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: American Assassin, Mother, 9/11, Home Again, It, Tulip Fever, Death Note, Birth of the Dragon, Leap, Logan Lucky, The Hitman's Bodyguard, Batman and Harley Quinn, Wind River, The Nut Job 2, Annabelle: Creation, Kidnap, Detroit, The Dark Tower

Coming Soon: 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, Jigsaw, Suburbicon, Thank You for Your Service, Thor: Ragnarok 

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

American Assassin                                                  by James Eagan                                        ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for american assassin movie imagesImage: The new Maze Runner movie is getting pretty hardcore. 

  And here I thought "Mother!" was going to be the only disturbing movie I saw today. Gotta' give this movie credit for one thing.  It went full blown cartoonish in terms of how damn violent it gets. People just splatter all over the screen in unimaginable ways, with casualties all over the damn place. Unexpected for sure. It's too bad that's the only thing that sets it apart from every other generic action flick. 

 "American Assassin" starts with young lovers, "Mitch Rapp" (Dylan O'Brien) and "Katrina" (Charlotte Vega) becoming engaged on a beach, that ends up being attacked by a group of radical Islamic Jihadists, who slaughter tons of people, including Katrina. Mitch swears vengeance, dedicating his life to killing the people responsible. He tracks down Katrina's murderers a few months later, only for his revenge to be taken away by the arrival U.S. Special Forces, who proceeds to kill the group and take Mitch in. CIA Director "Irene Kennedy" (Sanaa Lathan) sees something in Mitch, giving him a chance to do some real good, sending him to be trained by former war veteran, "Stan Hurley" (Michael Keaton).

 Hurley puts Mitch through harsh training, while around this time a crap ton of plutonium has been stolen and has wound up in the hands of one of Hurley's former pupils turned sadistic terrorist, simply called "Ghost" (Taylor Kitsch). Mitch, along with another agent, "Annika" (Shiva Negar), goes along with Hurley to track down the plutonium and stop the terrorists before they start doing what terrorists usually do with a lot of plutonium. 

 "American Assassin" is a by the numbers action movie that despite the absurd amount of violence in the film, never quite figures out if it's meant to be set in the real world or not. One minute the film is trying to sell the drama of the situation and how high the stakes are, but then drifts into superhero territory with James Bond-eque villains and cheesy one liners. Its a shame because this had potential, with some ideas that could of been the start of a pretty cool franchise. 

 The dialogue is weak and takes itself more seriously than it probably should. And while there is some originality in some of the action scenes, "American Assassin" doesn't really do anything you've never seen before. Dylan O'Brien is not exactly a bad choice for this role, the real issue is that his character is a complete and utter prick. He's immensely unlikable to everyone around him and comes across as needlessly cruel, even with his backstory. I'm all for flawed heroes, but the film never addresses these as flaws, (Seemingly saying he is completely in the right all the time) even when it benefits nobody in the situation. On the bright side, we have Michael Keaton, who is just fantastic in the movie, injecting actual humor, oodles of charisma, and the ability to still kick ass at 66 is more badass than anything in this movie. Taylor Kitsch is thoroughly menacing, particularly in a torture scene towards the end of the movie, which makes for the most memorable sequence. 

 With a ridiculous plot, and an unlikable hero, whose stupid actions are interpreted as badass and cool for some reason, "American Assassin" leads to a nonsensical conclusion that only raises questions that the film likely has no intention of answering. It thinks it's cooler than it actually is, but just feels forgettable, lame, and brings little new to a genre that already has too many movies as it is. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language And People Getting Shot Up Real Good. 

Mother!                                                                         by James Eagan                                  ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for mother 2017 movie imagesImage: The average moviegoer reaction to this movie. 

 Ohhhhh boy. Movies like this are what film critics live for, that just tear what we know to shreds in the most brutal way possible, to the point where critics and audiences are all over the place in their opinion of it. It's love it or hate it making you question if you should even be watching it. Makes you feel kind of dirty.....Its kind of remarkable that way. Do I now question my own existence? All right, that was a stretch.

 "Mother!" follows a woman simply called "Mother" (Jennifer Lawrence) living in the middle of nowhere in an old house with her poet husband, simply known as "Him" (Javier Bardem). They leave a peaceful, quiet life, that gets turned upside down due to the arrival of a sickly man, called er, "Man" (Ed Harris). Despite Mother's pleas, Him decides to let Man stay over, especially after he finds out that Man is a fan of his work. Then things get more strange when Man's wife, named "Woman" (Michelle Pfeiffer) also shows up.....Then Man and Woman's bickering sons (Brian Gleeson and Domhall Gleeson) show up....Then even more people show up, all coming to see Him and all kinds of weird sh*t starts to go down. Mother's whole world starts to come crashing down, all while most audiences will struggle to figure out where any of this is going. 

 Prepare for the most vague review ever. The less you know about "Mother!" before you see it, the better. The film is secretly insane, using surreal and disturbing imagery as an allegory for something that you really never would of thought of associating such images with. Yet, the more I think about it, the more fitting it becomes. (Be honest, the story the film is basing itself on lends itself to unsettling imagery like this.) The suspense is constant, as are the many questions that are raised throughout. 

 Director Darren "Guy who is somehow dating Jennifer Lawrence" Aronofsky is a bit of a sick bastard, but he's also kind of brilliant in a strange way. The movie is filmed beautifully, and how certain metaphors are presented, sometimes merely through visuals is completely original, thought provoking, and will occasionally make you feel uneasy about the whole experience. Its an experience that not everyone will get (Or some just straight up wont like), but its one that will stick with you regardless of how you feel about it.

 Jennifer Lawrence is nothing short of terrific in the film (And yeah. She's super pretty too. But that's secondary.) Her character is easy to side with, and she brings a powerful and emotional performance that matches up with Javier Bardem, who is also wonderful. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer (Who will never be anything less than smoking hot) have a few memorably, discomforting performances. Every character has a purpose and a meaning, and even though the film never seemingly presents them as fully developed, the intention is pretty clear. 

 "Mother!" is obviously not for everyone, and I get why. It's slow, very little is straight up explained (Although the metaphors the film is trying to get across aren't too difficult to see), and the film's occasionally grotesque images will just turn people off in an instant, especially once you figure out the point the film is trying to get across once you reached the completely deranged last act. But I don't see how anyone can declare it to be the worst thing to ever exist, and that there is nothing at all well made about it. (Blasphemous maybe. Hey, if you weren't a fan of Aronofsky's interpretation of "Noah", you sure as Hell ain't gonna like this.) 

 As for me, I found "Mother!" to be excellent filmmaking, though maybe a bit of too much. It's gonna have it's fanbase and it's detractors (And I do understand the points of both sides). Either way, like it or not, the movie will remain in your head long after you see it, and will certainly leave a bigger impact (Whether it be positive or negative) than most movies you will see this year. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For.....Ohhhh Mother. What Isn't It Rated R For? 

9/11            by James Eagan           ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "Ask them why they cast Charlie Sheen in a film about 9/11".

 A question for the filmmakers, what did you think was going to happen? You make a movie based on a tragedy that hits so close to home for so many people, that also still happens to feel somewhat recent, release the film days before the anniversary of the disaster, cast a guy who has made accusations about the tragedy being an inside job by the US government, and not expect to get any form of backlash? The film has already been ridiculed by it's trailer alone, calling it offensive, gross, and the worst thing to ever exist. Having been one of the only people in the world to see this movie, I can vouch that I honestly think that the filmmakers were trying to make a legit, heartfelt drama based around such a horrifying day. The only offensive part is that it isn't any good. 

 "9/11" starts on the morning right before the 2001, September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, following a small group of characters who just so happen to end up stuck in an elevator just as the entire tragedy starts to go down. They include a rich guy, "Jeffery Cage" (Charlie Sheen) and his wife, "Eve" (Gina Gershon), who are going through a divorce, a random maintenance man, "Eddie" (Luis Guzmán), a bike messenger, "Michael" (Wood Harris), and a lovely young Russian girl, "Tina" (Olga Fonda). All five of the passengers all have personal baggage that they are forced to work through as they receive help through elevator operator, "Metzie" (Whoopi Goldberg), as they try to find a way out of the elevator before building eventually collapses.  

 "9/11" is based on an apparently award winning 2011 play called "Elevator", which does make me see how Director Martin Guigui, at least on paper, thought this would be a good idea. The film doesn't really commit to it's premise of a group of characters being stuck in an enclosed place during the act of terrorism, constantly cutting around to random people reacting to actual 9/11 footage. This makes the movie look cheap and it just comes across as a glorified TV movie that somehow found it's way to theaters.   

 Despite the fact that this is a 9/11 film starring Charlie Sheen, the film is nothing outright horrible. It is just so incredibly standard, to the point in which the whole situation comes across as melodramatic. The acting overall isn't terrible, but nothing really to write home about. Everyone has their job and they do what they're told to do. Whoopi Goldberg is fine, I suppose, for what's given, and as for Charlie Sheen, he's just too miscast. It's hard to take such seriousness coming from him in this role, and a movie like this really would of benefited from someone who wasn't Charlie Sheen.

 The most powerful moment in the film comes at the end when a random firefighter decides its better to sacrifice his own life just to stay and attempt to save someone knowing that its likely going to end up getting both killed, but stays anyway to comfort that person in their final moments. That is more of what this should of been. Overall, "9/11" is just kind of pointless. I genuinely believe the movie had the best of intentions and I can see where someone would get the idea that it would even work, but it just feels so misguided to a moronic degree. Next time, maybe those involved should try listening to, you know, everybody else. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language And Horrifying Footage That Should Still Make You Sick To Your Stomach.  

Home Again             by James Eagan            ★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for home again movie imagesImage: You sure are cute when you're hungover.

 You all know romantic comedies of any sort aren't always my particular cup of tea. ("The Big Sick" being an exception for many reasons.) Movies like this aren't made for me, and are only geared to the specific audience that generally gives them money. But since it's just as likely that audience also went to see "It" this weekend, it's better to assume this movie is just really bad other than it just not being for me. Sounds logical to me. It's missing more than just an evil Clown.

 "Home Again" follows "Alice Kinney" (Reese Witherspoon), a daughter of a deceased, famous film director. Having recently split up from her husband, "Austen" (Michael Sheen), she now lives with her daughter and has moved into her dad's old house, where she ends up hanging out with three young wannabe filmmakers, "Teddy" (Nat "I'm apparently in every film" Wolff), "George" (Jon Rudnitsky), and "Harry" (Pico Alexander), who Alice really takes a shine too. Long story short, they end up crashing at Alice's place and Alice ends up in bed with Harry. Deciding not to kick them out into the streets, Alice agrees to let the three young men stay with her, causing all kinds of problems including their career goals, Harry's attraction to Alice, and the sudden arrival of Austen. Really, this could all be fixed pretty easily, but everyone decides to act like morons and make it as complicated as they possibly can. 

 Directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer (Daughter of Director Nancy Meyers) in her directorial debut, "Home Again" is a goofy little movie that feels like an episode of a bad sitcom (Or maybe more like a cartoon) than an actual movie. While the situations that the characters put themselves in do make for actual problems, the characters rarely react or solve them in a way that an actual human being would. It doesn't feel like the real world, and mostly just seems that characters act this way for the sake of weak, bland comedy. Most of the time, it seems to just want to imitate better movies, but to a ridiculous degree.

 At least some of the cast is really trying their best, with Reese Witherspoon (Who will always be absolutely adorable) retains her natural likability, even with all the stupidity, and Michael Sheen is well, Michael Sheen at his Michael Sheeniest. Nat Wolff, Pico Alexander, and Jon Rudnitsky come across as rather annoying, though I blame the script's desperate attempts at faking charm than that of the actual actors. And Candice Bergen (as "Lillian", Alice's mother) pops up two or three times to give a funny line or two. 

 Thoroughly predictable, with little actual conflict when you think about it, "Home Again" is, worst of all, just soooo damn white! When the most emotional moment in the movie revolves around a much younger boyfriend not arriving at his girlfriend's dinner party, all these problems have easy, rational solutions. I saw a movie the other day that had kids being eaten by a killer clown. That's an epidemic you need to worry about. It's more realistic. 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Predominately Preposterous Predicaments. 

It                     by James Eagan              ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for pennywise 2017Image: After finally devouring The Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese and Grimace, Ronald McDonald sets his sights on The Fry Kids.

 Based on Stephen King's beloved (And massive) horror story, "It", which was published in 1986. It's kind of a beloved story. So much that it spawned an even more well known miniseries in 1990, that starred Tim Curry as the playfully, psychopathic killer clown. And it terrified people, scaring them for life. Here's the thing, that old miniseries is really stupid and Tim Curry is more hilarious (Freakin' hilarious actually) than scary. Yeah, it was kind of creepy and it's certainly a cool story that would work great for a movie, but the execution made it look just silly. This really did need a reimagining. And not only did they make it better, they actually made it terrifying. Like legit. 

 "It" takes place in the horrible town of Derry, Maine in 1988, where stuttering young boy, "Bill Denbrough" (Jaden Lieberher) makes a paper sailboat for his little brother, "George" (Jackson Robert Scott), who runs out in the rain to see it sail. Little Georgie accidentally lets it fall into down a gutter. He comes across a strange, freaky looking clown, "Pennywise" (Bill Skarsgård), who offers Georgie his boat back.....Then proceeds to rip off his arm and drag him into the sewer to eat him. Cut to almost a year later, where Bill has not gotten over the disappearance of his little brother. Turns out that the old town has had a history of people (Especially children) vanishing without a trace and it's all connected to the mysterious Pennywise, who is merely a form taken by monstrous, hungry entity known as "It".

 Bill, along with his friends and classmates have all had experiences with the creature, including bullied chubby new kid "Ben" (Jeremy Ray Taylor), foul mouthed smart ass "Ritchie" (Finn Wolfhard), the skeptic "Stan" (Wyatt Oleff), African American orphan "Mike" (Chosen Jacobs), the hypochondriac "Eddie" (Jack Dylan Grazer), and the one female "Bev" (Sophia Lillis), who is sexually abused by her father. Forming "The Losers' Club", the group works together to discover where "It" is hiding, while dealing with horrible adults, a sadistic gang of bullies, led by the homicidal "Henry" (Nicholas Hamilton), and facing their own personal fears while they set out to avenge all that "It" has killed over the years. 

 The story behind "It" (Along with it's titular villain) have become a staple for the horror genre, and was one I always thought there was a way to make this work as an actual film. Thanks to the skilled direction from Andrés Muschietti and a talented team of writers, this not only makes for one of the best horror movies I've seen in some time, but it also makes for probably the best horror movie I've ever seen in theaters. Its dark, twisted, and thoroughly horrifying, relying more on atmosphere and imagery, and most importantly, has characters you can root for. 

 Wisely only adapting the first half of the original 1,138 page novel (Basically the best part that focuses only on the kids), the screenplay for "It" is smart, with great dialogue between it's characters that manages to be scary, while also injecting a lot of humor and emotion that makes the film's overall themes much stronger. The killer clown is not the only frightening thing about the movie, and the film never shies away from the horrible situations that these kids have to deal with in their own lives, which makes the message of friendship, loyalty, overcoming your fears, and growing up so effective. 

 None of this would work if it wasn't for the wonderful cast, whose chemistry makes this movie. Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wayatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, and Jack Dylan Grazer are all perfectly cast in their roles, each with their own story arc to complete by the film's end. With standouts being Lieberher and Lillis (In her breakout performance), and Finn Wolfhard stealing whatever scene he's in, serving as the comic relief, while Nicholas Hamilton is a suitably unhinged piece of sh*t,

 And then we have Bill Skarsgård as the villainous clown. While Tim Curry was always a funny monster in the original, he was rarely actually scary. Here though, Skarsgård is downright delightfully creepy, shifting into the stuff of nightmares on a dime, with his movements and mannerisms (Which seem unhuman at times), making for a memorable creature that will scare future generations way more than that miniseries ever did. 

 Beautifully filmed, some impressive effects work, and somewhat whimsical at times (Think old Spielberg. With a demonic killer clown.), "It" is how you do terror, while also incorporating genuine heart and emotions that enhance the powerful messages. (First horror movie I've seen where the audience was actually shedding some tears. Amazing.). You probably wont sleep for days, but you're bound to relate to the film in some shape or form. Let's be honest, the most frightening thing about being a kid is growing up. Well, that and a clown with monster teeth. Who wouldn't be afraid of that? But please keep in mind, most real life clowns do NOT eat children....The more you know. 4 stars. Rated R For Gruesome, Gory Imagery, Strong Language, Emotional Horror. (All Involving Children), And For The Possible Financial Ruin Of The Clown Industry. 

Tulip Fever                                                                   by James Eagan                                           ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for tulip fever movie images Image: "Say cheese!"

 I have a simple question to ask this movie. (You know, as if it were a person) What are you exactly? Are you a period drama? Are you a romance just set during a real life time period? Are you a sexual thriller? That's what your new poster calls yourself. Are you a comedy? Because you're downright goofy at times. What are you trying to accomplish? Other than give all these good actors a new movie to replace their lowest Rotten Tomatoes score.

 Let's make a feeble attempt to really describe this plot. "Tulip Fever" takes place in the 17th Century, during the "Tulip Mania" (Long story short, everyone loved them some tulips) and follows the orphaned "Sophia" (Alicia Vikander), who has been arranged and sold into a marriage to the wealthy, widowed "Cornelius Sandvoort" (Christoph Waltz), who is determined to conceive an heir. Sadly, despite Cornelius trying (A lot), he constantly fails. Cornelius decides to have a portrait painted by a young, poor artist, "Jan van Loos" (Dane DeHaan), who falls hopelessly in love with Sophia (Because she looks like Alicia Vikander. What did you expect to happen?)

 Soon, both Sophia and Jan start begin an affair that Cornelius remains blissfully unaware of. Then things start to get.....complicated. There's a situation with Cornelius' pregnant housemaid/the narrator of the story, "Maria" (Holliday Grainger), who just so happens to have recently misplaced her fishmonger lover, "William" (Jack O'Connell). Feeling sympathy for Cornelius (And sees this as a way out of her marriage so she can be with Jan), Sophia pretends she is the one who is pregnant and apparently everyone in this movie is moronic enough to buy it. While all this is going on, Jan just so happens to get involved in the Tulip business that's pretty much become pure insanity by this point. Meanwhile, a young film critic is confused for nearly an hour as to what the Hell is going on. 

 "Tulip Fever" was filmed back in 2014, and is only now seeing a release date after being delayed numerously since 2015. Starting to wonder how worth it this whole debacle really was. The film has no idea what it's intentions are and what it has set out to be. The plot is all over the place and overly complicated, with the tone changing often from completely serious to whimsical to buffoonish and silly. The setting and look of the film are solid, but Director Justin Chadwick can't seem to grasp what to do with any of it and just tosses all these plot lines together into a cluttered mess of a movie.

 Alicia Vikander has become an Oscar winner since this movie was filmed, and this is by far her weakest work. But it's not exactly her fault. The same goes for Dane DeHaan (Who I'm starting to wonder if Hollywood really knows what to do with him). It's just a weak, uninspired script that doesn't develop either of these characters or their relationship. It doesn't feel like an actual romance, rather than it feels more like these two characters just wanna' bang (Just Sayin'). Because of their  poor characterization, the most sympathetic character ends up being Christoph Waltz, who despite the film obviously trying to humanize him, is not meant to be (He bought her, for God sake) . Waltz does still give a solid performance with a character who is very much flawed (To the point you could consider him the antagonist of the film), but you see some redemption in him, and by the end, he has the strongest, most emotional arc out of any of the characters. Everyone else just come across as selfish (And horny), which was obviously not the intention.

 The subplots involving Holiday Grainger (Who also being the film's narrator serves little purpose) and Jack O'Connell only further muddles the plot, and the appearances of Zach Galifianakis (as "Gerrit", Jan's drunken assistant) and Cara Delevinge (as Random Pretty Girl #3) serve as distractions rather than characters. We do get Tom Hollander (as "Dr. Sorgh", a pervy doctor), who might of been one of the more enjoyably weird additions to the film, I almost forgot to mention Dame Judi Dench (as "The Abbess of St. Ursula". Now that's a name right there.) was in this. But I wouldn't blame her if she forgot she was in this too. 

 By the end, your sympathy and attention is directed to the wrong character, with our main lovers leaving little impact. "Tulip Fever" is a nonsensical, naughty, over the top, confused jumble that wastes the talent involved and some really pretty plants. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Nudity And "Little Soldiers". Ew.....


Death Note                                                                  by James Eagan                                             ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for death note 2017 movie imagesImage: Behold one of the Lord's majestic creatures. 

 Since this last weekend was apparently the worst box office weekend in over 15 years, and this week could possibly be worst considering there are no new movies of importance being released, I decided to do my first ever, Netflix movie review. They've been doing movies for a while now, but are only recently becoming more and more popular. So instead of getting dressed, heading to the dark theater to watch 15 to 20 minutes of trailers before the movie actually starts while one guy messes with his phone the entire time in front of you, I will lay on the carpet, turn up the volume as much as my computer will allow, and watch a movie on that somewhat dirty screen that I've neglected to clean. While in my underwear.  

 "Death Note" takes place in Seattle, where an old black book falls from the sky and ends up in the hands of a weird high school student, "Light Turner" (Nat Wolff). Light ends up getting his ass kicked by a bully and winds up by himself in detention where he is visited by the spiny, sharp teethed, God of death, "Ryuk" (Voiced by Willem Dafoe). Ryuk explains to Light that the book is known as "The Death Note", where you can write any person's name in it and they will end up dying by the means you write down. After causing the gruesome death of the bully who previously beat him up, Light decides to use the book to get revenge on the person responsible for the death of his mother years earlier.

 Light ends up revealing to the cute cheerleader, "Mia" (Margaret Qualley) the Death Note, who finds this whole situation totally hot, and the two of them use the Death Note to start killing off criminals, terrorists, rapists, and other terrible people, while going under the name "Kira". Kira's many killings attract the attention of eccentric detective, "L" (Lakeith Stanfield) and his assistant, "Watari" (Paul Nakauchi), who are determined to bring Kira to justice. Eventually things start to get out of hand, with Light failing to understand what powers he's toying with, Mia starting to seriously getting way to into all this, and Ryuk just sitting back, munching on apples, and screwing with everyone. 

 Based on a beloved Manga (Japanese Comic, basically) and a beloved anime (Japanese Cartoon, basically), "Death Note" has already gotten controversy and hate from fans due to accusations of whitewashing, which we are not going to get into because it's really not worth it. Since I know nothing about the source material, I'm just going to judge it as a movie on it's own, and for the most part, its fine. There are things here and there that do work well, such as Adam Wingard's stylized direction and love for creepy imagery, but despite some cool set pieces, the film is trying way too hard to please everyone, so much that some of it just doesn't mesh together properly. (Such as a character in Seattle actually being named Light. That's just.....stupid.)

 "Death Note" has so much story to cram into a measly hour and forty minutes that at times the pacing rushes through moments that should feel more important or developed. There is potential here, and sometimes the movie fully embraces it, such as the horrifically (And damn near cartoonishly) violent deaths that (Unlike earlier this year's "Wish Upon") goes all out in the gore and actually shows that the movie has a sense of humor about itself, and the story itself is fascinating with a few fun characters.

 Nat Wolff is not exactly a bad choice for this characters, but the movie has troubled defining him as simply a well intentioned extremist who just loses control of the book, or a complete psycho who lets the power go to his head. His relationship with Margaret Qualley takes up way too much screen time, and she doesn't give a compelling enough performance to justify her character's later actions. (Which only leads to a completely obvious plot twist.) Our best characters (And if you ask me, would of actually made for more interesting protagonists) come from a delightfully bizarre, yet brilliant Lakeith Stanfield and Paul Nakauchi, who have an enjoyable Sherlock Holmes/Watson type relationship that is much more interesting than our actual main characters. Shea Wingham (as "James Turner", Light's caring police officer father) gives a very heartfelt performance and Willem Dafoe just steals whatever scene he's in, remaining thoroughly creepy, yet surprisingly funny at the same time. (Also Ryuk is a rather impressive effect)

 "Death Note" comes to a pretty clever conclusion, that's actually fairly original for a movie like this. The film doesn't seem to be taking itself too seriously, but sadly only occasionally discusses the moral dilemma of the situation and what someone would do with this power if they acquired it (Though I could be completely trusted with it). I'm assuming the movie changed quite a bit, yet tried to keep so much at the same time, and it honestly feels as if the movie just should of been it's own thing. It makes for something flawed, but enjoyable. But much like most anime adaptations or remakes, you just can't help feeling that there is a better version of it already in existence. And now, maybe I should put my pants on. 2 1/2 stars. Rated R For F-Bombs And Gorey Splatters. 

Birth of the Dragon                                            by James Eagan                                                   ★ OUT OF ★★★★  

Image result for birth of the dragon 2017 movie imagesImage: "You have offended my Dragon....Prepare to die!"

 I'm gonna tell you a story that's all about Steve. Yeah. good old Steve. Steve was a cool dude, who trained with Bruce Lee, apparently. You know Bruce Lee right? That uninteresting guy who knew some sort of epic fighting style. Nah, you don't care about him. You want some Steve. What? Did you come to see Bruce Lee? Too bad. This movie is all about Steve.

 Based on a fictional account of a possibly true (Or maybe not true) story of a fight that may or may not of happened (Try to figure that one out), where in 1965, martial artist icon, "Bruce Lee" (Philip Ng) has been teaching Americans the art of Kung Fu. When a famous, but disgraced Shaolin monk, "Wong Jack Man" (Xia Yu) arrives, the different ideologies between the teachers leads to an epic fight between the two. Wong place. Wong time. 

 But that's not important. What is important is Lee's student, "Steve McKee" (Billy Magnussen), who ends up wanting to be trained by Wong Jack Man instead of Lee. After learning that his love interest, "Xiulan" (Jingjing Qu) is being held hostage by the evil gangster woman, "Auntie Blossom" (Jin Xing), who threatens to sell her into prostitution, it turns out Steve is the one who is forced to arrange the fight so Xuilan can be allowed to go free. I'm positive this all happened.

 "Birth of the Dragon" makes little to no sense, with the story becoming more preposterous as it goes along, especially when we reach the over the top climax. I know its all meant to be a homage to classic martial arts films like the ones Bruce Lee starred in. But when your movie is meant to be set in reality, there is no way any of this happened the way its presented. 

 It's too bad because Philip Ng and Xia Yu are not bad in this movie, with Ng providing plenty of charisma as the famous martial artist/actor and Xia Yu bringing genuine charm to his role. You do see potential in the conflict of ideologies and the actual fight (Which is well choreographed) between them is the only moment worth recommending. Too bad the movie decides to focus more on Billy Magnussen, who is quite possibly the most boring actor I have ever seen. His relationship with Jingjing Qu is unnecessary, stupid, and lacks any chemistry. And the less you need to know about the cartoonish villains, the better. 

 Cheaply made and poorly constructed, "Birth of the Dragon" is one of those "What the Hell is this?" kind of movies. The choices that the filmmakers made and what they decided their final product should look like is nothing short of bizarre and at times, downright insane. Worst of all, its all just pointless, with little actual reason to exist. Other than to give the nonexistent Steve his time to shine. 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Some Kung Fu Fighting And No Logic Or Reality.

Leap!               by James Eagan            ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "If I let you go, just flap your arms really, really hard!" 

 So this movie has a bit of a weird history. At least in terms of it's title. English language, yet produced through a French/Canadian company, the film was originally "Ballerina" in other countries with a slightly different voice cast. Meant to be released earlier this year, under the new name "Leap!", with a couple late additions to the cast, the movie somehow has found a way to get two separate Rotten Tomatoes scores. It seems like a lot of overkill for a little animated film like this.

 Taking place in the late 1800s, "Leap!" starts with a young orphan, " Félicie" (Elle Fanning), who only has a music box to remember her mother (Kate McKinnon). She dreams of becoming a ballerina alongside her best friend, "Victor" (Nat Wolff), who wants to become an inventor. (He also has a bit of a crush on Félicie). The "Mother Superior" (also Kate McKinnon) and the supervisor of the orphanage, "M. Luteau" (Mel Brooks) assure Félicie and Victor that their dreams should remain just dreams and nothing more. One night, Victor gets a "Brilliant" plan to escape, using makeshift wings, resulting in him and Félicie making their way to Paris, where there is a school for the "Paris Opera Ballet".

 After getting separated from Victor, Félicie meets a cleaner with a limp, "Odette" (Carly Rae Jepsen), who works for an evil, wealthy restaurant owner, "Régine Le Haut" (Kate McKinnon. Again!), who is determined to get her dancer daughter, "Camille" (Maddie Ziegler) into the upcoming rendition of "The Nutcracker". Since Camille is nearly as awful as her mother, Félicie pretends to be her, becoming a part of a dance class, run by the strict instructor "Mérante" (Terrence Scammell), who intends to eliminate a girl every class until he decides who will get the part. With help from Odette, who agrees to help properly train her, Félicie slowly starts to improve and becoming the ballerina she's always dreamed of. 

 Despite confusion over naming and dubbing, "Leap!" is actually a fine little kids movie that never strays from the predictable path of it's story, yet at least feels well made and comes across as genuinely heartfelt. The animation is nothing spectacular, but the film is certainly pretty to look at with plenty of detail added to the characters and their clothing, with a nice use of lighting and it's setting along with it's unique character designs. (Even if Félicie does look like a mini version of Anna from "Frozen".)

 Sometimes some of the American based dubbing feels a little off (And added in at the last second), but the film overall does have some good characters with Elle Fanning making for a likable lead, and Nat Wolff getting a few good laughs in. The adorable voiced Carly Ray Jepsen, who also provides the movie's main song ("Cut to the Feeling"), actually does a pretty solid job (And that song is catchy as Hell.)  Maddie Zeigler is suitably bratty, and we get fun supporting work from Terrence Scammell and the great Mel Brooks (Who obviously feels like a late addition, but its always nice to hear him doing voicework). While its not necessary for Kate McKinnon to be voicing three characters (Though I'm guessing that's just a normal day for her), her work as the villain is surprisingly wicked. (Even if it gets a little weird later in the movie)

 There are a few silly moments probably added for the American release, and the film's out of nowhere dark climax is a bit jarring (As are the use of pop songs, that feel completely out of place), For the most part, "Leap!" (Or "Ballerina") is a rather unremarkable movie in terms of story. However, the film has a good heart, teaches positive messages, and most importantly, the kids will probably love it. (Especially young girls). The film sets out to do one job and it does it well. Whatever you want to call it. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Some Occasional Adult Humor And Attempted Homicide. Seriously. It's Pretty Disturbing.

Logan Lucky                                                               by James Eagan                                             ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for logan lucky movie imagesImage: "I will not be typecast"!

 Sorry about taking so long to see this movie. Once in a great while, I do have other things in my life other than movies. Had a trip to Animefest in Dallas, waited in line after line, heard the "Yuri on Ice" theme song more times than I ever thought I would, and apparently there was even a mini riot. So, fun weekend. But for me, it's back to work. And by work, I mean watching movies and ranting about them online for zero profit whatsoever. I need a get rich quick scheme.

 "Logan Lucky" starts with rednecky laborer/former convict, "Jimmy Logan" (Channing Tatum) getting fired from his job due to a permanent limp. He also has to deal with custody issues with his ex-wife, "Bobbie" (Katie Holmes) over his daughter, "Sadie" (Farrah Mackenzie), who looks up to Jimmy. After a mishap with a pompous Brit, "Max Chilblain" (Seth MacFarlane) at a bar owned by his one armed veteran brother, "Clyde" (Adam Driver), Jimmy gets the idea to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

 Teaming up with their sister, "Mellie" (Riley Keough), they begin to set up their scheme, planning to break out a currently incarcerated/slightly off his rocker, former safecracker, "Joe Bang" (Daniel Craig) to use his "Brilliance" to help pull off the heist. With extra help from Joe's equally strange brothers, "Sam" (Brian Gleeson) and "Fish" (Jack Quaid), the siblings proceed with their plan, involving pipelines, jail riots, gummi bears, and Nascar. 

 Seemingly dumb and convoluted at first, "Logan Lucky" actually comes together nicely once it's all explained to the audience. Our main characters may have silly voices and say weird, rednecky things, but they're actually pretty brilliant and come across as good people just trying to make a living. (Sure they're stealing from Nascar, but who hasn't thought about doing that? I'm considering it right now.) Director Steven Soderbergh takes the movie down the standard heist movie route, but finds a way to make it fresh and fun.

 Channing Tatum and Adam Driver have great chemistry together, committing to the absurdity of their characters and actually injecting some genuine heart into them. Rile Keough is also quite good (And thoroughly adorable), with a hilarious Daniel Craig stealing every scene he's in and showing that he is a much more versatile actor than we give him credit for. We get a great selection of actors in memorable supporting roles, including Seth MacFarlane at his most cartoonishly douchey, Sebastian Stan (as "Dayton White", a health obsessed Nascar driver), Dwight Yoakam (as "Warden Burns", the prison warden who refuses to acknowledge anything is wrong), Brian Gleeson, Jack Quaid, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterson (as "Sylvia", a nurse/love interest to Jimmy), and Hilary Swank (as "Agent Grayson", an FBI agent who cares way too much about this investigation), who all have an important part to play.

 While you do wonder if everything has truly come together by the end, "Logan Lucky" is a bit of quirky heist comedy, that much like it's main characters, secretly smart as it is funny. Hidden under what appears to be silly shenanigans is actually a well thought out, thoroughly likable, and just plain entertaining good time that somehow finds a way to be unpredictable. 3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Southern, Hillbilly Accents Galore.

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. 

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