Game Night (2018) Review




The year of 2017 saw a lot of comedy films being released within its 12-month span. From January to December, comedic feature films were released during their 2017 theatrical run. Some found success like mainstream hits Girls Trip and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, some were big contender for the award season like Lady Bird and The Big Sick, to mediocre sequel spin-offs Pitch Perfect 3 and Bad Moms Christmas, to remake flops like CHiPS and Baywatch, and forgetful duds like Fist Fight and Snatched. These films did a lot for varying different reasons. Some found comedic gold, some found critical praise, and even some found distaste from moviegoers, disappearing into the background of all the 2017 theatrical releases. Now, with the year of 2018 already in full swing, Warner Bros. Pictures (and New Line Cinema) and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein present the first big comedy film of the year with the movie Game Night. Does this comedy-action feature finds its stride or does it fail strike a humorous balance with its viewers? Read more

Annihilation (2018) Review




The year of 2015 saw a lot of movies being theatrically released. During its 12-month spanned, feature films debuted weekly, ranging from a variety of genres from superhero blockbusters (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man), big-budgeted films (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World), raunchy comedies (Ted 2 and Trainwreck), teen dystopian (The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2), page-to-screen (Fifty Shades of Grey and The Martian), and box office flops (The Fantastic Four and Pixels). In amidst of all these films (and then some), a low-budget sci-fi film titled Ex Machina was released and was considered a “hidden gem” or “sleeper” hit of that year. Directed by Alex Garland (who made his directorial debut) and starred Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina followed the story of a computer programmer (Caleb) who is invited by his CEO (Nathan) to an isolated research facility to administer a “Turing test” to an intelligent humanoid robot named Ava. While the film didn’t have a robust box office success, Ex Machina did receive high praise from critics and moviegoers, praising Garland’s direction (for the movie), it’s sophisticated narrative importance on artificial intelligences, and the film’s small yet incredible cast. The movie also garnished several nominations and awards during the award season, including winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. Now, several years since Ex Machina was released, Paramount Pictures (with Skydance Media and DNA films) and director Alex Garland present his newest film Annihilation, which is based on the book by Jeff VanderMeer. Does this ambitious sci-fi tale surpass Ex Machina or is it an ambiguous slippery slope for Garland’s sophomore endeavor? Read more

Darkest Hour (2017) Review




Director Joe Wright has always gravitated towards doing historical period pieces for his film projects. Whether guide towards historical events or just the thrill of doing a costumed drama, Wright has brought several notable films to life. Perhaps his most famous one was his directorial debut, with 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, which starred Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFadden as the famous literary characters of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Following his film adaption of the Jane Austen’s beloved book, Wright went on to direct Atonement, which was based on novel of the same name by Ian McEwan and starred Kiera Knightley and James McAvoy in the lead roles. Wright received critical praise for Atonement, which was nominated for seven Academy Award nominations and won in the categories for Best Production Design and Best film. From there, Wright several other films, including 2009’s modern drama The Soloist, 2011’s action thriller Hanna, and his 2012’s cinematic adaptation of Lev Tolstoy Anne Karenina. His last project was back in 2014, with Wright jumping head first into big-budgeted filmmaking and J.M. Barrie’s timeless tale with the movie Pan. Set as fantasy prequel to the original story, Pan, which starred Hugh Jackman, Garett Hedlund, and Rooney Mara, was sadly a critical and financial miss, with many criticizing the film for its formulaic plot, over indulgence of computer generated imagery, and controversial cast decisions. Now, in attempt to bounce back from Pan, director Joe Wright and Focus Features (as well as Working Title) present the film Darkest Hour, a historical biopic on the early years of Winston Churchill as Britain’s Prime Minister. Does Wright newest endeavor find its historical stride or does it fail to translate cinematic revelation from this poignant figure in history? Read more

Black Panther (2018) Review



In this golden age of superheroes films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe stands tall and proud as a beacon to this blockbuster tentpole of comic book heroes and villains. This shared movie franchise that began back in 2008 has bolstered some of the greatest superheroes that Marvel has in its illustrious comic book history, bringing iconic heroes, villains, gods, and monsters to the big screen. Naturally, the bigger and more popular comic book characters were part of initial release when the MCU first rolled out its “Phase I” saga, seeing Tony Stark / Iron Man, Bruce Banner / Hulk, Steve Rogers / Captain America, and Thor to the grace the silver screen in their own feature films as well as superhero team up ones (i.e. the Avengers films). Over time (and its overwhelming success), the MCU began to expand its own cinematic universe, exploring and examining lesser-known comic book characters to “bring into the fold” of this lucrative film franchise. Thus, Marvel characters like Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy have gotten their own standalone feature film and have been brought into this growing roster of Marvel heroes. Back in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War (the 13th film in the MCU), while many viewers were excited to see the new iteration of Spider-Man (played by actor Tom Holland), the film also introduced the character of T’Challa, the heir apparent to the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and his superhero masked alter-ego…the Black Panther. Interestingly (and not just a cameo), T’Challa, who was played by actor Chadwick Boseman, actually played an important part in Civil War’s narrative, which served as the foundation to introduced the future king of Wakanda within the MCU. Now, the time has come for the character of T’Challa to get his own feature film as Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler present the 18th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Black Panther. Does this movie find its regal place amongst its superhero MCU brethren or does it fail to impress even the most stalwart comic book fans out there? Read more

The 15:17 to Paris (2018) Review




For years, actor / director Clint Eastwood has made a name for himself in the filmmaking world of Hollywood. Like many within the pantheon of elite and famed people of “tinseltown”, Eastwood started out as an actor, first appearing on the silver screen 1955’s Revenge of the Creature as an “uncredited, minor role. This would continue in several future movie projects, until he landed the lead role in 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars. From there, Eastwood would start becoming more of a “leading man” in feature films, playing title characters in movies like The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Dirty Harry, The Beguiled, Million Dollar Baby, and Gran Torino; some of which have become iconic in Hollywood’s great tapestry of cinematic storytelling. In time, Eastwood would step out to play an important role beyond his acting ability by displaying his directorial film credibly. Such films like Invictus, American Sniper, Letters to Iwo Jima, Hereafter, Mystic River, and Flags of Our Fathers, are some of the most notable ones (as well as Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby) as a director. Additionally, Eastwood has also continued his efforts “behind the camera” by being a film producer as well as being a film’s composer, providing the music score for a selection of features. Now, after the successful praise of Sully, his last directorial film project, director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. Pictures (along with Village Roadshow Pictures) present the bio-pic drama film The 15:17 to Paris, based on the true-life events of the 2015 Thalys train attack. Does this movie find its placed amongst Eastwood’s illustrious career or is it a failed “based on a true story” drama that flounders from the get-go? Read more

Ferdinand (2017) Review



While the powerhouse giants of Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Illumination Entertainment jostle with the yearly releases of animated features, Blue Sky Studios is somewhere trailing behind them; caught in their dusty cloud smoke of racing to the “success” finish line. Originally connected to 20th Century Fox as their parent studio (which is probably now owned by Disney since their recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox), Blue Sky Studios, after doing several small projects and TV commercials, released their first animated film Ice Age in 2002. The film itself, which starred the voice talents of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and John Leguizamo, was generally well-received by the both critics and the general moviegoing public as it somewhat launched the studio into a contender in children’s animation motion pictures. Unfortunately, while trying to build an Ice Age franchise brand, its subsequent sequels (i.e. Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ice Age: Continental Drift, and Ice Age: Collision Course) were subpar to its original, lacking a wholesome narrative and feeling derivate to other animated film projects out there. Additionally, with the Ice Age franchise failing to be their flagship franchise, Blue Sky Studios did other animated features, including the more successful The Peanuts Movie, Rio (and its mediocre sequel Rio 2), Robots, Horton Hears a Who, and Epic. With the exception of The Peanuts Movie, most of Blue Sky Studios Non-Ice Age films were faced with mixed reviews and received a mediocre return at the box office, placing the animation studio behind the curve against its competition, which were producing either superior cartoon endeavors. Now, after a year of solid animated films (i.e. Cars 3, Despicable Me 3, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, and Coco), Blue Sky Studios (and 20th Century Fox) and director Carlos Saldanha present their newest animated film Ferdinand; based on the beloved children’s book by Munro Leaf. Does Blue Sky Studios make their mark on the 2017 year with their latest animated movie or does it fail to make a lasting impression? Read more

Top 10 Worst Movies of 2017

Hello, everyone! With the year of 2017 officially over, it’s time to exam the “best” and “worst” movies that of that year. Indeed, there was a lot of movie releases seeing in 2017 In total, I’ve personally seeing (and reviewed) over 81 new movies that were released in the year of 2017, some were very recognizable, while others were “sleepers” that flew underneath the mainstream radar. There were also a lot of movies that made big money at the box office in 2017 as well as some that gained critical praise from both critics and moviegoers. And yet (in amidst those movies), 2017 saw a number of pretty “bad” films. Whether by a flat story, bad acting, weak writing, or poor execution, these movies were just plan horrible with little to no interest in purchasing a ticket to see it theaters or to buy / rent it for its home release a few months later. Read more

Fifty Shades Freed (2018) Review



The allure of two people, the romance they share, and somewhat awkward sexual escapades in BDSM (Bondage, Disciple, Sadism, and Masochism). Plus, don’t forget the clunky Twilight-esque story of which this “forbidden love” is being told. Yes, you know what I’m talking about…. the confusing relationship of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele from E.L. James’s bestselling series Fifty Shades of Grey. While the world was captivated by the novels (i.e. considered to be named “mommy porn” by many) and sold millions, it was inevitable that Hollywood would snatched up the rights to produce a cinematic representation of James’s work. This, of course, finally materialized in 2015 with the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, the first installment of the trilogy. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the story followed the courtship of a young Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and the mysterious Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman) and his sexual taboo temptations that are exactly “garden variety. Unfortunately, Fifty Shades of Grey was deemed “meh” by critics and moviegoers, with many citing it to be “tamed” in its sex scenes, or it’s wooden performances with its leads, or maybe its clunky dialogue within a laughable story. Despite heavy criticism and being branded by many as a film that’s mediocre at best or terrible at worst, Fifty Shades of Grey did score big at the box office, collectively raking in roughly $ 571 million worldwide, which prompted the studio the green light the second story in the trilogy. 2017’s Fifty Shades Darker further continued the romance between Anastasia and Christian (along with their sexual frivolities) as well as adding conflicts with Grey’s old lovers (Leila Williams and Elena Lincoln) and Steele’s possessive / stalker old boss (Jack Hyde). As to be expected, Fifty Shades Darker was received negatively by critics and causal moviegoers (myself included), finding the sequel to be redundant in almost all previous categories that made the first film terrible. However, the film did make money at the box office (roughly $381 million), but almost $200 million short from what the first film was able to achieve. Now, a year after since Fifty Shades Darker was released, Universal Pictures and director James Foley present the final chapter to the popular Fifty Shades series with the film Fifty Shades Freed. Does this third installment close out the trilogy properly or does anyone really care about what happens with Christian and Anastasia relationship? Read more

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