal "Buddy" (John Hamm) and his girlfriend "Darling" (Eiza González), and the somewhat sadistic "Bats" (Jamie Foxx), while also finding time to take care of his deaf foster father, "Joseph" (CJ Jones). But as Baby's time working for Doc starts to run out, he meets a cute young waitress, "Debora" (Lily James), and falls madly in love, hoping to finally get out of the business and never look back. However, we wouldn't have a movie if things worked out perfectly, resulting in Baby taking part in a heist that's soon falling apart before it even begins. 

 "Baby Driver" is not what you would expect in the best possible way. Best known for the hilarious, "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy", Edgar Wright (Who also wrote the film), takes a basic idea we've seen before, but never takes the predictable or silly route. Instead, he fills the film with fully fleshed out characters, stunning actions scenes, and an uncommon, but plenty kickass soundtrack, while throwing in a few laughs along the way. It makes for some of the most ludicrously stylish fun you can have at the movies right now.

 Music plays a major role in the film's story and adds to the film's skillful direction. The song choices are not exactly what you would expect, but they fit the film's tone and enhance the scenes they are used in. (Some of these songs I'd never even heard of).  And unlike a certain giant robot movie last week, the action is filmed beautifully, where you can actually tell what the heck is going on. Matching the pace of the film, it's just pure adrenaline from start to finish, without sacrificing good character development and smart dialogue.

 Ansel Elgort is just likability personified in this movie, bringing relatability to his character, and he has perfect chemistry with Lily James, who is just absolutely adorable and completely lovable. It's one of those rare sweet romantic subplots that actually work. Kevin Spacey is at his Kevin Spaciest, dominating the film with the power of his charm. Jaime Foxx gives probably his best performance in some time, and John Hamm drifts from charming to terrifying like a pro. The relationship between Ansel Elgort and CJ Jones is also a nice, endearing little subplot. Although I am not sure what John Bernthal is doing here other than to pop up for a minute, then just disappear as if he was never there.

Though the ending to "Baby Driver" feels a bit rushed through, the film is definitely unique in terms of filmmaking and how it makes a standard action film storyline feel fresh and original, while embracing the weird at the same time. Weird is in and Edgar Wright is one weird son of a bitch. But we love him for it. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And A Surprising Amount Of Violence.   

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