12 Strong (2018) Review




On September 11th, 2001, the entire nation of the United States faced an imaginable horror; an act of terrorism, which was a coordinated attack from the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda. In New York City, two commercial airplanes (American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175) were hijacked and rammed into the both towers of the World Trade Center, while another commercial airplane (American Airlines Flight 77) was hijacked and crashed into the western rim of the Pentagon in Washington DC (i.e Arlington, Virginia). At the same time, a fourth commercial airline plane (United Airlines Flight 93) was hijacked and, while on-board passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers, the plane itself crashed landed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania (never reaching its intended destination). Through paramount fear, untold devastation and unimageable panic, the events that place that day took the lives of 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others, and estimated over $10 million dollars into infrastructure and property damage. It was a horrifying turning point for the people of the United States, facing a wide range of emotion and concerns to what would come next in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Within time, the “war on terror” (as the news media dubbed it) began to form in the Afghanistan with US military forces battle against Al-Qaeda’s insurgent forces, which somewhat reached a pinnacle point in 2011 when US forces (under a covert mission) found and killed the Al-Qaeda’s leader Osama Bin Laden. It was a huge moment on the US involvement with this terrorist organization, but still the remains of what happened on 9/11 in 2001 still haunts many (even to this day). Given the palpability of this transgression and how it touched many American lives, Hollywood (within time) started to churn out feature films that touched upon the September 11th attacks, with such movies like United 93, World Trade Center, Into the Fire, 9/11, Zero Dark Thirty, and several others; finding each one given a somewhat different perspective (cinematically) on what happened either before, during, or after the results of that terrorist attack. Now, Warner Bros. Pictures (along with Alcon Entertainment and Jerry Bruckheimer Films) and director Nicolai Fuglsig present the newest cinematic film on the “war on terror” with the movie 12 Strong. Does this movie find its meaning amongst its action set piece or is a muddled “one and down” counterattack of Hollywood wartime propaganda? Read more

The Nun (2018) Review



Back in 2013, during the same July weekend of when R.I.P.D. and Red 2 were released, director James Wan released the supernatural horror film titled The Conjuring. In a nutshell, the film, which starred Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, follows the Warrens (Ed and Lorraine), who are paranormal investigators that come to assist the Perron family and their farmhouse, which has been experiencing increasingly disturbing events in Rhode Island in 1971. The Conjuring, which was inspired by the real-life reports of the Amityville Horror story, received positive review from both fans and critics, grossing over $319 million at the box office against its low production budget of $20 million. Due to its success, a spin-off movie was greenlit and in 2014 the film Annabelle was released (roughly a year after The Conjuring came out. Set within the same cinematic universe as the first film, Annabelle focused on the Forms (Mia and John) on how they come across the “possessed” doll named Annabelle (the same doll that was briefly mentioned in the first film). Unlike The Conjuring, Annabelle was faced with mixed reviews, but did, however, rake in roughly $257 million at the box office against its $6.5 million production budget. Given the success of both films, two sequels were granted, with The Conjuring 2 being released in 2016 and Annabelle: Creation being released in 2017; each one taking their respective narratives into a different direction (i.e. one continuing the story forward, while the other explaining more of the origin). Because of this, The Conjuring has built a shared cinematic universe, weaving in different stories and characters that are connected together (something that hasn’t really been tackled in the horror genre). Now, Warner Bros. Pictures (New Line Cinema) and director Corin Hardy present the fifth installment in the The Conjuring franchise with the movie The Nun; a prequel spin-off to the 2016 Conjuring 2 feature. Is the origin tale of “the nun” the “darkest chapter” in this cinematic saga or is just an inconsistent and even entry in The Conjuring franchise? Read more

Kin (2018) Review



A famous quote reads “nothing is stronger than a sister’s bond”. While no one can really deny that in intangible feeling, the same can be said (and argued) over the bond between brothers. Yes, a relationship with a sibling a brother (be it fraternal, step brother, or adopted) can be one that produces a lot love-hate (in both playful good times and powerful heartache), but also one that can simply be beneficial to a person; bonding through the years, sharing experiences, and having the special connection with each other through life’s trials and tribulations. Naturally, acting as a catalyst for dramatic storytelling, the relationship ideas of brothers has taken centerstage in several Hollywood movies. This idea of film narrative designs (be it supporting idea or a narrative centerpiece) has been seeing in many movies and from different genres, including Step Brothers (comedy), The Godfather (drama), the MCU Thor movies (fantasy / action), Warrior (drama), Legendary (drama), The Lost Boys (horror), The Outsiders (drama / crime), The Blues Brothers (comedy / crime), Defiance (war / suspense), Foxcatcher (drama), amongst many others. Now, Summit Entertainment (as well as 21 Laps Entertainment and No Trace Camping) and directors Josh and Jonathan Baker presents an interesting take on the brotherly bonding relationship with the movie Kin. Does the feature strike a chord with the sibling relationship drama or is it a cobbled-up iteration of different ideas and of a classic “mistaken identity” motion picture endeavor? Read more

The Darkest Minds (2018) Review




The YA (Young Adult) / Teen genre has had its ups and downs in some of its book adaptation franchises. Barring the more teen fictional romance “page to screen” endeavors (i.e. The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Love, Simon, and few others), which more of a “one and done” projects, the YA / Teen genre of films has focused on the more fantastical side of storytelling, weaving in elements of fantasy, sci-fi, and paranormal to entice moviegoers into watch the film and supplanting the idea for a potential franchise tag on these adaptations. While some have cultivated in both movie and pop culture success like the eight-part Harry Potter films series, the four-part Hunger Games films, and the four-part Twilight series, some films failed to spark popular cinematic praise for the “book to film” adaptations. Movies like Ergaon, The Mortal Instrument: City of Bones, Beautiful Creatures, The 5th Wave, The Golden Compass, and I am Number Four were widely considered “bad movies” and failed to connect with its viewers (or even its source material) and were halted after their initial installment was released, scrapping their cinematic sequels and abandoning their potential franchise tag. Even more so, some franchise, despite having an overwhelming bestselling success in its literary format, have either failed to find a steady medium with moviegoers, with movie franchises like The Chronicles of Narnia series, the Percy Jackson series, and The Divergent Series were all able to produce two or three installments, but failed to connect with audiences, which lead their potential follow-up sequel to be cancelled in the process. Now, in the latest endeavor of the YA / Teen book adaptation realm, 20th Century Fox and director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, present the film The Darkest Minds, based on the first book Alexandra Bracken’s teen novel series. Does this theatrical representation of Bracken’s 2012 book rise to the challenge of cinematic potential or does fall into obscurity with the rest of the “one and done” YA / Teen films of the past? Read more

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) Review



Comedy films are a dime a dozen, examining the value of laughter within various types of jokes and gags in order to drum up entertainment humor within its viewers. While this genre has parody / satire other genres of movies, the combination of the comedy mixed with the action spy genre has been one of the more interesting ones to tackle. The blending of action aesthetics and bountiful spy nuances (secret agents, villainous baddies, high-tech gadgets, etc.) with the humorous beats of comedy is indeed an odd one, but has essentially proven to work, producing a concoction (if done right) that’s effective in both their respective categories. This includes films like 1985’s Spies Like Us, 1997’s Austin Powers (and its two sequential sequels), 2003’s Johnny English, 2008’s Get Smart, 2012’s This Means War, and 2015’s Spy are proof that the parring of spy / action aspects could effectively work underneath the guise of a comedy movie. Now, Lionsgate (and Imagine Entertainment) and director Susanna Fogel present the latest movie in the spy comedy subgenre with the film The Spy Who Dumped Me. Does the feature strike a balance between spy action and big laughs comedy or is it an unremarkable endeavor that doesn’t go anywhere? Read more

A-X-L (2018) Review



The old saying “a dog is a man’s best friend” is a phrase that everyone has heard of, playing up the assumption of how the canine species (in all its variant breeds) have a special intangible bond with humans. The characteristics of loyal, kindness, protective, and intelligence are such traits that are commonly linked to dogs and the relationships they share with their owners. Given this special and emotional bond between humans and animals, Hollywood has utilized this “dog is man’s best friend” mantra in a plethora in both the small screen (TV shows) like Lassie and The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, (as well as Rin Tin Tin: K-9 Cop) as well as feature films like 1974’s Benji, 1993’s Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, 2008’s Marley & Me, 2009’s Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose, and (most recently) 2018’s Dog Days. Now, Lake Shore Entertainment, Globe Road Entertainment, and director Oliver Daly presents the newest film to feature the relationship between man and dog with the movie A-X-L. Does this film find its cinematic human / canine bond or does the movie’s bites off more than it can chew? Read more

Deadpool 2 (2018) Review




In 2016, audience moviegoers were introduced to raunchy, darkly humor of the Marvel’s “merc with a mouth” comic book character in the movie Deadpool. Directed by Tim Miller, the movie, which starred Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, and Ed Skrein, follows the story of Wade Wilson, a mercenary, who develops cancer and undergoes a risky procedure that renders him deformed but granted with healing abilities; succumbing to the idea of getting even with the individual who made him this way. Despite the R-rating the movie received (a bit uncommon for a superhero movie of late), Deadpool was deemed a success, with many praising the violent and dark humor from its comic book source material as well as Reynolds portrayal of Wade Wilson. Given the success of the film, which raked in roughly $780 million at the worldwide box office (against its measly $58 million production budget), the movie was big hit and it was an almost forgone conclusion that a Deadpool sequel would be green-lit sometime after. Now, two years later, a follow-up sequel has finally materialized as 20th Century Fox and director David Leitch present the film Deadpool 2. Does this second installment keep in tone and presentation of how the first movie was or does its high expectations falter to what many are expecting in this sequel? Read more

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