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: Early Man, Samson, Black Panther, The 15:17 to Paris, Peter Rabbit, Fifty Shades Freed, The Cloverfield Paradox, Winchester, Maze Runner: The Deah Cure, 12 Strong, Forever My Girl, Den of Thieves, The Commuter, The Post, Proud Mary, Paddington 2, Molly's Game, All the Money in the World, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Coming Soon: Annihilation, Game Night, Every Day, Death Wish, Red Sparrow, A Wrinkle in Time, Gringo, Strangers 2, The Hurricane Heist, Love, Simon, Tomb Raider, I Can Only Imagine, Pacific Rim 2, Sherlock Gnomes, Midnight Sun

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

Early Man            by James Eagan        ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for early man movieImage: Sinking their teeth into things.

 By this point, I don't think "Aardman Animations" cares about the money. Having given a variety of instant family classics, such as "Chicken Run", "Wallace and Gromit", "Arthur Christmas", "Shaun the Sheep", etc., they aren't really known for their films being box office smashes. But they are usually critically acclaimed, loved by audiences that actually see them, and are able to garner enough fans who will be excited for their next movie. Here in the U.S., they pretty much flop often, but when you're doing it for the art (And having fun while doing it), who cares if not enough of us silly Americans don't get it?  Rubbish, I say.

 "Early Man" opens at the dawn of time, after the meteor crashed into Earth and killed all the dinosaurs. Cavemen go to the crash site, discovering a round piece of the meteor, and proceed to invent the game of Soccer (I mean, football as the Brits call it) in the process. Years later during the Stone Age, a caveman tribe, led by "Chief Bobnar" (Timothy Spall), spends most of their time hunting rabbits because they're small and easy to catch. However, wide eyed youngest member, "Dug" (Eddie Redmayne) thinks they are capable of more and should move on to hunting for something bigger. But the Stone Age is literally invaded by the Bronze Age, led by the pompous "Lord Nooth" (Tom Hiddleston), who kicks the tribe out of the valley, and takes the land for himself.

 Dug, along with his piggy buddy, "Hognob" (Voiced through a series of grunts by Director Nick Park), end up in the Bronze Age city, where they end up stumbling upon the "Sacred Game" known as Soccer. (Er, I mean Football. Sorry.) Determined to help his friends get their home back, Dug challenges Nooth's champion team to a game, with Nooth accepts on so long as if Dug's tribe loses, they will be forced to work in their Bronze mines forever. Dug returns, and despite Bobnar's protests, has to help the rest of his tribe learn how to play Soccer (Football! I meant Football!), with some help from a spunky girl from the city "Goona" (Maisie Williams) (You know, calling Soccer Football makes a bit more sense if you really think about it.) 

 It's obvious to say, just from describing the plot, that "Early Man" is not one of Aardman's strongest films in the sense that it goes for a simpler, more by the books story, with more jokes aimed at younger audiences than adults. With that said, it's still so damn charming. Just from the beautifully, handmade stop motion animation alone, there is this certain likability to the film that Aardman has become known for. There are still plenty of funny gags, with the best ones being what you see in the background, and some fun characters that are hard to dislike. By this point, their animation has become more than amazing to the point I'm questioning how on Earth they were able to get so much movement out of these little clay puppets. 

 Eddie Redmayne is a likable, funny lead, while Tom Hiddleston hams it up with an over the top French accent, who is just as funny as he is slimy. Maisie Williams has the pretty generic role of "Empowered Female Love Interest", but is at least plenty cute and does serve a purpose. Timothy Spall is always great, as is the hilarious Miriam Margolyes (as "Queen Oofeefa", Nooth's superior). The scene stealer this time around is the Hognob, who gets the most laughs out his physical comedy and reactions to the goofy situations. 

 "Early Man" doesn't have the memorable characters or clever story that Aardman films usually have, but it still makes for a good time for the families. It's still wholesome, yet with enough of an edge to it that should give adults enough to enjoy with their kids. It's just Aardman giving it their all, but remembering to just have a little fun, and at a brisk hour and a half, it's something nice to take your kids to on a weekday afternoon. Also you can explain to them why British people refer to Soccer as Football. (Again. It honestly makes more sense to me.) Rated PG For Some Quirky Humor And Man Boobs. Jiggly Man Boobs.  

Samson              by James Eagan             ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Taylor? Taylor Lautner? is that you? 

 I have to give "Pure Flix" (Previously responsible for the "God's Not Dead" films, among other poorly made religious movies) a little bit of credit here. They tried their best to make a throwback to old fashioned, biblical epics that were released during the Golden Age of Hollywood. With that said, this so called epic clocking in at a rushed hour and forty minutes, pretty much helps you figure out what the heck is wrong with it. Aside from the outrageous casting. And cheap direction. And, well, all the stuff we're used to seeing from this company. But hey, I'll give you a gold star for trying. 

 "Samson" tells the biblical story of the world's strongest man whose name is in the title, "Samson" (Taylor James), a Hebrew hero, who is in a conflict with his people's oppressors, the Philistines, led by "King Balek" (Billy Zane). Samson's reputation becomes more infamous, bringing the attention of Balek's power hungry son, "Rallah" (Jackson Rathbone). When Samson falls in love with a young woman, "Taren" (Frances Sholto-Douglas), Rallah decides to use this as a chance to achieve higher power, escalating the conflict further. Once tragedy strikes in Samson's love life, Samson calls upon God to give him well, superpowers, and he Hulks out on Rallah's men, showing just what he is capable of. While Samson's brother, "Caleb" (Greg Kriek) wants Samson to lead their people into battle, Rallah wants Samson's God given power to himself, arranging for his seductive lover, "Delilah" (Caitlin Leahy) to do the obvious and find out where Samson's power really comes from. Then after that, you pretty much know where this story goes. Honestly, it's all kinds of messed up. 

 "Samson" does have the right idea down at times, and it's too bad that we don't get many movies like this these days. But a reason for that is mostly because they come across as incredibly cheesy and dated  (If the film was a pure cheesefest), it certainly would of been a lot more fun. The film is mostly dully, quickly running through it's plot points in an attempt to get a relatively short runtime, despite the story spanning several years. For such a dark story, full of violence, sexual content, and despicable acts, it feels odd to see how tame the filmmakers seem to be trying to make it. There are moments of action that certainly feel out of place, considering this is a "Pure Flix" movie, but most of the other content is either cut away quickly or just simply implied. Since this story is all kinds of wrong when you really think about it, it would of been better if they went all the way, instead of copping out. 

 Our lead Taylor James is just plain bland. It's not so much he is horrible here, he just has so little screen presence and leaves hardly any impact. (Not to mention, he's just so...odd looking. I thought he was just CGI for most of the movie.) Caitlin Leahy is plenty lovely actually, and you could say she isn't exactly poorly cast in that regard. There's just no chemistry or tension in their relationship, which happens late in the movie and feels skimmed through. Jackson Rathbone decides to go full blown insane for his role, and I'll admit, it's hard not to enjoy him sneering and grinning throughout. (He left no scene unchewed.) While Rutger Hauer (as "Manoah", Samson's father) and Lindsay Wagner (as "Zealphonis", Samson's mother) do nothing but look out of place. Speaking of looking out of place, Billy Zane looks utterly ridiculous, especially when he's wearing that cheap, dollar store crown. Luckily, that's where the best unintended laughs come from, with his performance showing little to no form of caring or commitment whatsoever. 

 "Samson" is pretty silly, and while the filmmakers do seem to be trying to go for a more epic scale, the film's pacing just drags on you, and you don't feel any of the emotions you're meant to feel. I commend them for how unironic it is and for at least, showing some form of competence this time around. ("Pure Flix" is never known for actually showing any of that.) The film still feels cheap and poorly put together. Most importantly, it's nowhere near as unintentionally hilarious as you want it to be. Unintentionally hilarious is always worth at least an extra half star. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Slaughter, Implied Adult Content, And Eye Stabbings. (Seriously, How Do Make This "Tame"?)

Black Panther                                                         by James Eagan                                        ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for black panther movieImage: Always bet on Black Panther.

 This is a big deal. You should know why it's a big deal. But on the off chance you really don't understand why this movie (Much like last year's "Wonder Woman"), is such a huge deal to a certain demographic of people for numerous reasons. I hope you'll allow me to give my own explanation in what I hope is an understandable way. While we've had African American superhero films before such as "Blade" or....um...We also have "Catwoman". (We didn't want it, but we got it.) But not one quite like this. This is one that actually bases itself in Africa, where it's not portrayed as a...well, "Sh*thole" country (What? I didn't say it.), and the people are shown to be smart and dignified. The film embraces it's nearly all black cast, which has been a bit of an issue with mainstream releases. It changes the game and opens the door for more diverse filmmaking in the future. Plus, it's really, really, really, really, really freakin' awesome! 

 "Black Panther" opens after the events of "Captain America: Civil War", with "T'Challa" (Chadwick Boseman), who is also the African superhero/warrior known as "The Black Panther", having to ascend to the throne after the death of his father, "T'Chaka" (John Kani). T'Challa is now king of the secret African nation of Wakanda, which is the most technologically advanced country in the world due to the large amount of the world's strongest metal, Vibrainium (Which, for you guys who don't remember, is the same stuff that makes up Captain America's shield and was previously part of the mad robot Ultron's evil scheme previously) T'Challa is desperately trying to keep the peace in his country, which has been isolated from the rest of the world.

 But news arrives of manic, one armed gangster, "Ulysses Klaue" (Andy Serkis) having stolen an old Wakandan Vibrainium artifact, intending to sell it to the highest bidder. So T'Challa with his team made up of his ex "Nakia" (Lupita Nyong'o), head of the all female special forces "Okoye" (Danai Gurira), and his tech genius little sister "Shuri" (Letitia Wright) to track down Klaue and bring him to justice for his crimes. Little do our heroes know though, is that Klaue is just a pawn in a larger plan thought up by bloodthirsty, former U.S. black ops soldier "Erik Stevens" (Michael B. Jordan), also known as "Killmonger", who has a personal vendetta with Wakanda. Killmonger's world changing plot soon comes to fruition as T'Challa is forced to rethink his country's (And his own family's) history, while learning if he can both be a good man and a good king. 

 "Black Panther" is the newest addition to the always expanding, consistently good Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's filled with the usual great action, top notch special effects, solid sense of humor, and heart that you would expect. However there is a bit more to it than you would expect. It's cultural impact, while important, is not the only reason this makes for another excellent addition to the franchise. The film comes across as more mature and set in the real world than most films like it, due to the use of some darker, more poignant themes that are hard to ignore. (But lets just say some people really like to try.) I can't get too into the details because that would ruin the surprises, but Director/Co-Writer Ryan Coogler ("Fruitvale Station" and "Creed") balances the action and superheroics with some powerful social commentary and messages of inclusion, oppression, and morality in a way you're not quite expecting a superhero flick to handle them. 

 The characters in "Black Panther" come across as real people, each with their own time to shine. Chadwick Boseman is one of the best actors out there and he knock it out of the park once again, with charm, likability, and an emotional moral center that makes for a good hero that everyone (Especially those in the Black community) can look up to, much like how people look up to Captain America or Iron Man. Michael B. Jordan is one of the best villains Marvel has given us, being compelling, charismatic, thoroughly menacing, and even sympathetic. Once you discover his motivations and how he ended up where he is, it makes for a complex and memorable villain that (Much like the Joker from "The Dark Knight") sticks with you once the film is over. The always wonderful Lupita Nyong'o is a strong character along with the absolutely badass Danai Gurira and the scene stealing Letitia Wright.

 Everyone has a role to play, from Martin Freeman (as "Everett K. Ross", CIA agent/ally to T'Challa), Daniel Kaluuya (As "W'Kabi", T'Challa's friend who starts to question his leadership), Forrest Whitaker (as "Zuri", T'Challa's mentor, who also hides a dark secret), Angela Bassett (As "Ramonda", T'Challa's widowed mother), and Sterling K. Brown (As an important character that would be considered a spoiler to talk about). We also get some good humor from Winston Duke (as "M'Baku", a rival to T'Challa) and a delightfully bonkers Andy Serkis, who will never get enough credit. It really is a perfect ensemble of actors, who all have great chemistry together, that bring these well written characters to life. Wakanda itself could be considered a character as it's unlike anything you've ever seen before, yet feels like it could actually exist. 

 "Black Panther" is probably the most mature (And times, the most brutal) film Marvel has given us, and is one of those superhero films that even those who aren't exactly fans would even like. With a diverse cast of characters, a smart script that takes on darker and more serious, somewhat political subject matter, but still never loses that Marvel humor and sense of fun. It's one of those movies that you can't stop thinking about once you get home, and only gets better the more you dwell on it. It's also sure to be a hit with people of color, which is a wonderful thing that should alone be praised. But it still makes for a great superhero movie/overall great movie that anyone can enjoy and experience. Yet another instant Marvel classic that shows despite having been going on for 10 years, they can still find ways to keep everything fresh and exciting. The film is an achievement that other movies like it should inspire to be. Did I forget to mention that it has battle Rhinos? That's probably the coolest thing I've seen in a while. 4 stars. Rated PG-13 For A Little More Super Hero Violence Than We're Used To.

The 15:17 to PAris                                                    by James Eagan                                              ★ OUT OF ★★★★  

Image result for 15 17 to paris movieImage: I'm putting my money on the good guys.

 Great! So I need to look like THAT guy again don't I? It's Clint Eastwood. How can I possibly give such a negative review to a film about a real life event, starring the real life heroes who lived it, directed by freakin' Clint Eastwood? How does that even work exactly? I just must be a cynical, crappy person, who doesn't appreciate the story right? I'm just judging the movie as a movie, and as a movie (Along with it being a tribute to actual heroes), it just makes me sad. Very, very sad. 

 I'm going to describe the plot (Or shredded remains of one really) as well as I possibly can. So "The 15:17 to Paris" follows three Americans on a train ride to Paris, "Spencer Stone", "Anthony Sadler", "Alek Skarlatos" (All played by themselves), right at the same time an armed lunatic, "Ayoub El-Khazzani" (Ray Corasani) comes in with the intention of killing as many innocents of possible. But these three heroes (And another guy, who isn't all the important apparently) charge in, risking their lives to take down the terrorist, and save everyone on the train, using their skills to keep everyone calm and save a wounded man. That's all great, inspiring stuff that everyone should agree is heroic and exactly the kind of thing we want to see in a movie......But that's just the last 10 minutes.

 The movie actually follows the lives (The cliff notes version of it) of the real life heroes, from their time growing up in a Christian school, Stone taking center stage with his joining of the military, Skarlatos also joining but not getting to do anything, and Sadler just being along for the ride. Then the three go on a trip to Europe to, um, do things, and stuff happens with them meeting people who don't say much. Um....I can't do this. Nothing happens. There's an occasional flash forward to the train attack (But that stops part way through), but we just see these characters just doing stuff to pad out the already short runtime of 94 minutes....

 "The 15:17 to Paris" is not a movie.. It's an idea, only half thought through, that certainly doesn't feel like it should be seen in theaters, let alone be directed by critically acclaimed actor/director Clint Eastwood. (It just doesn't make sense.) The film seems to be about just that one moment, at least at first it appears to be. But the story is told through flashbacks, with what is meant to be what led up to this point. The problem is that it's mostly just pointless filler. There are large portions of this already short movie, dedicated to the characters just wandering around, and when the film tries to actually tell their story, of their childhood up until this event, it's all so poorly acted, painfully written, and shockingly, horribly edited. 

 The idea behind casting the real life people to play themselves is an interesting concept....on paper. When you see it for real, you can tell they're just not actors and all it does is take you out of the movie. Spencer Stone, who is mostly wooden, gets most (If not almost all) of the screentime to the expense of Alek Skarlatos (Whose line delivery is awkward throughout) and Anthony Sadler (Who probably fares the best out of the three, but gets the least amount of screentime). I have nothing but praise for them as people. They seem like cool guys and are undeniably courageous. It's just uncomfortable, and ruins whatever sense of realism the film was going for. We also get a bizarre cast of supporting actors, with Judy Greer (as "Joyce", Spencer's mother), whose adorableness always overcomes bad dialogue, Jenna Fischer (as "Heidi", Alek's mother), who doesn't get to do or really say anything, along with the strange combination of Tony Hale (as a Gym teacher), Thomas Lennon (as a principal), and "Urkel/Sonic the Hegdehog" himself, Jaleel White (as one of their teachers). On a secondary note, (And, God I hate saying this) the child actors in this film are just some of the worst you'll ever see.

 The biggest problem with "The 15:17 to Paris" lies with Clint Eastwood, whose direction is shockingly unfocused, sloppily put together, and doesn't do the actual story any real justice. Only in the last few minutes, when the actual attack is going down, makes for the film's only shining moment. It's tense, played realistically, and doesn't try to shove it's theatricality in your face. However, its brief and doesn't come till the very end. The buildup to that point almost has nothing to do with it, despite the overly sappy dialogue insisting that everything in their lives led up to it. It's one of those movies that just makes you feel sad once you leave the theater, especially considering the good intentions. Sadly, that doesn't make the movie good. In some ways, it makes it kind of worse. 1 star. Rated PG-13 For Light Action At The End, And Filler, Filler, Along With More Filler. 

Peter Rabbit                                                             by James Eagan                                             ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for peter rabbit movieImage: "Let's multiply!"

 Gulp! Might get a little flak for this one, considering how hated this movie is, even before it's release. (On a side note, it feels like there are a couple movies a year that makes the internet piss themselves with rage over a trailer) I do get it, the classic stories of "Peter Rabbit", created by Beatrix Potter are beloved by people of all ages. I will also admit, despite the fact I really don't remember much about those stories, I highly doubt this resembles it's source material hardly at all. With that said, and please don't start typing your hate letter when I say this, I....liked it......Don't kill me! I'm just as shocked as you are! 

 "Peter Rabbit" opens with lovable troublemaker bunny with a blue coat, "Peter Rabbit" (James Corden), causing trouble for the sadistic old farmer, "Mr. McGregor" (Sam  Neill), along with his triplet sisters, "Cottontail" (Daisy Ridley), "Flopsy" (Margot Robbie), and "Mopsy" (Elizabeth Debicki), and their goofy cousin, "Benjamin Bunny" (Matt Lucas).They continuously break into McGregor's garden to steal vegetables and just mock the old fart (Mostly out of vengeance for McGregor baking their father into a pie years prior), while hanging out with McGregor's animal lover neighbor, "Bea" (Rose Byrne). Their feud with McGregor comes to an end when he has a hilarious, bad eating habit induced heart attack and dies, resulting in the animals getting free reign of his now empty home. 

 Meanwhile, McGregor's estranged nephew, "Thomas" (Domhnall Gleeson), who gets fired from his toy store job for being a slightly unhinged control freak, ends up inheriting the deceased McGregor's estate. Planning to sell the house, Thomas arrives to find Peter and his friends trashing the place. Thus begins a new feud between Peter and Thomas, which escalates further when sparks surprisingly start to fly between Thomas and Bea. To quote another famous rabbit, "Of course you realize, this means war."

 "Peter Rabbit" is one of those movies that I can certainly tell won't sit right with people. It barely resembles it's source material, with a more modern sense of humor. What you really need to understand is that the movie is a live action Looney Tunes cartoon, and if you're okay with that, it's hard not to have a good amount of fun with this. The film is surprisingly quite funny, with some well timed slapstick, and even some better than you would expect special effects. From Sony Pictures Animation (Previously responsible for the "Smurfs" movies and of course, "The Emoji Movie"), the animation on the furry characters blends seamlessly into the live action setting, without coming across as creepy, or distracting. 

 James Corden is not a bad choice for the role, and does a solid job, even if his character can come across as a bit too mean at times. Luckily, the movie itself seems to know this and addresses it, using it to have his character grow by the end. There are some good laughs with Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, and Elizabeth Debicki, who all get their time to shine, along with Matt Lucas. It's pretty shocking how all these characters actually have a role to play in the movie. Our live action actors are also good, with the adorably charming Rose Byrne, and the absolutely terrific Domhnall Gleeson, who just steals the entire movie. He commits to every absurd action and is clearly loving every second of it. Yet somehow, he does feel like an actual person (A bit of a crazy one, but still.) and has great chemistry with Byrne. (The romance here even feels more realistic than "Fifty Shades Freed", and this is supposed to be the more cartoonish movie) Sia (as the voice of "Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle", a sightly senile old hedgehog) gets a few laughs, and Sam Neill appears briefly for about five minutes, but still gets to do more than he's been able to do in any other recent movie I've seen him in. 

 "Peter Rabbit" isn't without it's obvious flaws, such as a predictable story, a few kiddie movie clichés (Such as a few too many song cues and the occasional cheap joke). And while there is a good heart and message to it all (Of eventually putting aside difference for ones you love, and bettering yourself), it doesn't quite have the impact of more superior family fair. (Its not "Coco" or "Paddington 2") Regardless, the film is still a lot of wacky fun, with a few more big laughs than you would expect. It works as a solid kids movie, and really, it works as a solid comedy. It may not be the Peter Rabbit you know and love, but it doesn't overstay it's welcome. Bugs Bunny never made any sense either. 3 stars. Rated PG For Cartoonish Violence And Rabbit Nudity.  

Fifty Shades Freed                                                 by James Eagan                                                 ½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for fifty shades freedImage: "Annulment!" 

 Alright lets just get these out of the way now. Ahem, this movie can't get it up. It's limp and flaccid, with an unsatisfying climax that doesn't come soon enough, making for an experience shameful for both parties. We're those puns good for you? And, I'm spent.

 "Fifty Shades Freed" continues the captivating "Fifty Shades" saga, bringing it to it's conclusion with shy girl, "Anastasia Steele" (Dakota Johnson) finally marrying the creepy, stalker, rich buff boyfriend, "Christian Grey" (Jamie Dornan). Anastasia starts her new life, as an annoying, wealthy person with too much money and privilege, getting to give orders to servants, taking expensive trips, and engaging in constant intercourse with Christian when he isn't busy with his uh, business stuff. (Wait, I forgot again. What does he do actually? And does he actually do it?)

 But all is not perfect in paradise, mostly due to the overabundance of subplots and bad situations that are supposed to represent conflict, which come in the form of Anastasia's former sleazy boss/future supervillain, "Jack Hyde" (Eric Johnson) who has a nefarious scheme to destroy Christian, along with Anastasia having to deal with Christian's dominating and controlling nature that just won't go away no matter how hard she tries. There's also something about Christian's brother "Elliot" (Luke Grimes) possibly cheating on Anastasia's best friend, "Katherine" (Eloise Mumford) with an ample bosomed architect (Arielle Kebbel), a kidnapping and hostage situation, and the reveal that Anastasia is pregnant, which Christian doesn't take well because he doesn't want kids. (Should of talked that over before you got married. Like real people who weren't always really, really horny would do.) Stuff happens, people bump uglies to terrible music, and this film critic gives up on trying to understand why this series is a thing, simply accepting that some people just like terrible, unpleasant movies.

 I'll give it this, the "Fifty Shades" franchise is one of the more consistent film series, considering they never got any worse. They just remained poorly executed, boringly and sloppily put together trash, that never even bothered to try to get any better. It's almost not even worth talking about by this point, but being a responsible and committed film critic, who has watched this series from start to finish, I got a job to do. "Fifty Shades Freed" when you think about it, is almost pointless, where we just go through the same plot points that we've gone through before, once again showing the idea that this woman can change this clearly unhinged, possessive, damn near abusive man is not something that usually works. It just makes you think that he should of just done it on his own in the first place. You shouldn't have to do all the work yourself. Weird how some people find this empowering to women, considering that there are a suspicious amount of similarities to recent events, which just make you feel uneasy and uncomfortable. (Rich man, having his way with a woman, and involving a lot of kinky stuff. Anyone else feel queasy?)

 The only thing this entry has over the previous ones, is that stuff actually happens in this movie. However, there are so many things going on at once, it doesn't feel like much was accomplished. The plot just wanders around, going through various plot points and solves them either in a matter of minutes (Or sometimes offscreen.) "Fifty Shades Freed" continues the series trend of painful dialogue, predictable screenwriting, and constant filler to make up that surprisingly short runtime. (Even at 105 minutes, the film still feels frustrating long.) There may be more sex scenes this time around, but they are constant and directly in your face, (Along with an obnoxious soundtrack), stopping the movie dead. It doesn't help that none of these scenes are memorable, particularly sexy, or worth the overpriced ticket. (I may get in for free, but I still feel like I paid too much.) The movie even makes a few attempts at action, which come across as pathetic and just plain sad. (The green screen car chase is going to be mocked for years to come.) 

 The only saving grace is Dakota Johnson herself. The film tries once again to make sure she doesn't give a good performance, but she powers through it and shows actual emotion, unlike Jamie Dornan, who is as unlikable than ever. They have zero chemistry with each other, whether it be romantically, sexually, or even just as human beings. (Honestly, they look like they hate each other's guts, which I thought was supposed to happen after YEARS of marriage, not right after.) Eric Johnson does get to ham it up and be as crazily slimy as he wants, but even that just feels secondary and really stays in the background for the most part. The rest of the cast of inconsequential actors playing inconsequential characters are forgettable, and Kim Basinger (as the woman who seduced an underaged Christian years before, and is responsible for what he became) appears in a minor plotline that happens offscreen. Meaning she actually isn't even in the movie. (Good on ya' Kim. You don't need this crap.)

 A few nice shots don't warrant the IMAX screening I went to, just making everything look more fake and shallow than it already is. "Fifty Shades Freed" confuses obsession for love, obedience for empowerment, and resolves most of it's plot in the last 10 minutes with exposition explaining everything away as quickly as possible. Nothing more to say except to make one final statement, especially when the film ends with Anastasia giving an explanation as to why Christian Grey is a good person, because he's caring and treats people well. I would like to remind everyone that he broke a woman in the last movie (Mentally and maybe a little physically). Someone capable of that just doesn't change because you love him bad enough, especially when he has revenge sex with you because you disobeyed him. If that's considered normal, I guess I just don't know what love is apparently. If you ask me this movie is a butt plug, because it contains nothing but sh*t. 1/2 star. Rated R For Repetitive Sexual Content, Sex Puns Galore, And Very Confusing Mixed Messages. 

The Cloverfield Paradox                               by James Eagan                                                ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for the cloverfield paradoxImage: "Whoah! That Super Bowl commercial says we're available on Netflix right now!"

 You gotta give these "Cloverfield" movies one thing, and it's that they have the most unique, clever, and at times, just plain strange marketing team ever assembled. Despite the release date being pushed around constantly, along with a couple title changes, the newest entry into the J.J. Abrams produced Science Fiction Anthology series had it's first teaser released as a Super Bowl TV spot, followed by an actual release just hours later. That's....That's just something I never would of thought of. Now if only it couldn't of disappointed all those fans who were so excited about it, despite not knowing it even existed. How can you be so disappointed by something you didn't know even existed until two days ago?

 "The Cloverfield Paradox" takes place in the near-ish future, where Earth is going through an energy crisis. So a plan is made to send a crew into space aboard the "Cloverfield Station" to test a particle accelerator, which should in theory give Earth the infinite power source it desperately needs, despite conspiracy theorists, (Which includes a Donal Logue cameo), warns that this could create "The Cloverfield Paradox" and all kinds of crazy ass stuff will happen. Two years later, the crew, which includes "Ava Hamilton" (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the captain "Kiel" (David Oyelowo), "Schmidt" (Daniel Brühl), "Monk" (John Ortiz), "Mundy" (Chris O'Dowd), "Volkov" (Aksel Hennie), and "Tam" (Zhang Ziyi), has been unsuccessful in their mission. They decide to give it one more go, activating the particle accelerator, and this time, it seemingly works.

 However to their surprise, Earth has apparently vanished. Things get stranger when the crew discovers a woman named "Mina" (Elizabeth Debicki) lodged within the station's walls, claiming to be a member of the crew, along with other off circumstances that leads to limbs getting cut off and coming to life, worms exploding out of stomachs, and the body count rising quickly as the crew tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Meanwhile back on Earth, Ava's husband, "Michael" (Roger Davies), has his own little adventure, due to the arrival of a possibly familiar looking giant monster.  

 "The Cloverfield Paradox" follows the same vagueness in terms of it's marketing, much like 2008's found footage monster movie, "Cloverfield" and 2016's critically acclaimed psychological thriller, "10 Cloverfield Lane". The movie's unexpected release is undeniably cool. You can however see why the film appeared to have so much production trouble, mostly because it's just kind of all over the place. Not bad per se (I honestly think that really low Rotten Tomatoes score is unfair), but there are decisions in the movie that only overly complicate and leave more questions than answers. While the other films have been known for creating more theories than actually revealing what they mean, this one unnecessarily adds in a few subplots and doesn't really follow through with some of the ideas it presents. 

 One of the film's saving graces isn't the characters themselves, because most of them aren't as developed as they are clearly meant to be, it's the great collection of actors, who are all giving it their very best. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is actually terrific here, giving a touching and passionate performance, along with some good work from the supporting cast of Elizabeth Debicki (Whose character arc doesn't make much sense, but she sells where it goes with her presence alone), Daniel Brühl, Chris O'Dowd (Who gets a few funny lines here and there that don't feel out of place), along with the rest do give more than what was probably expected and definitely make up for the incredibly weak, and occasionally silly script. The secondary plot with Roger Davies, trying to survive the destruction caused by the monster from the first film has little to do with anything, and just feels like it's been crammed in unnecessarily.

 It's sad because "10 Cloverfield Lane" didn't have the need to tie it in so obviously, simply doing it with a possible nod at the very end. "The Cloverfield Paradox" tries way too hard, cramming so much story and various ideas into a pretty short runtime, to the point when characters act a certain way, you're left wondering how we got to this position in the first place. The film certainly looks good, and in fact it looks too good to be something you can only watch on Netflix. There are some cool visuals and beautiful cinematography that would of worked very well on the big screen (or even an IMAX screen). The film isn't without it's suspenseful moments, and the film's end would of been more effective if not for the pointless subplot on Earth. (Really, that's where the film should of been more vague)

 "The Cloverfield Paradox" is a bit of a mess, but it's not something I would tell someone not to see. It follows basic Sci-Fi Horror tropes, while trying to add in some complicated messages and tie itself into the rest of the "Cloverfield" franchise. Even if it is a little shoehorned in. I think the smart people may have just outsmarted themselves. 2 1/2 stars. Rated TV-MA (Which Is Basically Rated R) For Gorey Violence and Science Mumbo Jumbo.

Winchester                                                              by James Eagan                                           ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for winchester movieImage: There's nothing like a Dame Helen Mirren.

 Guys, I got nothing here for this one. Like you, I'm just biding time until "Black Panther:" comes out. Anything else till then feels just so inconsequential. Not to mention, there's nothing else really out right now worth mentioning,so lets just jump right into the "Scary" Helen Mirren.movie. What? They can't all be classics. 

 Inspired by sort of actual events, "Winchester" tells the story of the "Winchester Mystery House", owned by "Sarah Winchester" (Helen Mirren), the widow of the famous gun manufacturer. Since the death of her husband and baby, Sarah has claimed to be seeing ghosts, and keeps the house under constant construction, adding and removing rooms often. The company fears she might be insane (And you know, it wouldn't hurt if someone could legally prove it), so they call in a washed up (And drugged up), alcoholic doctor, "Eric Price" (Jason Clarke) to make the assessment. Price is invited to stay at the Wincester house, soon discovering nothing is as it first appears, with strange noises being heard, the son of Sarah's widowed niece, "Marian" (Sarah Snook) is acting weird, and the fact that scary faces keep popping out of nowhere and going "Boo!". Price now finds himself involved in a mysterious, uh, mystery, learning about Sarah's grief, and the deadly, vengeful spirits who plot to destroy her and her family. 

 Directed by the Spierig Brothers (Who gave us "Jigsaw" last year), "Winchester" does in fact have an interesting story to tell, with the truth behind it, mixed in with fiction, making for a cool sounding and even tragic ghost story. The set design, and the house itself, are eerie and do have a sense of atmosphere to it. The film just ends up going for the simplest of stories, with the laziest of scares (All of them jumpy), and some cheesy dialogue that only makes everything feel silly. We do get a few twists and turns, but they all in the end lead to a pretty predictable conclusion.

 Everyone involved is giving it their all, and nobody really gives a bad performance. Helen Mirren, (Who can pretty much sell any material), is dignified and finds a way to give an emotionally powerful performance, even with the clunky exposition she is forced to deliver. You still can't help but be invested in her character and her backstory, which is undeniably sad. Jason Clarke is also giving it his best, with a little humor and humanity, giving you reason to root for his redemption. While the supporting characters are bland, there are times you get a clever look to one of the few ghosts that appear throughout, but most of them are just here to make a scary face, followed by a loud noise. (Or sometimes its just a fake out. This movie loves their fake outs.)

 "Winchester" isn't without it's moments and has an interesting story behind it that could make for a spooky film. Sadly, not only does it not leave much of an impression, it doesn't leave me with much to really write about. All I can say is rent it if you want, but there isn't much reason to see it in theaters. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to prepare my body and mind for "Fifty Shades Freed" next week. Odds are that it will leave more of an impact than this movie. Granted, it will be on my psyche, but at least there will be plenty to talk about. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Scary Faces and Loud Music. 

Maze Runner: The Death Cure                  by James Eagan                                             ★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: "I thought we already finished this maze".

 I'm gonna' level with you guys. I had a little trouble following this one, simply because I couldn't for the life of me remember what happened in the previous movies. Not so much that they were so forgettable or anything like that. I remember some cool ideas, some silly bad organization, the really pretty girls, and Aidan Gillan stealing the show with his smarm. I just couldn't remember where we left off. Not so much the fault of the movies, because this one was pushed back too long due to the fact it nearly killed poor Dylan O'Brien. I just got too used to these moves coming out every year instead of every year, then waiting three years before just jumping right back into it. An opening crawl would of be nice at least.  So, maybe I did remember enough of it.

 "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" begins where I assume the last one left off. In a post apocalyptic world, where a deadly virus has infected and destroyed civilization, only a select few immune, known as "The Gladers" stand in the way of the obviously evil organization, "WCKD". The leader of the resistance, "Thomas" (Dylan O'Brien) works with his friends "Newt" (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), "Frypan" (Dexter Darden), "Brenda" (Rosa Salazr), and her daddy, "Jorge" (Giancarlo Esposito), and have set out on a mission to save their captured buddy, "Minho" (Ki Hong Lee) from WCKD's er, wicked clutches. Having finally located WCKD's base of operations, within a giant sealed off city, Thomas and his friends seek the aid of another rebellious group, led by the deformed "Lawrence" (Walton Goggins) to sneak into WCKD's lab to save their friend.

 Meanwhile, WCKD's leader, "Ava Paige" (Patricia Clarkson) and her scumbag second in command, "Janson" (Aidan Gillen) continue their morally dubious experiments on children to find a cure to the weird zombie virus by any means necessary, with Thomas' former pretty love interest turned pretty traitor, "Teresa" (Kaya Scodelario) serving as one of their scientists. Thomas and his friends sneak into the city, targeting Teresa and hope to use her as a way to sneak into WCKD's lab and shut them down for good. (And because, well, Thomas still has a thing for her. Wouldn't you?) This all culminates in an epic final battle that thankfully, unlike other YA novel adaptations, doesn't split the last part into two separate movies. 

 Aside from having trouble getting back up to date on the franchise, "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is pretty much more of the same. Not that it's bad by any means. In fact, much like the previous entries (2014's "The Maze Runner" and 2015's "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials"), the film is just a bit better made with some occasional moments that come across as clever or deep. Still, it can't help but steer itself into stupid territory, that many movies like it always seem to intentionally jump right into. There are a few too many characters, most of which are left in the background, with a few supposed emotional moments not working as well as they should. (Although admittedly, some of that might of been because I couldn't remember much about the first two.)

 We do get a very competent cast, who give it their all and elevate the material. Credit to Dylan O'Brien, who makes for a good hero to root for, and does well in the emotional scenes, along with Kaya Scodelario, who is the most complex character and is the most compelling. Patricia Clarkson once again gives a better performance than you'd expect from a movie like this, and Aidan Gillen still has this slimy charm to him, making for a entertainingly despicable villain. Giancarlo Esposito returns for some comic relief and Walton Goggins pops up to be weird, (Which is never a bad thing if you ask me). The rest of the cast is fine, but none of their characters really stand out. Also, Will Poulter (as "Gally", the guy who went crazy in the first movie) returns with little explanation whatsoever. (I recall him being kind of dead last time.)

 "Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is fairly predictable, borrowing (Or stealing) from other movies, and it isn't without it's dumb moments. With how some bits that need explaining being glossed over, the goofyiness of the villains' motivations not mixing well with their name (WCKD? And you think you're the good guys? Was that the best you could do?), and possibly the worst example of henchmen marksmanship you will ever see. With all that said, there are some undeniably cool moments, a few solid twists and turns towards the end, and every once in a while, the message behind what your own humanity is worth when trying to save others is delivered in a way that's original and gripping.

 Generic as hell, but "Maze Runner 3" will certainly please it's fanbase and thankfully doesn't outstay it's welcome. It's nearly two and a half hours, yet third time returning director Wes Ball paces the film well enough to where you don't notice. I will also give credit to the rather dark, somewhat ambiguous ending that is at least something different from what you would see in a conventional film like this. Although I might just be going a little easy on it because of my lack of remembrance for the last two. But really, who cares though? It's "Maze Runner". It's a dumb, but fun popcorn movie and I'll certainly take it over "Divergent" and "Twilight" any day. I remember them even less. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Scary Moments And A Surprising Amount Of Violence. (Gets away with a bit more than you would expect from a PG-13).  

12 Strong                                                                      by James Eagan                                         ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Admit it, we all want to see ourselves this way. 

 A patriotic true events film, based on underdog American soldiers responding to the 9/11 attacks in a fairly secret mission to band together with Islamic allies, that was so secret that most people didn't even know the incredible story behind it. Including myself. Please don't let this suck. Please!

 "!2 Strong" tells the true story of how after the September 11th attacks, a special task force, known as Task Force Dagger, is deployed to Afghanistan for an important mission. A task force of 12, made up of a mix of CIA and Green Berets, includes "Captain Mitch Nelson" (Chris Hemsworth), "Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer" (Michael Shannon), "Sergeant First Class Sam Diller" (Michael Peña), "Sergeant First Class Ben Milo" (Trevante Rhodes), and well, um, the rest....(Okay, the others don't get much screentime.) The team are under orders to join forces with "General Abdul Rashid Dostum" (Navid Negahban) of the Northern Alliance to combat the Taliban forces with bombings, despite the alliance between them beings uneasy to say the least. With horseback as the only way to travel the harsh, mountainous environment, everyone must work together to complete the mission before their deadline or before the Taliban, who is armed to the teeth, is able to wipe them all out. 

 If you're looking for a complex war film, with deep character development, "12 Strong" isn't exactly that. But the film has good intentions and enough general competence from the filmmakers are enough to recommend it. It's a beautifully shot film, with some stunning action scenes that just burst off the screen, in part thanks to the excellent sound design that makes you literally feel the gunfire and explosions. (The IMAX screening I saw it in probably helped too.)

 The lack of detail put into the characters is distracting, but the actors are all giving their best and come across as genuine. With Chris Hemsworth making for a charismatic lead and Michael Shannon calming down and actually giving a very strong and human performance. (Not that crazy Michael Shannon isn't fun and all, but this isn't the movie for that.) Navid Negahban is excellent, with his character given the most profundity, and he delivers the most powerful moments. We also get solid work out of Michael Peña, William Fichtner (as "Colonel John Mulholland", one of Nelson's superiors), and even Rob Riggle (as "Lieutenant Colonel Max Bowers", another one of Nelson's superiors). On the downside, we get some pretty generic bad guys, especially from out big bad (Played by Numan Acar), who just sneers and does bad things while giving menacing glares. 

 "12 Strong" is a pretty basic war drama, with not a lot of depth given to supporting characters, and to a certain degree the story itself is told in a simplistic manner. But to give the film and Director Nicolai Fuglsig (In his directorial debut) credit, there is still this heart to movie that regardless should be able to inspire the audience. It's still a good and well told story that deserves some recognition. A touching tribute to real life heroes whose story wasn't as well known as it should of been. 3 stars. Rated R For Brutal War Violence.

Forever My Girl                                                     by James Eagan                                             ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: Aww, isn't that swee.......I mean, ador.......Isn't it nauseating?

 Sometimes your audience can perfectly identify the basic mood of your theater going experience. In a slightly busier than expected showing, full of women mostly probably shown up for a girls night out, I was once again seemingly the only guy in the theater. It's awkward, weird, and just plain looks wrong. Luckily, another girl and her boyfriend arrived just before the movie started. Cue the boyfriend standing still for a brief moment and letting out the loudest, longest, and most exasperated sigh you'll ever hear before going to find his seat, with a defeated look on his face. Sums it all up nicely don't you think? 

  "Forever My Girl" opens with Southern lovebirds, "Liam Paige" (Alex Roe) and "Josie" (Jessica Rothe) about to get married. Too bad Liam decides to be a jackass and runs off to become another generic country singer. Cut to 8 years later when the one black guy in town dies, Liam returns to his home for his funeral, taking a break from his big tour. Josie understandably isn't too happy to see Liam, and in fact, nobody in town really is, including Liam's estranged pastor father, "Brian" (John Benjamin Hickey). However, Liam soon realizes that Josie was also pregnant when he abandoned her before, meeting her (And well, his) daughter, "Billy" (Abby Ryder Fortson). Liam decides to stick around in hopes of getting to know Billy, reconciling with Josie, and reconnecting with his Southern, good old fashioned, all American roots.  

 Comparing "Forever My Girl" to the yearly Nicholas Sparks adaptions (Though they have basically vanished in the recent years) like most critics have been doing doesn't seem particularly fair. I've seen the worst those films have to offer and this one is nowhere on par with how bad they can get. With that said, much like those films, there is this lack of understanding of how people work and react in terms of reality. The sappy dialogue doesn't mesh well with the attempts to be cute and funny, mostly because of how heavy the emotional drama would be realistically. The way the film explains why Liam did what he did is so basic and simplistic, and the way the film treats other dramatic moments (Most of which happen off-screen) just feel odd and sloppy. It doesn't help that Liam is not a very likable character in the slightest, and since we are forced to focus on him more than anyone in the film, it ruins the actual romance, which weirdly feels secondary. 

  Alex Roe can't seem to keep his accent in check, and doesn't have the charisma to carry the film, especially considering how much of a dick he comes across as. (Also, is it wrong to say I don't trust his face? Not sure what it is, but I just don't....Look, I don't like his face.) Jessica Rothe (Who easily carried last year's underatted "Happy Death Day") is plenty cute and shows a great deal amount of personality. But their relationship is just off, mostly due to how poorly the film handles their story, resulting in me not buying the relationship's obvious outcome in the slightest. Abby Ryder Fortson gets some overly precious dialogue, but makes up for it with the fact that she's an undeniably talented little actress. (Although, is her character a bit too overly gifted? Sounds like it would be the plot of a separate movie) Probably the best performance comes from John Benjamin Hickey, who does sell his heartfelt moments, even if most of his story happens off-screen like many arcs in the film. The unlucky ones are seemingly abandoned, such as the dead friend's grieving widow. (Eh, She was unimportant anyway I guess.)

 Directed by Bethany Ashton Wolf, "Forever My Girl" is too safe, blandly boring, and choppily cobbled together (And boy, I have heard enough country music to last me a lifetime), but on the bright side, it never reaches that offensiveness that I'm used to compared to other early in the year romances. It certainly overstays it's welcome quickly, and the film's more overly dramatic moments do get more laughs than the actual moments of humor. (Hot Dogs are the biggest conflict the movie has to offer) However, if your girlfriend decides to drag you to it.....well, actually, you'll still be pretty miserable  But you could still be more miserable elsewhere. Maybe she wants to see "Paddington 2" or "Star Wars" instead. If she does, I suggest you marry that girl immediately. 1 1/2 stars. Rated PG For Adult Content, Killer Hot Dogs, And Alex Roe's Inability To Keep His Shirt On. 

Den of Thieves                                                         by James Eagan                                            ★★ OUT OF ★★★★   

Related imageImage: Gerard Butler's beard has his own agent and trailer.

 You know, for a January film season, this hasn't been all that bad. (With the exception of "Paddington 2", that was great. You guys should have gone to see it.) But there is at least more of a sense of effort put into the few movies I've seen this month already. And when the worst thing you can say about your movies are that it's just sort of forgettable, that's at least better than....well, "Fifty Shades of Black", "Mortdecai", or "Norm of the North". It's the small victories in life that count.

 "Den of Thieves" starts Las Angeles with a truck robbery resulting in the deaths of a couple cops. This brings in corrupt L.A.P.D. cop, "Nick O'Brien" (Gerard Butler) aka "Big Nick" (Because he's uh, big), who knows that this is the work of a elite gang of criminals, led by "Ray Merrimen" (Pablo Schreiber), who has been pulling off the most successful bank robbery heists in the state for years. Nick's crew manages to capture the gang's newest member, "Donnie" (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), with the intention of getting him to give Nick's crew information on what Merrimen's gang's next big heist is. Donnie can only provide so much (Mostly because he knows so little as it is), and he is forced to work for Nick in exchange for leniency. As the day of the heist draws near, Merrimen finally reveals that this last big heist is going to be their greatest and most difficult yet, planning to rob the Federal Reserve Bank, which is said to be impossible. 

 I may have a bit of a difficult time explaining the plot to "Den of Thieves", mostly because the more I think about it, it's actually a pretty simple yet overly complicated at the same time (Does that make sense?) It's the kind of story you've seen before, but despite some failings particularly when it's all meant to come together towards the end, there is this sense of suspense to the film that does keep your attention for the most part. First time Director Christian Gudegast knows how to build some tension, but can't seem to find the right sense of pacing and doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the word running time. (It clocks in at 140 minutes for no apparent reason).

 One of the film's strongest aspects is Gerard Butler, giving the best performance I've seen from him for some time. He plays up the scumbag aspect with charismatic sliminess and dominates the screen, devouring the scenery every chance he gets. He easily steals the film from Pablo Schreiber, who is much more boring by comparison. O'Shea Jackson Jr. does a solid job in the movie, with a few moments to shine, even with a weird moment at the very end. While Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson (as "Levi", one of Merrimen's gang members) is here as well, that's really it, in terms of developed characters. Most of them are left in the background, leaving their family lives as afterthoughts, especially with a subplot involving Nick's wife, "Debbie" ( Dawn Oliveri), who is divorcing him for obvious reasons. 

 "Den of Thieves" has some cool technical aspects, with some excellent utilization of sound (Especially during the shootouts), and Gerard Butler's enjoyably sleazy performance elevates it further. But the film drags along, with an overly drawn out length, and a final twist that feels somewhat clever, but just makes you question the necessity of certain scenes and plot points. It's got it's moments, but it feels like a more forgettable version of a cop/robber thriller you've likely seen before. Just a really, really long version of it. 2 stars. Rated R For Very Strong Language, Brutal Violence, And Pure Gerard Butler Sleaze. 

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

Related imageImage: "I'm getting too old for this sh*t."

 I know this is pretty late. I'm playing catch up due to the weather seemingly going out of it' way to destroy us all. I witnessed the weather change and the temperature drop right before my eyes. It was kind of amazing, but I decided to weigh the risks and decided against braving the elements. I  know Liam Neeson would handle it like a man and physically fight the freezing cold personally. You know that movie is gonna get made. 

 "The Commuter" follows "Michael MacCauley" (Liam Neeson), a former Cop living through the same routine day by day, just trying to get by, and provide for his wife, "Karen" (Elizabeth McGovern) and son, "Danny" (Dean-Charles Chapman). Michael ends up getting fired from his job as an insurance salesman simply for being old, and he dreads telling his family. While on the way home during his daily train ride home, he meets a mysterious woman, "Joanna" (Vera Farmiga), who gives Michael a supposed hypothetical question about what he would do if offered money to point out a random person.

 Turns out the question isn't hypothetical as Joanna explains that he has a certain amount of time to locate a person using the alias "Prynne", and point them out to her "People". Michael decides to take the money and at first go along with it, but as he progresses in his search, he begins to realize that this is bigger than he could possibly imagine. Michael's family is targeted, people start dying, and Michael is seemingly being set up to take the fall. Michael is left to find Prynne and uncover the bizarre conspiracy before something even more terrible happens.  

 "The Commuter" is exactly what you would expect it to find in a preposterous action film. However, it does at least have competent people behind and in front of the camera to carry it, and does what it sets out to do, which is make for an entertaining, briskly paced thriller. The premise is certainly interesting, and the setup is surprisingly solid, showing our main character's family life before the plot finally happens to develop his character and further the theme of what kind of you could be if put in a deadly situation. It's clever, but nonetheless stupid, especially once we finally learn what exactly is going on. The villains' scheme feels way too overly convoluted for no apparent reason other than to make it overly convoluted, making less and less sense as it goes. 

 Liam Neeson thankfully doesn't sleepwalk even through the silliest of movies. He still gives it his all, with his charisma alone making you invested in what's happening. And to his credit, he doesn't fight his way through some baddies without taking a few good punches. (Aside from CGI Neeson jumping onto CGI train. That was....bad.) Vera Farmiga only appears briefly, but her presence throughout, (With a cute, innocent look and sound to her that makes her particularly villainous). Patrick Wilson (as "Mruphy", Michael's cop buddy) shows up to do the obvious, but doesn't do a bad job at it either, while Sam Neill (as "Captain Hawthorne", Murphy's superior) unfortunately just kind of shows up to do nothing. 

 "The Commuter" is ridiculous, with some goofy twists and turns, but at least retains some moments of humor and humanity to keep your attention. The film embraces what it is, with even the most outlandish of action scenes remaining enjoyable. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Who previously directed "The Shallows" and "Non-Stop", which is eerily similar to this movie in plotting) is good at what he does, keeping the pace moving, making for a quick sit. It's dumb, but an action flick that doesn't take too much of your time, and least the most of it's January dumping ground release. Other than some really awesome people with January birthdays, let's just get this month over with. 2 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Violence, Flying Trains, And Liam Neeson's Epic F-Bomb. 

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

Image result for the post movieImage: "I'll show you my Oscar if you show me yours."

 This one is kind of an easy call. When it comes to the relationship between journalists and news outlets to politicians, particularly the President. I'm not gonna say that they always get it right. They might have personal bias, or maybe even sometimes they might enjoy their humiliating of certain people a little too much. But regardless in the end, they are not meant to be the President's friend. When the most powerful person in the world does or says something abysmal, untrue, or both at the same time (Usually something about "Sh*thole" countries), it should be reported on and should be taken seriously, regardless if the President likes it or not. This wouldn't be the first time, and it won't be the last. Just maybe the most obvious. 

 Based on a true Story, "The Post" follows the events leading up to the publishing of "The Pentagon Papers", which contained classified documents that revealed the United States government's involvement in the Vietnam War, spanning over the course of four separate presidencies. At first the "New York Times" is the one publishing the documents, with "The Washington Post" desperately trying to catch up. But President Richard Nixon isn't going to have any of this "Fake News" and shuts the story down, making it impossible for the New York Times from publishing anymore documents. This leads to the first female publisher of the Washington Post "Kay Graham", and her editor, "Ben Bradlee" (Tom Hanks) finding a way to get the papers themselves, sparking a debate of if the papers should be published or not, due to the illegal implications. This starts an even more important battle between journalism and the US government as a whole. 

 From one of our greatest directors, Steven Spielberg, "The Post" is an important story, with some themes that are more than relevant today and odds are, will continue to be relevant for years to come. It's well told, going through the various details of how a story like this gets published, along the impact it inevitably will have on the public readers. The script is smartly written (Also by one of the co-writers of 2015's even better "Spotlight") and told with confidence that it's audience will understand it, while incorporating a little humor, defined characters, and taking time to at least address the complications of releasing such a story. Where the film only falters is that there is so much to be told, and with the decision to go for a more fast paced crowdpleaser, some things are left out or feel a little bit rushed, such as the initial curt proceedings which are merely skimmed through. 

 Where the film truly shines is when our awesome ensemble of actors are in the limelight. Meryl Streep is probably going to get her next Oscar nomination (32nd...33rd?). She gives a very strong, emotionally charged performance that does remind us why she is such a highly respected actress and really why she just keeps getting these nominations. Tom Hanks (Who just seems to constantly get snubbed recently), has been so great in almost everything he's been in as of late, and gives another Oscar caliber performance. (Quit taking him for granted Academy Voters!)

 The rest of the cast includes great supporting work and appearances from Sarah Paulson (as "Antoinette", Bradlee's wife), Bob Odenkirk (as "Ben Bagdikian", who is the journalist who eventually gets "The Pentagon Papers"), Alison Brie (as "Lally", Kay Graham's daughter), Bruce Greenwood (as "Robert McNamara", the Secretary of Defense), and many others who all deserve praise. (But I only have so much space to type on here, so I'll leave them as a surprise.) Also, props to the filmmakers to using actual Richard Nixon recordings to show his apparent reactions to what happens. (His words and phrasing sound like a certain other President that we won't discuss right now.)

 "The Post" is an excellent last second 2017 film, coming out just in time for Awards season. It's no "Spotlight", as it doesn't quite match up to that film's standards, intentionally leaving out details mostly due to time, but the film is nonetheless powerful and a true crowdpleaser to boot. Spielberg, Streep and Hanks could make "Fifty Shades of Grey"  and make it Oscar worthy.  3 1/2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Content And Fake News. 

Proud Mary                                                               by James Eagan                                            ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Proud Taraji keep on burnin'.

 This right here. This is what I expect to come out in January. Not so much that the film is terrible by any means, but January movies are just so....off. When the people involved hear that their film is going to be released in January, they know that it's conformation that the work of art they just finished is probably destined for box office failure and a 20% on "Rotten Tomatoes". So "Proud Mary" is pretty much a perfect January movie.

 "Proud Mary" follows "Mary" (Taraji P. Henson), a well known hitwoman for a Boston crime family, led by the man who took her in "Benny" (Danny Glover). Mary has been a part of the family for years, eventually leading to a fateful day where she kills the deadbeat father of a young boy, "Danny" (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). Feeling guilty, she follows Danny for a year, seeing that he has begun working for a slimy rival mobster, "Uncle" (Xander Berkeley). Mary befriends Danny, and after seeing how much Uncle abuses him, she ends up putting a bullet in Uncle, resulting in the Russian mob growing paranoid. All the criminal gangs are now at each other's throats, with Mary planning to make amends for her bad deeds and maybe give Danny the family she never had. while attempting to get away from her hitwoman life, while avoiding the suspicions of her ex/Benny's son, "Tom" (Billy Brown).

 "Proud Mary" just never quite figures out what the Hell it wants to be. The tongue in cheek tone from the trailer is missing for the most part in the film. Instead, it's more of a thriller, with some pretty heavy drama surrounding it. It doesn't help that occasionally the movie suddenly drifts into goody, more tongue in cheek territory, especially by the end. With a plot that has been done to death, the whole thing doesn't mesh and feels sloppy. It seems the filmmakers were trying to figure out what they wanted to do as the movie went on, but never came to an actual conclusion. 

 It's too bad because Taraji P. Henson is truly trying her absolute best, with her natural charm and ability to look pretty cool while kicking butt. Her relationship with Jahi Di'Allo Winston feels underdeveloped, but the amount of emotion that Henson brings to her role does make it feel somewhat genuine. It's also nice to see Danny Glover actually getting to sink his teeth into a good role for the first time in a while, easily going from nice and caring to villainous and threatening. Billy Brown isn't so much bad, as he can seem a bit intimidating, but his character's arc doesn't feel developed in the slightest and where they go with his character is both predictable and doesn't match how the character started. Neal McDonough (as "Walter", one of Benny's goons) is criminally underused, doing absolutely nothing for his 5 minutes of screentime. 

 "Proud Mary" isn't the worst film I've ever seen in January by any means, as the film does at least look like something I would see in theaters and Taraji P. Henson alone makes it a little worth it (And because Kellan Lutz isn't in it.) The film doesn't leave much of an impact, which is evident by the rushed through finale and an ending that just sort of stops. (The wrap up isn't even a minute long) With this review done, I'll probably never even think about this movie ever again.  Such is the fate of dumped off January releases. Proud Taraji deserved better. 2 stars. Rated R For Strong Language, Strong Violence, And Tight Black Outfits.  

Paddington 2                                                            by James Eagan                                      ★★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related image

Image: Prison changes a Bear. 

 Hello 2018! After taking a week off from reviewing anything ("Insidious: The Last Key"? I don't have time for that.), it's time to get into the usual January dumping ground (Aside from last second 2017 Oscar hopefuls). But instead of the usual run of the mill bad January releases, we get something rather wonderful. It must be my birthday or something.....Well, it was actually. Happy Birthday to me! 

 "Paddington 2" follows that adorable, overly polite, Marmalade loving bear from darkest Peru, "Paddington" (Voiced by Ben Whishaw). Paddington is still living in London with his adopted human family, "The Browns", consisting of the father, "Henry" (Hugh Bonneville) who is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, the mother "Mary" (Sally Hawkins) who yearns for adventure, the son "Jonathan" (Samuel Joslin) who tries way too hard to be cool, the daughter "Judy" (Madeleine Harris) who starts a feminist newspaper to spite her ex, and their housekeeper "Mrs. Bird" (Julie Walters) who keeps everyone together. Paddington desperately wants to get his only remaining relative, "Aunt Lucy" (Voiced by Imelda Staunton) a birthday present, finding the perfect gift at the antique shop of his friend, "Mr. Gruber" (Jim Broadbent) in the form of a pop-up book of London. The bad news is that the book is one of a kind, and costs a fortune, so Paddington decides to try to make the money to buy it like the good little bear he is. 

 Enter egotistical, washed up actor, "Phoenix Buchanan" (Hugh Grant), who knows that the book contains a hidden secret that leads to a legendary treasure and plots to steal it. Paddington catches Buchanan in the act, but is unable to stop him from taking the book, resulting in Paddington being framed for the crime. Because those Brits take book theft very seriously, Paddington is sent to jail, eventually befriending a few of the inmates, including the prsion cook, "Nuckles McGinty" (Brendan Gleeson). Paddington and his new friends, along with the Browns aiding from the outside, set out to clear his name before Aunt Lucy's birthday and before Buchanan gets away with his crime.

 The sequel to 2015's excellent family feature "Paddington", which was both a critical and box office success, "Paddington 2" really shouldn't be much different, since it's just as wonderful, just as endearing, and just as laugh out loud hilarious. Once again Directed by Paul King, who shoots the film like a colorful storybook made out of candy. The sight on screen is stunning to look at, with so much color changing throughout depending on the mood. The well written script remembers to be charming and funny, while also remaining undeniably sweet natured. The film's strong messages of family, positivity, and just plain treating people with basic compassion are just as inspiring for adults as they are for children, and should warm the heart of the most cynical of cynics (Even prison inmates get respect).. It's somehow grounded in a form of reality, despite all the fantastical and wackiness going on. (Everyone has pretty much just accepted that a talking bear exists in this universe.) 

 Ben Whishaw is once again delightful, with an innocent sense of wonder and optimism that makes for such a lovable character. The family dynamic remaining as strong as the first, with Hugh Bonneville and the adorable Sally Hawkins getting just as many laughs as moments of heart, along with Julie Walters getting some of the best dialogue. Like before, Jim Broadbent is likable in a supporting role, with Peter Capaldi (as "Mr. Curry", The Browns' grouchy neighbor) being suitably snobbish. Brendan Gleeson is an absolute riot, and Hugh Grant simply steals the movie in a wildly entertaining, rather brilliant performance that makes him just as dastardly as he is hysterical. The overall cast, which is also made up of a large ensemble of smaller parts, really brings the film together, and by the end, everything and everyone has a part to play. 

 "Paddington 2" is one of those sequels that somehow manages to be just as great as the first, never losing sight of it's genuine heart and emotion, while remembering to make it's audience laugh and teach good morals at the same time. It's a perfect representation of what a great family movie should be, giving both kids and their parents plenty to admire and enjoy. It's also hands down the most whimsical prison break movie you'll ever see and starts off 2018 in the best way possible. 4 stars. Rated PG For Quirky Shenanigans, The Tugging Of Heartstrings, And Constant Consumption Of Marmalade. 

Molly's Game                                                              by James Eagan                                         ★★★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for mollys game

Image: Whatever they're paying Jessica Chastain, it's not enough.

 I would like to thank "Molly's Game" for doing something I thought would be impossible, and that's making me understand Poker. Leave to a great writer and a great actress to be able to sit me down and explain it all in a way that makes sense to me. Now that doesn't mean I'm gonna start playing it anytime soon. Just because I understand it now, doesn't mean I would be good at it. I want to keep my money in my wallet where it belongs. Still, it's nice to see there's a bit more to it than placing down cards and saying phrases that sound weird out of context.  A great film can make anything feel interesting.

 Based on a True Story, "Molly's Game" begins with a young woman, "Molly Bloom" (Jessica Chastain) being arrested by the FBI for running an illegal Poker game that was loaded with Hollywood stars, athletes, business men, and other possibly questionable people, which may or may not include the Russian Mob. She finds herself a lawyer, "Charlie Jaffey" (Idris Elba), and is now setting out to clear her name in court, while detailing her life story. Starting from how she was a former professional skier that suffered a terrible accident, preventing her from ever skiing again, along with her relationship with her father, "Larry" (Kevin Costner). Things then lead to her becoming involved with private, underground Poker games, first run by her dickish real estate agent boss, "Dean Keith" (Jeremy Strong). This leads to running her own games, while dealing with a questionable celebrity player, dubbed "Player X" (Michael Cera), and then finally running possibly the largest, high stakes poker game in the entire world. 

 In his first directorial debut, Aaron Sorkin (Known for writing "A Few Good Men", "The Social Network", "Steve Jobs", and others) is mostly known for his keen eye for excellent dialogue, and he once again delivers in that department. Sorkin also shows he has some real talent for direction as well. Aside from occasionally getting distracted by itself, whether it be the complicated story or the rapid fire dialogue among the characters, the film stays grounded and moves at a brisk pace that almost makes you forget that it's nearly two and a half hours in length. 

 The real life events behind "Molly's Game" are at times kind of funny, but then shifts into uncomfortably bizarre, then becomes outright insane, while remaining utterly intriguing all the way through. Despite it's length, the film feels tightly wound, never dragging itself out needlessly. While Sorkin's whip smart, humorous dialogue is one of the selling points, the real star is the absolute perfection that is Jessica Chastain. As an actress, she has so much screen presence, and just electrifies the screen with charm, personality, and just a dominance over everyone else around her, much like her character. She has got to be one of the best actresses working today, and she owns the role, while owning the movie in the process. (Oh, and she's very, very lovely. But you already knew that.)

 Idris Elba has great back and forth with Jessica Chastain (With his awesome accent effortlessly having vanished), and he mixes his own charisma with the wit of the script. Kevin Costner appears only sporadically throughout the film, but does get a few shining moments, with a particularly heartfelt scene towards the end. The film is packed with solid performances from some minor appearances from Jeremy Strong, Brian d'Arcy James (as "Brad", a rich hedge fund manager who is hilariously terrible at Poker), Chris O'Dowd (as "Douglas", an always drunk player with ties to the mob), Bill Camp ( as "Harlan Eustice", a solid Poker player who ends up losing everything), and a delightfully twisted Michael Cera. (I actually really want to know who the hell he was supposed to be.)

 The writing in "Molly's Game" may seem a bit exhausting to some, but it still feels somewhat real in context to the characters and how they speak. It's fast moving and undeniably entertaining, with Jessica Chastain's intense performance pretty much guaranteeing an Oscar nomination. It's actually somewhat female empowering, but doesn't shy away from some of her more questionable actions, while also retaining a good heart. If you can pay attention, you'll probably walk out a bit smarter than you were when you entered. Aaron Sorkin has a tendency to do that. 3 1/2 stars. Rated R For Language, Adult Content, And Form Fitting Apparel. 

All the Money in the World                  by James Eagan                                              ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for all the money in the worldImage: Boy, Kevin Spacey's makeup is really good....Oh, wait a minute. 

 2017 has been a bit of an odd year. Much like 2016, it has been filled with much anger, outrage, and depressing moments. This year had all that, along with constant uncomfortableness, with beloved actor after beloved actor being accused of sexual harassment. Kevin Spacey was probably one of the more painful ones, even if it was darn nice of him to assure us he was gay after the fact. The fact that this movie came to be, with Christopher Plummer being brought in just a month or so ago, taking 9 days to reshoot all of Kevin Spacey's scenes, that's some pretty awesome improvising right there. And on the bright side, it gave way for the veteran actor who should have gotten the role in the first place a chance to shine. 

 Inspired by True Events (With plenty of liberties admittedly taken), "All the Money in the World" begins in 1973, with young "J.P. "Paul" Getty III" (Charlie Plummer) getting kidnapped by a small group in Rome, led by "Cinquanta" (Roman Duris). The kidnappers want $17 Million for his release, despite Paul's mother, "Gail Harris" (Michelle Willaims), not having any real access to any money from her family since her divorce from "John Paul Getty Jr." (Andrew Buchan). The kidnappers insist that she shouldn't have any trouble getting the money from her former father in law, the richest man in the world, "J. Paul Getty" (Christopher Plummer). The problem is that Getty is a bit of an ass and a cheapskate, and does not intend to pay a single penny for his grandson's release.

 However, Getty does in fact love his grandson, though not enough to actually pay money to save him. So he sends in one of his go to guys/former CIA operative, "Fletcher Chase" (Mark Wahlberg) to Rome to help with the search, and to do it as inexpensively as possible. (No seriously. I'm not joking about that last part. He actually says that.) The search for Paul's kidnappers slowly becomes more complex, as Gail is constantly slandered for no apparent reason other than the paparazzi needs a bad guy in the situation. And though Cinquanta's attempts to do things as easily as possible, the kidnapping becomes even more dangerous than anyone would of expected. 

 From Director Ridley Scott (Who really deserves some form of recognition for finding a way for all this to come together as well as it does), "All the Money in the World" is a thoroughly fascinating story that uses topics of family, along with the power of money and greed to turn real life events into something grand in scope and story. While it at times can overdo the dramatization (Which seems to veer into almost Shakespearean), the film is nonetheless interesting, and most importantly, rigorously suspenseful. Shot in a dark and bleak manner sets the grim tone of the film, Scott conveys the dread and urgency of the situation, and makes you get a better look into the minds of the characters. 

 Michelle Williams does wonderful work here, and is captivating throughout. She displays the real fear and sorrow that a mother would have, while also showing her cynicism to the world around here. Mark Wahlberg does an excellent job, and continues to improve as an actor. Charlie Plummer does have a certain look to him, being able to project plenty of emotion in his stare alone, that works well with Roman Duris, who is able to come across as threatening, yet somewhat sympathetic. His character's strange relationship with his captive displays some of his humanity, and makes for some strong moments. The real star here is Christopher Plummer, who not only deserves praise for the fact he literally just had to jump right into this role, but doing so in a way that's not overly theatrical. It's subdued and quietly detailed, being able to command the screen and dominate it whenever he's in focus. He even makes some of the more over dramatized scenes work, simply by portraying a character that's a times vile, charismatic, and complicated. 

 "All the Money in the World" has moments where the film feels disjointed, mostly due to reshoots, and with so much story to tell, that's full of so many little details, it can drag a little especially in the middle. Luckily the film never loses it's focus, and is one of the better movies to fully demonstrate what kind of effect money can have on people, whether they have little of it or just plain too much. 3 stars. Rated R For Language, Disturbing Images Such As Ear Removals, And The Thought Of Kevin Spacey Molestation Issues.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle                by James Eagan                                        ★★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Related imageImage: Everybody get behind The Rock if you want to live.

 Honestly guys, this is probably going to be a better "Tomb Raider" movie than the actual one we're getting next year. As far as video game movies, or at least ones having to do with them, this is by far one of the better ones. Surprisingly, for something people online mostly wrote off as studio executives trying to capitalize on something that's popular, it seems that the filmmakers have an actual understanding on what they are satirizing. This isn't "The Emoji Movie".

 "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" begins with the magical, sentient board game, "Jumanji", realizing that aside from hipsters and people in their 20s trying to be retro (Like me!), nobody really plays board games anymore (Especially when young people have video games to pass the time). So the game changes itself into a video game and waits for some unsuspecting players to end up sucked into the game, much like Robin Williams was years before. The players come in the form of high school students who end up in detention, with the nerdy gamer, "Spencer" (Alex Wolff), the big football jock "Anthony" (Ser'Darius Blain) who goes by the nickname "Fridge", the pretty popular girl "Bethany" (Madison Iseman), and the quiet shy girl "Martha" (Morgan Turner), who all stumble upon the game and decide to play it out of sheer boredom.

 After selecting their characters, the kids are transported into the world of Jumanji, now trapped in new avatar bodies, with Spencer becoming musclebound "Dr. Smolder Bravestone" (Dwayne Johnson), Fridge becoming the short, backpack carrying "Franklin "Mouse" Finbar" (Kevin Hart), Martha becoming the tough, scantily clad "Ruby Roundhouse" (Karen Gillan), and Bethany becoming the chubby, bearded "Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon" (Jack Black), much to her dismay. To return home, the players must return an ancient artifact to it's rightful place before the murderous villain, "Professor Van Pelt" (Bobby Cannavale) finds them, while avoiding all kinds of traps, chaos, killer animals, and learning a few life lessons about themselves along the way. 

 "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is a somewhat sequel (In that it takes place in the same universe) to the 1995 beloved cult movie, "Jumanji", (That I don't really remember being as good as everyone else seems to remember it being. Actually I don't remember much about it at all, really). But for something that could of been so stupid, and to a certain degree a bit insulting, the movie actually has a pretty decent amount of intelligence, with some clever twists thrown in, some good jokes about video games such as their nonsensical plots, enemies, and complicated objectives. Despite some only "Meh" effects work, the movie does have a pretty grand scope that makes up for it. Most importantly, it's just a really good time. 

The excellent cast sells their characters, playing against type mostly, which makes for some great comedy and even a few moments of character development. Dwayne "He Is Still The Rock" Johnson is quite perfectly cast, with the adorable Karen Gillan getting to have just as much fun as the guys. Kevin Hart at times feels a bit out of place, mostly because he's essentially just playing Kevin Hart most of the time, but he does learn to settle down as the film progresses. Jack Black is the real scene stealer here, fully committing to the fact he is playing a teenage girl in Jack Black's body, which is undeniably funny, and he makes it flat out hilarious. Nick Jonas (as "Seaplane McDonough", who is the avatar for "Alex", a kid who went missing in Jumanji) does solid work here, while Bobby Cannavale is a forgettable baddie, who doesn't do anything other than look mean and say stuff in an indescribable accent. The younger cast is only in the movie briefly, but do have enough personality to make for a good set up. 

 While it does feel a bit longer than necessary, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" balances some good humor with solid action and a shocking amount of heart, with some positive messages that actually work into the movie. It's more clever than you would expect, and does make for some nice family fun, with a bit of an edge that doesn't feel shoehorned in. Not a bad way for the family to spend the last couple days of the holiday. Odds are you or your kids are going to be sucked into a video game anyway. 3 stars. Rated PG-13 For Some Adult Jokes, A Few Scary Images, And Kevin Hart Explosions. 

Pitch Perfect 3                                                       by James Eagan                                              ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for pitch perfect 3Image: "I see a third sequel."

 You can only make so many "Pitch" puns before it starts to get stale. We'be had "Pitchmas", "Pitch Slapped", "What Up My Pitches?" (Which actually may not of been one, but I added it because it sounded funny), "Pitches With Attitude" (I think that was one at one point.), and the list goes on. Really when you actually don't seem to be making many in your last movie, you can tell it's probably the end. 

 "Pitch Perfect 3" stars with college graduate/former Barden Bella, "Becca" (Anna Kendrick), getting out of her crappy job, having broken up with her boyfriend from the previous movies, and is living with her best friend, "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson), who has also broken up with her boyfriend. (Because they had places to be I guess) The current Bella leader, "Emily" (Hailee Steinfeld) invites all of the previous Bellas, including "Chloe" (Brittany Snow), "Aubrey" (Anna Camp), the lesbian one (Ester Dean), the weird one (Hana Mae Lee), and, uh, the rest (They all start to morph into one person, really) to watch a performance of the new, much shinier Bellas. This makes everyone depressed, so Aubrey reveals that there is going to be a special competition hosted by "DJ Khaled" (Played by Sir DJ of Khaled) during a United Service Organizations World Tour that will result in the winner being picked to be a part of a special show for the troops.

 Everyone, except for the pregnant one (Alexis Knapp) go along, with commentators, "John Smith" (John Michael Higgins) and "Gail Abernathy-McKinnon" (Elizabeth Banks) just showing up again to be smartasses..The Bellas realize they might be outmatched, especially by the interestingly named band, "Evermoist", led by the also interestingly named "Calamity" (Ruby Rose). The group goes on the tour, hoping to prove themselves to the other bands, with Becca seemingly getting closer to her dream of singing professionally, and Fat Amy reuniting with her up to no good father, "Fergus" (John Lithgow). Then things get.....Odd. 

 The original "Pitch Perfect" was a pleasant surprise to many (I never actually got around to seeing it), gathering a pretty solid fanbase of mostly young girls, garnering loads of money, and even getting a sequel with the solid enough "Pitch Perfect 2". Now with the final entry in the trilogy, you can really see that the filmmakers are mostly just finding a way to wrap it up in whatever way possible they can. "Pitch Perfect 3" is more of what you would expect, with girls looking cute, dancing and singing, with a few decent laughs here and there. The only difference this time, it's obvious running on fumes and its also a bit, well, weirder than usual. 

 "Pitch Perfect 3" follows some fairly traditional plot points, even somewhat recycling one or two from the last movie, while tossing in an out of nowhere subplot involving criminals, a hostage situation, and a big action sequence that feels out of place, yet oddly isn't particularly shocking that this is where it all went. Luckily the singing and dancing is all fun still and the characters are likable enough. Anna Kendrick is so perky, cute, and utterly charming that she alone just kind of makes it all worth it, along with a few funny spouts from Rebel Wilson. Nothing wrong with the rest of the Bellas, but aside from Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, and maybe Hailee Steinfeld, the rest are mostly left in the background. John Lithgow pops up, doing a bizarre Australian accent that matches his bizarre role that's still regardlessly entertaining because it's just John Lithgow hamming it up, (And there is something completely right with that). Our shoved in our face guest star, DJ Khaled is.....something. He's his own entity really, and I don't know what to make of him. And John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (Who have both been the funniest parts of these movies) still get the best laughs out of everyone. 

 The "Pitch Perfect" movies have never really been my thing, aside from some Anna Kendrick cuteness. I never disliked them, but they just obviously aren't made for someone like me. For the fans, "Pitch Perfect 3" is probably gonna be enough for them and that's enough. (My little sister had a good time, so the film wrapped up the franchise nicely for her.) I would say the last movie would of been a better sendoff and it certainly felt less jumbled than this one, though it is harmless and inoffensive, and really, it's just more forgettable than anything. Until they reboot the franchise in 5 years with a brand new pitch. 2 stars. Rated PG-13 For Adult Jokes, Fat Jokes, And Whatever A DJ Khaled Is. 

Bright              by James Eagan               ★½ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for bright movieImage: "How about I shoot the Orcs and you shoot the Elves!"

 I still say it's not the same. There's something nice about going to the theater, sitting down with a bunch of people you don't know, keeping quiet and focusing specifically to the movie on the large screen playing in the dark auditorium that smells of toddler urine and popcorn that the cleaners neglected to pick up. It's tradition. Nothing special about flipping up your laptop and watching a movie on the floor in your room in your undies, while a cat decides to rest on your chest. Where's the magic in that?

 "Bright" takes place in an alternate universe where magic, elves, and fairies exist in the modern world. In Los Angelas, a veteran cop, "Daryl Ward" (Will Smith) is forced to work with the first ever Orc cop, "Nick Jakoby" (Joel Edgerton) despite his protests. Ward was previously injured by a random Orc shooter that Jakoby failed to catch, and has returned to work some time later. While nobody wants Jakoby around, mostly because humanity's history to Orcs has been quite shoddy to say the least, he's mostly just there because of Orc Affirmative Action. (That's not a joke. That's basically what it is.)

 One night, Ward and Jakoby end up at an old house, discovering several obliterated dead bodies, along with a frightened Elf girl, "Tikka" (Lucy Fry), who has in her possession a magic wand, which is the most powerful artifact in the universe that can only be used by a so called "Bright".Turns out everyone wants this power for themselves. So Ward and Jakoby must survive the night, protect Tikka and the wand from evil Elf cult leader, "Leilah" (Noomi Rapace), along with corrupt cops, gang members, and other pissed off Orcs, while fulfilling a prophecy that has seemingly drawn Ward and Jakoby into this situation in the first place. 

 I'll give "Bright" this. It's certainly original. The premise is kind of cool actually, and could make for something pretty fun if done right. Too bad Director David Ayer ("Suicide Squad", "End of Watch", "Sabotage") makes the poor decision to take the film needlessly seriously, filling it with over the top, gruesome violence, while attempting to actually tell a deep and involving story that has a message that it wants to get across. (#OrcLivesMatter) It just feels wrong in many ways, and because of this and the really convoluted plot, the movie just ends up being a bit of a bore. 

 The movie feels like it's been written by an 11 year old who just learned how to say "F*ck", with dialogue feeling immature and at times, nonsensical. "Bright" tries to deliver exposition throughout it's near two hour runtime, in a way that's both bloated, yet underdeveloped at the same time. The film seems to want to go for stupid when it's convenient, but also claim to be delivering a smart message when doing so. There is an interesting idea here, which can be seen through some admittedly unique imagery. But "Bright" is unable to decide what it wants to be, while being thoroughly dull throughout. It just doesn't make the whole ordeal feel worth it.  

 Luckily cool Will Smith has been making a comeback as of late, and he finds a way to keep the film movie with his charm alone, even when delivering dumb dialogue. Joel Edgerton is a sympathetic character and does give an emotional performance. Lucy Fry is meant the be the film's heart, but doesn't really do anything. Noomi Rapace looks nice as a sexy evil Elf, but her role could of been played by anyone and just feels like a waste. Édgar Ramírez (as "Kandomere", an Elf detective hunting down Leilah) looks utterly ridiculous in the makeup, and by the end, feels unnecessary to the overall plot. And how dare this movie find nothing to do with a perfectly slimy Ike Barinholtz (as "Pollard", a corrupt cop who is basically just the same character he played in "Suicide Squad"). 

 "Bright" is just too damn stupid to be as seriously as it wants to be taken, with the movie's poor attempt at social commentary never meshing well with the fantasy elements. The movie is too boring (And at times, not particularly pleasant) to have any real fun with. No need to Netlfix and chill this Holiday season. Just go see "Star Wars" again. where it needs to be seen. Merry Elfin' Christmas. 1 1/2 stars. Rated R For Nuclear F-Bombs, Gory Violence, And Gangsta Orcs.  

Father Figures                                                        by James Eagan                                           ★★ OUT OF ★★★★

Image result for father figures movieImage: "You mean Darth Vader's our father?"

 You're probably wondering why I haven't been reviewing the bigger, more important movies that came out this week such as "Pitch Perfect 3" or "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle"? Look man, I was sick, and it's Christmas. And I also have to work for a living too. I didn't ask them to release so many movies at once. I'm getting to it! 

 "Father Figures" follows two fraternal twin brothers, "Kyle" (Owen Wilson), a bit of a party boy living an easy life, and "Peter" (Ed Helms), a divorced proctologist going through a midlife crisis. They learn from their mother, "Helen" (Glenn Close), that she actually had no idea who their father really was. Turns out she used to be pretty promiscuous back in the day, and since Peter has become pretty pathetic over the years, he decides he wants to find out who his real dad is, with Kyle coming along with him because he just wants to hang out with his brother again. So Peter and Kyle embark on a wild road trip, full of wacky antics, crazy twists and turns, and "Terry Bradshaw" (as Himself). And that's.....basically about it. They just go from dude to dude (Which includes J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, and Ving Rhames) to find out who their real dad is. 

 "Father Figures" is another one of those movies I review at the end of the year, that I'm not going to remember a week or so from now, but really isn't that bad at least by comparison with some of the other crud that I've seen this year. To the film's credit, I think that the premise is certainly funny and the filmmakers were really trying to find a way to incorporate some heart into the movie to balance out some of the raunchiness. It's just a bit disjointed, and most importantly, nowhere near as funny as it probably should be. 

 Owen Wilson and Ed Helms don't look even close to looking like twins, but they are't bad together. They have some good back and forth, with their chemistry actually making the film's goofy journey more enjoyable to where you at least like them as people. The rest of the cast as pretty much reduced to glorified cameos, with J. K. Simmons popping up to be weird, Ving Rhames showing up to say vulgar stuff (But not try to sell me Arby's this time.), and Terry Bradshaw just being Terry Bradshaw I'm assuming ( I guess he won some Super Bowls, or something). Glenn Close does get a nice moment with Wilson and Helms in a scene that takes a rather serious turn that feels a bit out of place in the overall movie. I mean, I appreciate the effort and the thought, but it doesn't really belong in what is basically a live-action cartoon. Oh, and Katt Williams pops up as a hitchhiker. (That was just weird.)

 "Father Figures" has a few too many gross out gags, but not enough to make it an unpleasant experience. You get a few funny gags, and the various twists throughout are enjoyably nonsensical. None of it really warrants a recommendation though, especially when once the movie is over, you can't really remember too much about it. Sorry this review is so short. The movie doesn't really have enough in it to talk about whether it be good or bad. I can't spread myself any thinner. 2 stars. Rated R For Cat Balls, Pee Fights, And Ving Rhames' Dirty, Dirty Mouth. 

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