Review of the Special Features on ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Bluray

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Starting today, fans of the most anticipated sequel of perhaps the BEST science fiction movie ever created have cause to rejoice! ‘Blade Runner 2049‘ is available on Bluray and DVD. Those who have seen the movie are no doubt anxious to bring home this film to add to their personal collection. But the question always asked is: “What about the special features?” Sometimes the special features may consist of nothing more than a few deleted scenes and the original TV spot for the film, etc. Luckily for us, the special features on ‘Blade Runner 2049‘ are very special indeed! It’s easy to appreciate the unique style and feel of this movie on its own merits, but after viewing all of the work and incredible effort that went into making it, one feels truly awestruck and daunted at the grand scope of elements that the common movie-goer may take for granted. Director Denis Villeneuve gleefully introduces various the viewer to the incredible efforts of everyone involved from the actors to the lightning & sound crew, to the set designers and beyond.bladerunner2049_04

Probably my very favorite special feature was one of the short films that Villeneuve charged the brilliant Shinichiro Watanbe to create that acts as a sort of small prequel that leads into the events of the actual feature film. This gorgeous anime called ‘Black Out 2022‘ bridges the gap a bit between the original ‘Blade Runner‘ movie gives us some backstory of “The Black Out” that is referred to in the sequel on a few occasions and provides a new perspective on the actual movie and some of it’s characters. Whether you have not seen the movie in theaters before or if you’re now seeing it again for the 2nd or 3rd time, I’d advise you to watch this short film first before delving into the feature presentation as well as another that is directed by Luke Scott and focuses on the character Sapper Morton played wonderfully by Dave Bautista.

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One of the other special features I was impressed by was entitled “Designing The World of ‘Blade Runner 2049′” in which Villeneuve gives us a clear insight of the grandeur of all that went into creating the futuristic, dystopian world in which the we see before us. Villeneuve’s insistence on using as little green screen as possible is very admirable in it’s premise and even more unbelievable upon seeing the finished product. In the modern era of movie making where so many films are using green screens and motion capture tech to achieve their results, you’ll be significantly impressed and truly blown away by all of the work that went into giving us this breathtaking piece of cinema. The in depth look at the different characters, the commentary by the stars of the film and fresh look at the tech and story of this movie are all right there for you to see with just the click of a remote. I had a blast going through each and every one of them and had a newfound appreciation for the film itself and for the level of commitment from both the director and the crew. Be sure to take the time to savor all of the special features that are loaded into this release! This is one instance where they are, truly, quite special indeed! I’d assign them a solid 9 out of 10!

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‘The Commuter’ Movie Review

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Your first “Must See!” movie of 2018 hits theaters this weekend in the form of ‘The Commuter‘. Liam Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, an ex-cop turned life insurance salesman, whose day-to-day routine is always the same: Wake up, eat breakfast with his wife, help get his son ready of school, head to the train, go to work in the city, come home on the train, rinse, lather, repeat. When his big insurance company lets him go after 10 years, he meets up with his former police partner (Patrick Wilson) for a drink to commiserate over his extended double mortgage and how he will be able to pay for his son’s college. On his way home, he meets a woman named Joanna on the train (Vera Farmiga) who poses a hypothetical situation to him: Would you do a seemingly simple task for someone you just met if the reward was $100,000? MacCauley’s unwitting acceptance of the $25,000 upfront money launches him into a race against time to find a mystery person on the train and plant a GPS device on them before the train reaches the last stop. The stakes are raised when MacCauley learns that his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and son are being threatened and when people he knows on the train begin to be murdered. Without knowing for whom he is searching or what it is the unknown person is carrying, MacCauley desperately searches the train, narrowing down the possibilities while the mysterious Joanna seems to be watching his every move reminding him of how much he has to lost if he fails.

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I found this movie to be very enjoyable. The entire cast was sharp and the action was relentless. To me, it felt a great deal like a 90’s action movie (and I mean that as a compliment) in the style of ‘Con-Air‘ or ‘The Fugitive‘. In fact, 20 years ago, this would have been a movie starring Tommy Lee Jones or Harrison Ford instead of Liam Neeson. That’s not to say that the movie was predictable or boring – quite the opposite! There were even a few times when I actually made an audible “OH NO!!” while in the theater. (I try not to be “that guy” but it happens. LOL!) The pacing was solid with great performances from every single cast member all the way down to the ensemble members (Clara Lago, Andy Nyman, etc). With a svelte run time of 1hr 44min, the movie hurtles by like the very train on which the majority of the film takes place. It’s ‘Taken‘ meets ‘Speed‘ and I loved ever single second of it. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d give it a strong 8.5! If you’re looking to get out of the house and shake off those winter blues, then ‘The Commuter’ is a movie that will definitely bring the heat to theaters all across the country this weekend!!!

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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Movie Review

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Of all the movie reviews I’ve done, this may be the toughest one yet. I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since I was a little kid. I remember being given ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ on VHS for Christmas one year and watching it over and over again to the point where I had the entire thing memorized within a month’s time. ‘Return Of The Jedi‘ was the first movie that I was old enough to see when it came out in theaters and I was thrilled when my dad told me he was taking me to see it! Star Wars toys were the first ones that I actively collected as a child and the franchise has been part of my life for as long as I can recall. Even when the “new trilogy” came out, I still left the theater excited for what I had just seen. Unfortunately, ‘The Last Jedi‘ was the first one I can remember leaving the theater and thinking to myself: “That was… pretty good.”

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To be clear –  there were parts that worked really well but there were other parts that sort of fell flat or seemed wasted. In order to keep this review SPOILER FREE, I can’t give those details without revealing key moments in the film or crucial plot points. I will say that the acting from the entire cast was absolute perfection. There wasn’t a single performance that was weak or lacking in any way, shape or form. I will also say that the movie was very different from what I expected. For critics who complained that ‘The Force Awakens‘ was a formulaic rehash of ‘A New Hope‘, I can safely say that this is not a criticism that can be leveled against this most recent film. One of my complaints is that the movie felt long and, at times, felt like it didn’t know what to do with itself. The run time of 2 hrs and 32 mins could definitely have been shaved down had some of the unnecessary scenes been taken out or had the plot been simplified slightly (this was also a complaint I had with ‘Attack Of The Clones‘). Overall, Rian Johnson is to be commended for changing things up with this story and giving us a new look at the  Star Wars Universe as we’ve come to know it. I’m very interested to see what the final installment will bring and how things will move forward after the events of ‘The Last Jedi’.

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For my general takeaways:
1) I did get very teary-eyed with all of Carrie Fisher‘s scenes. Knowing that we won’t have our beloved Princess / General moving into Episode IX caused every appearance she made in this film to be all the more heart-breaking.
2) Adam Driver needs to be nominated for “Best Actor”. You could tangibly feel his internal struggle and his emotions wash over you as you watched his scenes.
3) Luke Skywalker will always be my favorite Jedi and Mark Hamill remains brilliant in everything he does. (And he gave us what will be, I’m sure, the most used .GIF of 2018. You’ll know it when you see it.)
4) Benicio Del Toro was underused and I’m hoping that he is brought back in a big way for Episode IX.

So with the release of this latest film, my order of favorite to least favorite now goes: Empire, New Hope, Rogue One, ROTJ, Force Awakens, Revenge, Last Jedi, AOTC, Phantom Menace. While the film excels as breaking the mold of Star Wars films as we’ve come to know them, it also fails to deliver the “Wow!” Factor that I was hoping for with Luke training Rey, the mystery of her parents, Finn vs Phasma, etc. I went and saw ‘The Force Awakens’ 3 times when it was released in theaters, but I am not so sure I feel the need to revisit ‘The Last Jedi’ until it hits Bluray. As it stands, I’d rate this movie a solid 7 out of 10. Get your tickets now for it’s release on Friday 12/15/17!!

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‘Justice League’ Movie Review

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It’s finally here. Whether you are excited by it or even if you are dreading it, in many ways ‘Justice League‘ may well be the most highly anticipated movie of 2017! The surrounding controversy and behind-the-scenes drama have certainly created a huge amount of buzz for this film with the news of multiple reshoots, the passing of the baton from Zack Snyder to Joss Whedon for directorial duties, etc. After seeing it last night and going in with low expectations after the severe disappointment of ‘Batman vs Superman‘ and ‘Suicide Squad‘ but still cautiously optimistic in the wake of how incredible ‘Wonder Woman’ was, I’d have to say that Warner Bros & D.C. Comics have a bonafide hit on their hands and that the DCEU is finally on solid ground moving forward. If ‘Wonder Woman‘ was the movie that helped the franchise find it’s footing, then ‘Justice League’ is the film that sets them running full-speed ahead.

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As the world mourns the loss of Superman, Batman (played supremely well by Ben Affleck) continues to investigate a mysterious alien threat and, after an exciting and comic book worthy battle against a Parademon high above the rooftops of Gotham City, decides that his plan to assemble a team of people with powers must move ahead at once. While Batman goes to recruit The Flash (played with great comedic timing by Ezra Miller), Wonder Woman (portrayed confidently & brilliantly by Gal Gadot) sets off to bring Cyborg (wonderfully performed by Ray Fisher) into the fold. The goal? Prevent Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) from uniting three Mother Boxes left behind during his previous attempt to conquer Earth and, thereby, turning the world into a new version of his home planet of Apokolips. Soon, Aquaman (brought to us in pitch(fork) perfect form by Jason Momoa) joins the fight but even he may not be enough to turn the tide (sorry, I’ll stop) in our heroes’ favor. Luckily, Batman has a plan: Use the remaining Mother Box currently in their possession in conjunction with the Kryptonian birthing chamber (used by Luthor to create Doomsday) to resurrect Superman! Will their plan work? Will Superman come back normal or “Pet Cemetery” style?!? (LOL! Ezra Miller…)

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Now… as for what worked and what didn’t: I will say that, overall, I think the movie was as close to comic book perfection as Warner Bros has given to us thus far. Considering all of the rewrites and reshoots, it is very hard to say which parts of this can be attributed to Zack Snyder and which parts are the responsibility of Joss Whedon and which parts are because of Geoff Johns being installed in a ‘Kevin Feige’ style position with the DCEU. For my money, the greatest area was the notable change in tone for Superman (a sparkling performance by Henry Cavill). He was brightly colored, smiling (even laughing) and full of light and hope in a way we’ve yet to see him in the previous two outings (aka: ‘Man Of Steel‘ & ‘Dawn Of Justice‘). The interaction between the lead characters was also very well done! Affleck’s portrayal of Batman is my favorite since Michael Keaton and the chemistry between him, Gadot, Momoa, Fisher & Miller was palpable! This goes double for the scenes shared by Ezra Miller’s Flash & Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. I would pay money to see a “The Brave & The Bold” style film with just the two of them. That being said, one of the negatives for me was the way The Flash’s character was written. Given his demeanor and style, he seemed more suited for a Wally West or, better yet, a Bart Allen style Flash than he did for a Barry Allen type. This is one glaringly obvious place where the writing stumbled over it’s own feet as far as characterization is concerned. Ray Fisher nails the role of Cyborg right out of the gate and the characterization here is a great mix of the original straight out of George Perez‘s & Marv Wolfman‘s “New Teen Titanscomic combined seamlessly with the “New 52” upgrades that we’ve come to accept and appreciate in the character. For the brief time they were in it, both J.K. Simmons‘ Commissioner Gordon & Amber Heard‘s Mera were also completely on-point!! I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more of them both in the upcoming solo films for Batman & Aquaman respectively! Some have complained about the story being a little flat, but I found it to be very solid. It perfectly incorporated aspects from all of the previous films into the narrative of this movie in a way that effectively made us feel that the build up to ‘Justice League’ was all worth it. Where ‘Dawn Of Justice‘ felt overstuffed with too many story lines being furiously cobbled together, this film felt well-paced, slick and exceptionally well-balanced. I could have also stood to see a little more of Aquaman, but aside from that, I think the once troubled DCEU franchise is now firmly established. On a scale of 1 – 10, I give ‘Justice League’ a strong 7.5 and I am looking forward with great anticipation and excitement to see where we go from here!! (BTW: There are TWO post-credit scenes and BOTH are very, very well worth sticking around for, I promise!)

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‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Movie Review

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It’s been almost a decade since Marvel Studios gave us ‘Iron Man‘ and began creating a connected film world that brought our favorite comic book characters to life on the big screen. Now with the release of ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘ next weekend, we will have our 17th installment in the wondrous world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! This 3rd film in the “Thor Trilogy” is a notable departure from the first two chapters in so much that it is laden with quite a bit more humor than the preceding movies even though the stakes are much higher for the Odinson than ever before. After the events of ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron‘, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been following his recurring visions in an attempt to ensure Asgard’s safety from outside threats. Upon his return, he realizes that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been impersonating Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and ruling Asgard in their father’s place ever since the final events of ‘Thor: Dark World‘. On their way to find where Loki banished Odin, they are introduced to Odin’s first born; Hela the Goddess Of Death (Cate Blanchett). Hela easily defeats both Thor and Loki resulting in their being dumped on to a remote planet called Sakaar which is ruled by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Thor can win his freedom in the gladiator ring if he defeats Grandmaster’s champion – The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)!! Meanwhile, Hela is intent on ruling all of the Nine Realms but cannot leave Asgard because Heimdall (Idris Elba) has stolen the Bifrost Sword. Will Thor be able to find a way home and, even if he does, will he be able to defeat his elder sister Hela and prevent Ragnarok? Or will this finally be the end of fabled Asgard?

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Once more, Marvel has brought an incredible movie to the fans which gives us specific character focus while also still moving the overarching story of the combined Cinematic Universe closer to the climactic showdown with Thanos in next year’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War‘. The cast of ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ may be one of the most impressive of any Marvel film to date! Cate Blanchett is terrifyingly perfect as Hela as she embodies the beauty and horror of The Goddess Of Death combined with the smoldering rage of the prodigal daughter come to forcibly take what she believes to be her rightful place as ruler of Asgard and beyond. Returning players Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba are excellent as always in their respective roles and it was fantastic to see more action from Elba’s Heimdall than we have been privy to in previous installments. The standout for me was Jeff Goldblum who chews the scenery as The Grandmaster in his own Jeff Goldblum-y style. Tessa Thompson is equal parts badass & divine in her portrayal of newcomer Valkrie and I’m hoping we get to see more of her character in future offerings from Marvel Studios.

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While this film is certainly my favorite of the three Thor movies, I still found a few little details that slightly bothered me. The previous two Thor films had a weighty gravitas to them that portrayed the style with which I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Thor. Almost Shakespearian in tone, if you will. This film almost had too much humor and felt more like an extension of ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘ than of ‘Thor‘. It also felt like a 70% Thor film and a 30% Hulk film simply because Marvel has neglected to do anything with Hulk outside of his 2008 standalone movie and then the two Avengers films. (Not entirely their fault as they have legal hurdles to overcome with Universal still owning the distribution rights to the character.) There was also a scene with Odin & Thor that was a little too Dumbledore-esque for my tastes. Again, these are small wrinkles and, to me, easily overlooked given the clever plot that almost seamlessly combines the Ragnarok story from the Thor books together with the now classic Planet Hulk saga. I also loved the 80’s look and feel of the graphics and colors in the film and the style of music throughout. While certainly not the best of the MCU films up to this point, ‘Thor Ragnarok’ is still an impressive outing for the franchise and one that you should definitely get out there and see sooner rather than later!! On a scale of 1 – 10, I would rate ‘Thor 3’ as a strong 8. AND… there are TWO post-credits scenes on this one so if anyone tries to get you to leave the theater before they both play, hold Mjolnir high over your head and tell them “NAY!!”

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‘The Snowman’ Movie Review

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The Snowman‘ film, based on the best-selling novel by author Jo Nesbo, has all the markings of a fantastic crime thriller. The cast is an extraordinary one consisting of A-Listers such as Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones and Val Kilmer. The premise of a cat-and-mouse game between an elite detective (Fassbender) and a vicious and elusive serial killer who is triggered by the first snowfall sounds exciting. The exotic backdrop of Norway and beautiful scenes shown throughout the film hold a decorative yet unsettling thrall for the viewer. Sadly, all of these elements fail to save the incoherent and jumbled story of the movie itself. This is a film I was anxious to see, somewhat glad I saw, but still felt somehow very disappointed by the end product.

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Michael Fassbender as the lead (Harry Hole – yes, that’s the character’s name) gives a stoic but sincere performance as a brilliant detective who struggles with alcohol addiction. Unfortunately, while we are given examples of his alcoholism, we are merely left to understand, through some weak dialogue, about the brilliant detective part. That seems to be the theme of the movie – some jumbled scenes and a line or two of dialogue to establish the motives and backstory of the main characters. This, unfortunately, doesn’t help the audience to really feel invested in any of the players that we are randomly introduced to throughout the film. Some characters almost feel as though they were added as an afterthought to help shore up the shaky storyline and force it forward. Val Kilmer and Toby Jones are especially underutlized as a means of giving Rebecca Ferguson‘s character some sort of motivation in the case of Kilmer and then as a means to provide a bit of much needed exposition to Fassbender’s character in the case of Jones.

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J.K. Simmons shows up as part of an almost secondary plot which never quite runs fully tangent to the main narrative. While his portrayal of his character is fantastic, it once again feels like he doesn’t NEED to be there due to the rambling plot and sloppy story which feels like it’s just all over the map. Towards the end, the movie makes a desperate attempt to pull the meandering threads together but it’s too little too late for my tastes. Having not read the original novel on which the film is based, I can only assume that the fault rests with Peter Straughan for the screenplay adaptation or with Tomas Alfredson‘s direction. There were even several quick scenes that I questioned the reasoning as to why they were included at all. The real letdown came at the end with how the killer is finally stopped. I understand the symmetry perhaps, but the finale doesn’t do much in the way of making it feel like our hero won the day. (You’ll understand when you see it.) Overall, if you’re a Fassbender fan (and who isn’t) then you may still want to check this movie out this weekend. Otherwise, you may want to hold off until it hits Netflix or Redbox. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d have to , sadly, rate ‘The Snowman’ a very cold and disappointing 4.

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‘Breathe’ Movie Review

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The movie ‘Breathe‘ will be released in theaters this weekend and it marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis. For my money, he has a winner on his hands right out of the gate! Based on the true story of Robin Cavendish, diagnosed at age 28 with polio and given only 3 months to live, the film is equal parts heart-breaking and uplifting. At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Robin (played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield) as he meets, falls in love with and, subsequently marries, Diana Blacker (portrayed by the ever graceful Claire Foy). In 1957 while in Africa for his job as a tea broker, Robin suddenly falls ill and becomes paralysed from the neck down, unable to breathe on his own. A few weeks later, Diana gives birth to their son Jonathan but due to Robin’s condition, he is unable to even hold his newborn child. Despair sets in and Robin begs for death but Diana refuses to let him give in. (Interesting side note: the real life Jonathan Cavendish is one of this film’s producers!)

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After forcing his release from the hospital and being told by a doctor that he would be dead within 2 weeks outside of their medical confines, his family and friends move him into a new home and Robin slowly begins to find his reasons for living. With the help of his friend Teddy Hall (played gleefully by Hugh Bonneville), an inventor and a professor at Oxford, Robin is able to mount his respirator on a makeshift wheel chair which allows him to experience more of life. The story is thick with emotion as you experience both the highs and lows of the characters in this gripping film about the heights of the human spirit. The entire cast is absolutely superb and they are skillfully guided by Serkis’ steady hand. While I felt there was a slight lack of chemistry between Garfield & Foy early on in the film, that didn’t seem to matter by the end as they both slowly draw you in to this sobering look at how life can change almost instantly and how what we choose to do with our life can be impacted by those with whom we surround ourselves. This will almost certainly get some award nominations in the upcoming season and I would rate the film a solid 8 out of 10. Just make sure to order a side of tissues with your popcorn and soda.

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‘Friend Request’ Movie Review

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A new horror movie hitting theaters this weekend is ‘Friend Request‘ starring ‘Fear The Walking Dead‘ actor Alycia Debnam-Carey as college student Laura Woodson. Laura seemingly has it all: A perfect boyfriend, popularity, good grades, etc. As a result, she feels compelled to accept the friend request of a loner student with 0 friends, Marina Mills (played by Liesl Ahlers). But when Marina becomes obsessed with Laura and begins to cyberstalk her, Laura unfriends her causing Marina to take her own life on video for all to see and sets into motion a curse that will change Laura’s life forever.

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The premise of the film is a good one: Take something like technology, that makes us feel safe in the face of ancient practices of witchcraft and scrying, and make that technology the very vehicle that spirals us deeper into the supernatural clutches of evil. After Marina takes her own life by setting herself on fire and hanging herself in front of her laptop, the video appears in Laura’s Facebook feed leading to many people commenting on how awful she is to post such a thing. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to remove the video and even delete her account, she is questioned by the police and the dean of the college. After Laura receives a posthumous message from Marina warning her “u will know how it feels to be lonely.”, one-by-one her real life friends begin to die horribly after mysteriously becoming online friends with the now deceased Marina. This leads Laura in a race against time to find a way to break the curse before everyone she cares about dies.

The first half of the movie does well and pulls you in immediately. The imagery used in both the Facebook rendering of Marina’s page and the jump scares throughout are what one would expect from a solid, modern-day horror film. Sadly, the second half of the movie begins to unravel quickly and the film almost seems to not know what to do with itself. By the movie’s climax, there are some rather large plot points that strain credulity and the actual finale lacks any significant punch at all and leaves one rolling one’s eyes instead of looking over one’s shoulder. I’m sure this movie will appeal to the teenage crowd who want to kick off the “scary movie season” with a mindless flick, but the seasoned movie goer and horror movie buff will find the overall film rather lacking in the face of several recent genre hits such as ‘It‘ and ‘Annabelle: Creation‘. If I were you, I’d save this one for a watch at home with no better option and save your movie theater money for something better. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d have to sadly give ‘Friend Request’ a weak 4.5. Feel free to unfriend me if you disagree. 😉

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ Movie Review

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For those who may not have seen the original film, Kingsman is an independent British spy agency that works behind the scenes to protect the world. The idea is sort of a mashup of the slick espionage shows and movies like ‘The Avengers‘ and ‘James Bond‘. The first film even slyly poked fun at this notion much in the way the ‘Scream’ films poked fun at the horror movie genre. Sadly, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle‘, comes up a little short of the original. While still enjoyable, the plot strains the limits of one’s suspension of disbelief and isn’t quite as fun as the preceding entry. Opening with an assassination attempt of Eggsy (played again by Taron Egerton) by a rejected Kingsman applicant Charlie (a role reprised by Edward Holcroft), the movie delves breathlessly into action with a well-choreographed close-quarters fight scene and explosive car chase through the streets of London. It’s revealed that this assassination attempt wasn’t merely revenge but part of a plot to take out Kingsman as Charlie is seen to be working for illegal drug czar Poppy (played gleefully, but a bit over-the-top, by Julianne Moore). A country-wide missile strike ends up being Plan B and all of the Kingsman agents are wiped out except for Eggsy and Merlin (once again played by Mark Strong). The “Doomsday Protocol” is performed by Merlin leading the pair across the Atlantic to the state of Kentucky where they are introduced to their American cousins: The Statesman.

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The group is headed by Champagne (Jeff Bridges) with tech whiz Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) and staffed by Agents Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal). After clarification of who Eggsy and Merlin are, The Statesman agree to help The Kingsman find and eliminate Poppy and the threat of poisoning drug addicts by obtaining her cure before world leaders capitulate to her demands of legalizing all drugs and granting her and her organization total amnesty. The real wrinkle comes in when it is revealed that Eggsy’s mentor Harry (played once again by Colin Firth) is actually alive, amnesiac and living in the care of The Statesman. From there, the world-saving begins in earnest with everything from robotic dogs, exotic locations and Elton John. (You read that correctly.)
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Even though the film clocks in at a lengthy 2 hours & 21 minutes, to its credit, the film never seems slow. I was a little disappointed by how sidelined the roles for Halle Berry and Channing Tatum were after how much they were both hyped in the previews. Jeff Bridges did a fine job of chewing the scenery and Julianne Moore as the villain was serviceable but her role lacked the charisma and punch that Samuel L. Jackson‘s villain has in the last film. This bit of criticism, from my standpoint, has less to do with her acting and more with the disconnected writing for her character. (I.E. The plot was wild but her motives and demands were mundane.) The standouts for me were Colin Firth, who tends to be superb in everything, and Marc Strong who gives, perhaps, the most real & grounded performance of the lot. It was also a delight seeing Elton John playing himself in a hilarious role as Poppy’s celebrity hostage / play thing who eventually gets his revenge in a deliciously fun and unmistakably Elton way.

So while this film carries the franchise forward, it also falls victim to “sequel syndrome” in not being able to completely recapture the elements and charm of the original. All of the actors do a fine job with what they are given, but some of the performances seem to suffer from being provided too little with which to work. Given the hype that the film has received and the anticipation of this sequel from fans who loved the first installment, I’d say that it will take the #1 Spot at the box office from ‘It‘ but will suffer a sharp decline for the second weekend. Based on all of this, I’d give the film a 6.5 out of 10.

AfterShock Comics “Dark Ark #1” Review

Hitting comic book stores on September 20th will be a very cool and incredibly interesting new series from AfterShock Comics called “Dark Ark“. It combines all of the elements of myth, lore, and alternate history into a deliciously dark tale set during the Biblical time of The Great Flood. Written by the always exceptional Cullen Bunn and smoothly drawn by Juan Doe, “Dark Ark” presents us with the idea that Noah may not have been the only one to build an ark to ride out the 40 day and 40 night deluge of the Earth. In this tale, a dark wizard by the name of Shrae takes two each of the demons & dark creatures (I.E. vampires, manticores, harpies, etc) aboard his own ark to survive the flood. But when a gathering of these monsters inhabit such a small space for so long, trouble is bound to happen. This is a fascinating look at a plot that runs tangent to a story with which we are all familiar. The scenes set by Bunn’s narrative and Doe’s accompanying art make for a compelling read that will make you hunger for the second issue as soon as you’ve finished the first! Comics like this are the reason independent publishers like AfterShock should be celebrated. “Dark Ark” is due out on September 20th so hurry and let your local comic book store know that you want them to put it on your pull list! You may even want to get 2 copies to make sure you get the alternate cover drawn by the phenomenal Phil Hester. On a scale of 1 – 10, I give “Dark Ark” a strong 8.5.