First Man (2018) Review

AN EPIC AND INTIMATE

CINEMATIC ENDEAVOR


 

While film director Damien Chazelle drew critical praise (and awards) for his 2014 sophomore movie Whiplash, he took the cinematic film world by storm in 2016, with the release of La La Land, a musical feature that was similar to the old classic Hollywood musical of yesteryear. The film, which starred actor Ryan Gosling and actress Emma Stone in the lead roles, saw the characters of a jazz pianist and aspiring actress who meet and fall in love in Los Angeles while pursing their individual dreams. La La Land went on to receive widely positive acclaim from both critics and moviegoers, with many praising the feature for Gosling and Stone’s performance, its musical numbers, the film’s score (done by composer Justin Hurwitz), and the film’s cinematography as well as the film’s overall look and appeal of being a throwback musical to Old Hollywood. Additionally, the movie scored big at the box office, garnishing roughly $446 million worldwide against its $40 million production budget. Furthermore, Chazelle’s La La Land scored 14 nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, winning Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song (i.e. City of Stars). Now, after coming off of the rousing success of La La Land, Universal Pictures and director Damien Chazelle journey into the space and present the story of famed astronaut Neil Armstrong with the movie First Man. Does Chazelle’s fourth film aim for the stars or does it simply get crash and burn? Read more

Smallfoot (2018) Review

NOT EVERY LEGEND IS A TALL TALE


 

In today’s cinematic world, animated features have become commonplace, with some of the major studios (and a few smaller ones) releases one or two titles a year; garnishing opportunity to tell colorful kid-friendly tales as well as to cash on the box office market of children’s entertainment. While Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Illumination Entertainment are the more prominent / juggernaut animation studios (that are currently out there), Warner Animation Group (WAG), the feature animation division of Warner Bros. Animation (as well as a subdivision of Warner Bros. Pictures), is quickly on the rise. Established back in January 2013, Warner Animation Group has become famously for The LEGO Movie back, which garnished huge critical and commercial acclaim back when it was released in 2014. Since then, the studio has built a franchise around The LEGO Movie, with releasing the two spin-off features (The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie) in 2017 as well as releasing a sequel feature (The LEGO Movie: The Second Part) being released in 2019. As WAG moved forward with their LEGO movie franchise, the studio has also continued to create other animated features, with the film titled Storks, which was released back in 2016. Now, the Warner Animation Group and directors Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Resig releases the second standalone feature for the studio with the movie Smallfoot. Does this second non-LEGO movie animated movie strike a chord with its targeted audience or is it simply a bland and boring cartoon film? Read more

A Star is Born (2018) Review

A REMAKE THAT SHINES (NOT BURNS)


 

For some time now, Hollywood has been “going through the motions” of revisiting old feature films and “updating” for a modern audience; presenting them as remakes during this current age of cinematic endeavors. However, these remakes are generally not held in high regard; finding many to be a somewhat “easy target” for criticism from both critics and average moviegoers alike, with most denouncing them for Hollywood’s lack of creativity. In conjunction with that, remakes are inevitably compared to its original counterpart film and (in most cases) are dismissed as “lesser” or “inferior” iterations. In hindsight, this idea of filmmaking is considered a “double edge” sword, with providing better cinematic nuances to a story from older movie (i.e. better acting, enhanced visual effects, richer story, etc.) of which was not available at original’s conception. Such popular remake movies (on this bases) includes 2001’s Ocean Eleven (original done in 1960), 2006’s The Departed (original done in 2002 under the title Internal Affairs), 2010’s True Grit (original done in 1969), and many others. However, the “flip side” of remakes, despite having modern advances in moviemaking, that some just simply lack of originality / creativity, with Hollywood completely missing the “mark”; merely trying to “capitalize” the name alone. Such perfect example of these movies includes 2010’s Clash of the Titans (original done in 1981), 2011’s Conan the Barbarian (original done in 1982), 2010’s Karate Kid (original done in 1984), and many (and I do mean many) others. Now, Warner Bros. Pictures (in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and actor Bradley Cooper (making his directorial debut) present the latest Hollywood remake feature with the 2018 film A Star is Born. Does this movie “aim” to be one of the better cinematic remakes of late or is it another failed “washed out” idea of a motion picture from today’s Hollywood? Read more

Night School (2018) Review

A COMEDY WITH AN

OKAY-ISH PASSING GRADE


 

Over the years, Kevin Hart has proven to be a “bankable” star in this current age of Hollywood. This comedian-turned-actor started out in the comedy club circuit (winning amateur comedic competitions landing some small roles in several projects, including Judd Apatow’s short-lived TV series Undeclared as well as several films like 2002’s Paper Soldier, 2003’s Scary Movie 3, and 2005’s In the Mix. With his growing reputation, Hart caught his first “big break” in his performance in 2012’s Think Like a Man, which legitimized him in the mainstream media of feature length films. From there, as he continued to release stand-up comedy specials, Hart’s popularity grew in the movie industry, soon finding himself being paired with some other big-name actors on the silver screen, including rapper / actor Ice Cube in 2014’s Ride Along (and its 2016 sequel), comedian actor Will Ferrell in 2015’s Get Hard, and former wrestler / actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 2016’s Central Intelligence and 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Additionally, Hart’s very “animated” voice has also proven to be successful in animated cartoon feature films, providing vocal talents in Illumination’s 2016 The Secret Life of Pets and DreamWorks’s 2017 Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Now, Universal Pictures and director Malcolm D. Lee see Kevin Hart star alongside up and coming comedian actress Tiffany Haddish in the movie Night School. Does this film “make the grade” with its comedic styles or does it fail its own cinematic test? Read more

Venom (2018) Review

WE ARE VENOM!


 

The marvel comic book character Spider-Man has faced off against villainous bad guys, some of which became his classic archenemies supervillains including The Lizard, Dr. Octopus, Green Goblin, Rhino, and Mysterio. However, one of the most infamous foes that Spider-Man has come across is the vileness being known as Venom, an alien Symbiote with an amorphous, liquid-like form that requires a host (usually a human to bone with for its survival). While he has appeared in several other comics books (within the Marvel comics franchise), Venom is commonly associated with Spider-Man, with Peter Parker being the first to merge with the alien parasite (for a brief time) before merging human Eddie Brock, its second and most infamous host in the Spider-Man lore. Of course, with the rise of superhero cinematic adventures that began in the early 2000s, Sony / Columbia Pictures began to producing theatrical feature films of Spider-Man, beginning back with 2002’s Spider-Man that featured the acting talents of Toby Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco. By 2007, the third installment titled Spider-Man 3 was released, which boasted the cinematic reveal of character Eddie Brock and the Symbiote “Venom” pairing. Unfortunately, while the movie went on to become the highest grossing film of the trilogy (grossing over $890 million at the worldwide box office), the movie faced mixed / average reviews from both critics and moviegoers, especially given how the character of Eddie Brock (played by actor Topher Grace) and how Venom was a bit underwhelming against the film’s other two villains. These mixed reviews of the movie prompted Sony to cancel a fourth Spider-Man installment and instead “reboot” the franchise altogether with The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012 (with a new cast) then cancel that “reboot” franchise until Disney and Sony made a licensing deal that would allow the character of Spider-Man to be a part of the Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, with actor Tom Holland currently playing the role of Peter Parker. However, the character of Eddie Brock / Venom has remained in the dark (cinematically) since his 2007 debut. Now, Sony / Columbia Pictures and director Ruben Fleischer finally present a spin-off Spider-Man to feature Eddie Brock and his “bonding” with the Symbiote in the movie titled Venom. Does this side-story movie of focusing on one of Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis do the comic book character justice or is it simply a “turd in the wind”? Read more

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018) Review

DO YOU HEAR THE TICKING?


 

The horror genre is a film genre that has been around for quite some time, spending his filmmaking illustrious history of producing a plethora of scary thrills, ghostly chills, and creepy macabre as its narrative based and cinematic nuances. While this genre has been more towards adults (over the years), the movie genre has blended into an unexpected one, tapping into the PG realm of young kids / tweens cinematic entertainment. While not uncommon, this blend of kid’s horror movies (which sometimes also adds the fantasy element into the mix) has been sparsely produced over the years, but has been able to cultivate some memorable features with films like 1984’s Gremlins, 1986’s Labyrinth, 1988’s Beetlejuice, 1993’s A Nightmare Before Christmas, 2006’s Monster House, 2009’s Coraline, 2012’s Hotel Transylvania, 2015’s Goosebumps just to name a few. Now, Universal Pictures (as well as Amblin Entertainment and Reliance Entertainment) and director Eli Roth present the newest kid horror endeavor with the movie The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Does the film join the memorable ranks of the kids fantasy horror features or does it get lost within its own “ticking” narrative? Read more

Peppermint (2018) Review

GARNER SHINES,

PEPPERMINT DOES NOT


 

In the category of the action film genre, there exist a certain style of cinematic narrative that has been proven to work…. the story of revenge. While this storyline premise / plot device has always been around and has done multiple other genres (drama, thriller, comedy, fantasy, etc.), it’s been a somewhat fan-favorite (i.e. bread and butter) of the action movie genre, spinning a tale of action, shootouts, brawls, and (sometimes) a sort of “one-man” wrecking crew as the story’s main protagonist character, who’s fighting for loss and trying to “payback” an individual / group that took something (or someone) way for him. Movies like 2004’s Man on Fire, 2009’s Crime, 2009’s Taken, 2014’s John Wick, and 2018’s Death Wish are prime examples of this narrative arc of revenge, while other films like have weave in other filmmaking elements / genres into the mix with films like 1994’s The Crow, 1997’s Spawn, and 2006’s V for Vendetta. Now, STX films (and Lakeshore Entertainment) and director Pierre Morel present the latest iteration of vigilante / revenge action storyline with the film Peppermint. Does this movie find its entertainment action in amongst its revenge story or does it flounder underneath its own bland vigilante tale? Read more

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