‘Christopher Robin’ Movie Review

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‘Christopher Robin’ (2018)
Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Alex Ross Perry & Allison Schroeder
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Bronte Carmichael, Peter Capaldi, Toby Jones * Sophie Okonedo

Winnie-The-Pooh has been around for just over 90 years. In that time, we’ve gotten theatrical versions, radio broadcasts, animated specials and more. However, for all of the media and formats I’ve seen, none of them has been filled with as much heart and beauty as the new live action film ‘Christopher Robin‘ which hits theaters this coming weekend. The film opens with young Christopher Robin spending time with Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger & Company in the 100 Acre Woods for the last time before he heads off to boarding school. Through a series of scenes, we see Christopher grow up, lose his father, meet a girl, fall in love, go off to war and come home to settle into the grind of a daily job and raising a family. Through it all, Pooh wonders when he might see Christopher Robin again and, upon being unable to find his friends in the woods, he sets off on his own to look for Christopher Robin in London to enlist his help.

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The plot is predictable to the point of cliche BUT…. not only is that my only real complaint, it is an issue that is easily brushed aside given the ridiculously talented cast and the gorgeous cinematography. Watching this film makes you feel as if you are being read the very best story ever by a loving, trusted parent. The voice acting of Jim Cummings as Winnie-The-Pooh is emotionally rich with every slight vocal inflection. Brad Garrett perfectly captures Eeyore’s patented ennui, Nick Mohammed does a great job of fretting as Piglet and Peter Capaldi‘s high-strung Rabbit is also spot-on. The live-action cast is not to be outdone by their voice acting counterparts. Ewan McGregor has never been anything less than phenomenal in anything he’s ever done and Hayley Atwell always lights up the screen be it big or small (although I would have liked to have seen more of her as her character didn’t have a great amount to do in this film). Their on-screen daughter, Madeline (played by Bronte Carmichael), is certainly a star on-the-rise and turns out an excellent performance here.

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The cinematography is divine and beautiful and intimately draws you into the narrative. Director Marc Foster has outdone himself with this delightfully charming film that will no doubt bring joy to children of all ages. I give ‘Christopher Robin’ a very solid 8 out of 10. Whether you’re a long time Winnie-The-Pooh fan or even if you’re new to Pooh, I would highly recommend adding this film to your “must-see” list at a theater near you!! Just remember that it’s BYOH. (Bring Your Own Honey)

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‘Teen Titans GO! To The Movies’ Movie Review

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‘Teen Titans GO! To The Movies’ (2018)
Warner Bros

Directed by: Aaron Horvath & Peter Rida Michail
Written by: Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic
Starring: Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Greg Cipes, Nicolas Cage, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Stan Lee, Jimmy Kimmel

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am a huge fan of DC Comics. I religiously watch their shows on The CW and I love their animated features and series. Their movies, however, are very, very hit or miss (with most of them falling in the “miss” category). Luckily, a new DC Comics film will be released this coming Friday (7/27) that falls into their animated category and it is just plain, outright fun! ‘Teen Titans GO! To The Movies‘ is the first theatrical release of a DC Animated Film since 1993’s ‘Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm‘. I was a little hesitant going in because the cartoon series on which this film is based (‘Teen Titans GO!‘) isn’t high on my list. I’m more of a ‘Young Justice‘ guy, but I certainly understand the appeal of ‘GO!’ for younger audiences and I can appreciate it for what it is. This film features the same core voice cast as the Cartoon Network show with Scott Menville as Robin, Hynden Walch as Starfire, Khary Payton as Cyborg, Tara Strong as Raven and Greg Cipes as Beast Boy. On top of that, we get treated to the adult heroes such as Superman (Nicolas Cage), Wonder Woman (Halsey), Batman (Jimmy Kimmel) and Green Lantern (Lil Yachty) among nearly every other DC Hero of which you can think right down to The Challengers of the Unknown and Detective Chimp.

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The plot centers around the adult heroes viewing the Teen Titans as a joke and not worthy of getting their own movie (a feat every other super hero has accomplished recently, including Batman’s butler, Alfred). Robin attempts to prove that his team is not a joke by confronting Slade Wilson (played gleefully by Will Arnett) as he attempts to steal a special jewel the absorbs energy. The group is victorious and movie mogul Jade Wilson agrees to make a movie about the Teen Titans. Both danger and hilarity ensue as the team realizes that they are the only ones who can stop a farther reaching and sinister scheme that even the Justice League can’t handle. There are musical numbers, there are inside jokes, there are brightly splashed animated effects, there’s even a fantastic cameo by Stan Lee (and, yes, that really IS him lending his voice to his animated avatar). Overall, this is a great movie for the whole family. Adults will enjoy it for the comic references and self-deprecating humor, kids will enjoy it for the zany animation, and movie goers in general should enjoy it as a different type of film from the current slate of movies currently in theaters.

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The film works because it never takes itself seriously – at all! It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek as it recognizes it’s own absurdity and points a finger at DC’s own place in the currently superhero-heavy film landscape. Fans of the series will be satisfied and people who have never seen the series will enjoy the style of this film and it’s humor. For me, it doesn’t stack up to the aforementioned ‘Mask Of The Phantasm’ nor even to current releases like ‘Incredibles 2’, but it’s not trying to do so either and that’s part of the film’s charm. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give ‘Teen Titans GO! To The Movies’ a solid 7. Bring YOUR team out to see it next weekend at a theater near you AND make sure to stay for a post credits scene!!!

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‘Skyscraper’ Movie Review

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‘Skyscraper’ (2018)
Legnedary Pictures & Universal Pictures

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thuber
Written by: Rawson Marshall Thuber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Rolland Moller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber & Hannah Quinlivan

I’ll be honest and say ‘Skyscraper‘ wasn’t a film I was particularly excited about seeing. There hadn’t been too much buzz about it in my normal movie circles other than “It stars Dwayne Johnson. He’s playing an amputee. He has to go into a burning skyscraper to rescue people.” I ended up being completely blown away by this movie and I’ll be recommending it to anyone who is interested in seeing a true summer blockbuster! Dwayne Johnson plays former FBI hostage rescue agent Will Sawyer who lost part of his left leg in the line of duty 10 years earlier. Now, he has a wife (Neve Campbell) and two children (McKenna Roberts & Noah Cottrell) and his own tiny security consulting firm. When his friend and former partner gets him a job in Hong Kong verifying the security and safety measures of the world’s new tallest building, The Pearl,  for it’s owner and architect Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), everything seems to be going well. Soon, Sawyer learns that his friend has set him up to be the prime suspect in the building’s destruction while a terrorist group attempts to kidnap Zhao and steal his most prized possession. Now, Sawyer must race against time to save his family who are trapped inside The Pearl while clearing his own name and stopping the mercenary group behind everything.

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In my humble opinion, this may be the best Dwayne Johnson has ever been! He isn’t just the normal action hero, fighting machine taking down the bad guys. He’s playing a flawed and slightly broken man, an amputee with lingering PTSD, fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds to save his family. There are obvious comparisons to be made between this movie and the classic 80’s film ‘Die Hard‘, but the comparisons are only there on the surface. ‘Skyscraper’ has more heart than snark, more courage than comedy. There are certainly funny moments and this isn’t a drama by any means so don’t take it that way. But underneath the exterior of an incredible action film are layers of real emotion as we see Johnson’s character push forward while, quite literally at times, defying the laws of physics. (But if anyone can break the laws of physics, it’d be Dwayne Johnson, am I right?) The plot is textured without being overly complex and I don’t feel there were any wasted moments which helped keep the movie’s run time down to a fast-paced 1 hour and 42 minutes (although it seemed even shorter while watching it). The stunts in the film are truly astonishing and this is the very first film I’ve seen so far this year where I found myself squeezing the armrest of the chair and holding my breath during some of the stunt sequences so I give huge kudos to stunt coordinator Robert Alonzo and his entire team on some dizzying and eye-popping stunt work!

The acting was also on-point for the entire cast. I’ve already sang the praises of Dwayne Johnson so I don’t want to belabor that point, but I truly loved his performance in this film! Neve Campbell’s character is confident, smart and strong and she has great chemistry with Johnson. Chin Han is always sublimely charming and cool under pressure while Roland Moller‘s character of terrorist mastermind Kores Botha was fiendish perfection. The other notable performance for me was that of Hannah Quinlivan‘s character Xia who I loved to hate in every one of her scenes (I can pay no higher compliment to any villain!). You’ll recognize the name of writer / director Rawson Marshall Thurber from his other films such as ‘Dodgeball‘ and ‘We’re The Millers‘ but with ‘Skyscraper’, I can see his future as a big-budget action movie director climb to whole new levels! (Pun intended.)

In summation, I feel that ‘Skyscraper’ is a return to form of what a “summer blockbuster” is meant to be! Early projections have the film garnering anywhere from $32 – $40 million when it opens this weekend, but I feel word of mouth could bring that number up higher and I think, perhaps more importantly, that the film will continue to do well on it’s 2nd and subsequent weekends which, as we’ve seen, is where some recent movies have faltered lately. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this one as a towering 9.0! So if you’re burning to see a fantastic action film with an outstanding cast & breathtaking stunts, then get tickets NOW to see ‘Skyscraper’ at your local theater and raise your summer excitement into the stratosphere!!!

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D.C. Collectibles Unveils New ‘Justice League’ Animated Series Action Figures

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While the cry for a new ‘Justice League‘ animated film or series featuring the original cast (#JLReunion) has gone unanswered by WB Entertainment, there is some news that will excite fans of the beloved cartoon. DC Collectibles has just announced a new series of action figures based on the popular series which will be available in the Fall of 2018 exclusively for members of the brand new DC Universe online service. Here is the announcement directly from DC:

Exclusively for DC UNIVERSE members, DC Collectibles—the award-winning line of collectibles from DC Entertainment—will offer a wide range of new action figures and collector’s items based on DC’s iconic characters and stories. Members will have exclusive access to all-new six-inch Justice League Animated action figures based on designs from the fan-favorite animated series (2001-2004), starting in fall 2018. In addition to DC Collectibles, members will have access to a wide range of exclusive, curated and hard-to-find DC merchandise from a variety of licensing partners before the rest of the world.”

The first 8 figures in the collection are Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, The Flash, Hawkgirl and Aquaman. So far there is no word on what, if any, accessories will be included with each figure, but if they are anything like the recent relaunch of the ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ collection that has been released over the past few years, the figures may feature several brand new accessories and possibly even interchangeable heads and hands for different poses. Assuming this initial set of figures does well, then we may get other favorites from the series such as Green Arrow, Black Canary, Supergirl and maybe even some that we never got from the original figure collection like Felix Faust and Granny Goodness.

One cannot help but wonder if the huge call on social media for an animated reunion of the original cast had something to do with this newly announced release of the original set of figures from the ‘Justice League’ series. Furthermore, DC and WB Entertainment may look at how sales of these figures go in deciding whether or not there is merit in giving the fans the #JLReunion that they desire. This movement to have the original cast reunite picked up a great deal of steam last year when Andrea Romano, who both casted & directed the majority of the iconic cartoon series, announced on-air that she would come out of retirement to direct an animated feature with the OG cast! Expand your toy collection while also supporting the move to bring back the original cast for a potential ‘Justice League Unlimited‘ feature film? Yes, please!!

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‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Movie Review

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‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ (2018)
Universal Pictures

Directed by: J.A. Bayona
Written by: Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow (based on characters by Michael Crichton)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, BD Wong & Jeff Goldblum

This weekend, you have the chance to revisit the ‘Jurassic Park‘ franchise with the 5th film – ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.’ Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles of Owen Grady and Claire Dearing. The pair are recruited by an emissary of John Hammond’s partner, Benjamin Lockwood (played by James Cromwell), with a mission to return to Isla Nublar and help rescue Blue, the velociraptor that Owen raised and trained, before an erupting volcano wipes out the island. Claire brings along two specialists, Franklin and Zia (actors Justice Smith and Daniella Pineda, respectively) to help activate the dinosaurs trackers thus make it easier for them to locate and rescue them. Upon securing Blue, the group is double-crossed by the para military task force working for Lockwood’s accountant, Eli Mills (played by Rafe Spall). While Lockwood thinks the dinosaurs are being rescued and transported to a new sanctuary island, Mills instead plans to sell the dinosaurs off to the highest bidder while using Blue as a guide to help control the latest crossbreed of dinosaur – the endoraptor. Once again, BD Wong reprises his role of evil scientist Dr. Wu who is assisting Mills in his plan from a secret sub-basement under Lockwood’s sprawling mansion. With the auction underway, Owen and Claire must find a way to stop the remaining dinosaurs from being sold off while also keeping themselves and Lockwood’s granddaughter safe from the newly released endoraptor.

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While I was initially quite excited for this movie, the execution left me a bit underwhelmed. The film suffers from the same problem that has beset other movies in the franchise with a slightly lacking sense of character development. In fact, a reveal about Lockwood and his family was made in the film that I found to be interesting, but still fell a little flat for me as I was never invested enough in those characters to really care. Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (played by Isabella Sermon), Chris Pratt and Daniella Pineda deliver the best performances of the movie and, of course,  it’s always a delight to see BD Wong in this series. Having Jeff Goldblum back was a nice touch, but he was, sadly, only on-screen for mere moments at the beginning and again at the very end to bookend the piece while testifying before Congress as to whether or not the government should take action to save the dinosaurs. The cat-and-mouse game through the mansion to elude the endoraptor was fun and reminiscent of the first film’s chase through the park’s kitchen and welcome center by the velociraptors. For me, the dinosaurs were the stars of this movie while the actual actors seemed more like just set dressing. If that’s what the writers and the director were going for, then they nailed it. However I suspect that wasn’t the overall intention. After seeing this 5th film of the series, I would now rank them from favorite to least favorite as 1, 4, 2, 5, 3. ‘Fallen Kingdom’ certainly had it’s moments, but they were too few and far between to cause me to love this movie as much as I have others in the franchise. I would rate this movie a 6.5 out of 10 but I still suspect that it will take a sizable bite out of this weekend’s box office!!

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An Interview with Gabrielle Dennis

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The second season of ‘Luke Cage‘ drops on Netflix this coming Friday (Junes 22nd). In addition of the new villain Bushmaster, played by Mustafa Shakir, the cast is also adding actress Gabrielle Dennis in the role of Tilda Johnson. Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Gabrielle by phone to discuss joining the cast, working with the legendary Alfre Woodard and her previous connection with Simone Missick.

James Enstall, host of Geek to Me Radio (JE) – I am joined now by Gabrielle Dennis talking about ‘Luke Cage’ Season 2. Thanks very much for your time this afternoon!

Gabrielle Dennis (GD) – Thank you!

JE – I’ve looked over your IMDB and you’ve been involved in so many projects. Coming into something like ‘Luke Cage’, which has that comic book background to it and it’s the second season so there is already a cast in place, what parts were most intimidating and what parts were most exciting?

GD – Oh wow! I would say the most exciting for sure is being able to work in that environment and space. I’ve never lived or worked in New York so being able to be plopped right into this world was extremely exciting and to have a new experience shooting there and then being a part of a show that I was already a fan of, that’s super exciting. I would say probably the most intimidating thing is just being the new kid on the block and trying to make sure you don’t step on anyone’s toes. You want to come in and do your job really well and make everyone proud. Being in the presence of the almighty Alfre Woodard, who is just an amazing powerhouse of an actress and human being, she is just great, being able to do scenes with her, that was…at first it was very intimidating to work with her up-close and personal but then you get in there and she is such a gracious actress. We had a ball. There were definitely more exciting moments than intimidating ones throughout this experience. That excitement is going to translate because when people watch this show, watch out!

JE – It was such a rich and powerful first season. The Netflix Marvel shows have been in some ways better than some of their big screen offerings. I will say it’s heartwarming to know that Alfre Woodard was as gracious in real life as she appears to be because I love seeing her on screen all the time so thank you for confirming my suspicion that she is indeed a great human being.

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You said you were a fan of the show previously, so you watched the first season before you ever thought about coming on for the second season?

GD – Oh yeah! Absolutely! I started watching the Marvel series with ‘Daredevil‘ obviously and then when Luke Cage was introduced in ‘Jessica Jones‘. When Luke Cage dropped, it was super exciting because I wasn’t familiar with him prior to Netflix and Marvel partnering up. It was two-fold in my excitement; finding out about this new black superhero that I didn’t grow up knowing about and because I’m a huge supporter of all of my peers and friends and I went to college with Simone Missick who plays Misty, so that was part of the reason I was ecstatic with coming in. I’m definitely not going to miss this. I missed [Luke Cage season 1] the first night it dropped because Netflix broke but I definitely tuned in for all of the episodes and thoroughly enjoyed them.

JE – I did not know you went to college with her. Did you hang out during your college years?

GD – We knew each other. We had mutual friends. She was a theater major and there was a project we worked on one time together but it was a brief one night situation. We definitely had mutual friends. I think we had a couple of Thanksgivings together. She’s been to my house for cookouts. I’ve been to her house for New Year’s parties. We ride in the same circle of girlfriends. It’s always exciting to support one another.

JE – Yeah! I love the fact that the entire cast is so strong. We are getting the addition of Mr. Shakir who plays Bushmaster, a very underrated super-villain in the Marvel pantheon. How was the time on set with him?

GD – It was great! Mustafa is another amazing human being. He is almost a superhero in his own right. Such a real person. He is super fit. He eats really healthy. He is a vegan. He is very conscious and aware of things that are going on in the world. He is a very kindhearted person and he is really great in this roll. He is a little creepy and scary and can be intimidating. In our very first scene together he was freaking me out a little bit. He does such a great job of maintaining his accent in this series and his action is really good. His performance is really amazing. Cheo and the writers have done such a great job. Like you said, he was so underrated in the comic book world but he makes up for it in this. He is definitely a villain that people are going to root for. At the core of his villainous ways he is doing things for the better good in his mind. He is not a villain for the sake of killing people and causing chaos. He is doing it to protect his legacy and people. At the core of that he has a true purpose, it’s just the way he goes about it is a little scary.

JE – This new season of Luke Cage will be dropping on Friday, June 22nd on Netflix. If you can, tell us a little bit about what we can expect from your character, Tilda Johnson, and her relationship with Alfre Woodard’s character, Mariah Dillard.

GD – The latest trailer just dropped today which reveals that we are mother and daughter and there are a lot of twists and turns going on there. It is obvious that I don’t really trust her and I think people will get to go on this journey of this woman who is just trying to live her life and stay on the straight and narrow path and do what is right. She is a holistic doctor and a very forgiving and caring person. She loves to help others and it seems like the bad people keep showing up at her door. She can’t escape finding the trouble that surrounds her. That’s what happens when you are in bed with the likes of Mariah Dillard. She’s got seedy characters around her so eventually she will find herself in situations she really wishes she hadn’t. I think the journey of this is going to be very interesting. There are going to be a lot of twists and turns that people won’t see coming which is actually what excites me most when I watch the series. I just finished it this past weekend and I’m ready to watch it again to see the things I might have missed. Even having been a part of the series and watched it, I can be fooled by the direction I think they are going with something and then they completely twist it on its heels. That’s what I’m most excited about, people being surprised and being on the edge of their seats for all 13 episodes. Even Cheo says that this season is stronger than season one. I think it’s going to exceed expectation and fans are going to be overjoyed by the work we put in. I’m very proud of what we’ve done and it looks really good!

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JE – That’s exciting because season one set the bar very high. If season two can top that it will be a very impressive feat.

Before I let you go, I know you also do stand-up and write and perform sketch comedy. Who are a couple people that inspire you in the comedic circles? Who makes you laugh and who do you take inspiration from when you are writing and doing your stand-up?

GD – I find most of my inspiration usually in my close circle. I haven’t been on stage in quite a while because this acting thing has really taken off for me! A lot of comedians that I was running in circles with, I find inspiration from them. They are so brilliant and so funny and the amount of work that goes into performing stand-up…I don’t think people understand that it is extremely hard and time-consuming. When I used to be out in the comedy clubs, Tiffany Haddish was there before me and she is still there now holding it strong, and she is just an inspiration and one of the people in my peer circle who has risen above and beyond and she is really doing it and it is inspiring that she has stayed true to herself this entire time. In comedy, it is all about the truth and the best and the strongest comedians stay true to themselves and find the humor in whatever that truth is, especially when it involves pain and darkness. When they can flip that on its head and find the funny in that, yeah, that’s the goal right there.

JE – Very cool! Gabrielle Dennis is Tilda Johnson in ‘Luke Cage’ season two dropping on Netflix, June 22nd. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/GabrielleDennis

Thank you so much for you time today!

GD – Thank you!

Make sure to keep up with Gabrielle and the rest of this sensational cast as Luke Cage hits the streets of Harlem once more on Netflix this coming Friday!!

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‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Movie Review

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‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ (2018)
20th Century Fox

Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton & Paul Bettany

Solo: A Star Wars Story‘, the newest entry into the Star Wars franchise, hits theaters this weekend. For those of you keeping score, this is the 10th movie in the film’s 41 year franchise, the 4th since Disney bought Lucasfilm but only the 2nd “non-trilogy” film in the group. Disney purchased George Lucas’ company in 2012 for $4 billion and has already made over $4 billion back just from the worldwide box office takes of ‘The Force Awakens‘, ‘Rogue One‘ and ‘The Last Jedi.’ Anything ‘Solo’ does is now just icing on the cake or extra feathers in the cap, depending on whether you prefer cakes or caps, I suppose.

From what I saw, it seems that they will more or less have yet another hit on their hands. For the two or three of you out there who somehow don’t know who Han Solo is, we were first introduced to the character in 1977’s original ‘Star Wars‘ (now known as ‘Star Wars IV ‘or simply as ‘A New Hope’). He’s a lovable smuggler who ends up helping Luke Skywalker and The Rebels rescue Princess Leia and destroy The Death Star. There have been novels and comics devoted to some of Han’s back story but now that Disney owns the rights, all things previously thought to have been known about Han are no longer canon. THIS is now his origin story and, for the most part, I feel like director Ron Howard and writers Jonathan & Lawrence Kasdan did right by us.

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As the movie opens, we see Han and his friend Qi’ra attempting to escape their hardscrabble life on Corellia and the events that led to Han enlisting in the Imperial Navy to be a pilot as well as his getting kicked out of the academy for “having a mind of his own.” These aren’t spoilers, but pieces of the back story we’d all previously known and that the writers correctly decided to keep in play. We also see how he meets his sidekick and stalwart co-pilot Chewbacca (also first seen in the original film). From this point on, the writers do a great job of weaving a brand new story for our reluctant heroes while also including necessary parts of what we all hoped would be present in this tale along with several clever Easter Eggs for those of us who live and breathe all things Star Wars (anyone still have their original PlayStation “Star Wars Masters of Teras Kasivideo game?).

We truly have an all-star cast in this film including Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Emilia Clarke & Jon Favreau. The two stand out performances for me were Donald Glover who was able to perfectly capture the essence of Billy Dee William‘s smooth but shady Lando Calrissian and Woody Harrelson who portrayed the new character of mastermind / thief / smuggler Beckett with a world-weary determination that commanded attention. As for Alden Ehrenreich‘s Han Solo, he gave us a young, hungry and energetic rendering of our favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder, but he never seemed to be able to muster the easy, roguish charm that Harrison Ford gave us throughout his run in the franchise. He tried…. but it just fell slightly short of the mark, for me.

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For my money, ‘Solo’ does a rather solid job of navigating between what hard core Star Wars fans will expect and what newcomers and younger generations will enjoy with fresh eyes. The cast is sharp, the story is clean and the action is never too slow nor too far outside of what we have seen from previous Star Wars films. My biggest complaint was the attempt at giving us a similar-ish droid character to ‘Rogue One‘s stand out K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) in the form of Lando’s co-pilot L3 and not pulling it off as well (through no fault of voice actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge). Nothing more can be said there without spoiling a few things, so I’ll just leave it at that. I have no doubt that this movie will be successful for Disney and, given the movie’s ending, I definitely see the need for either a sequel or a direct spinoff for at least 2 or 3 of the characters involved in this film. On a scale of 1 – 10, I give ‘Solo’ a respectable 7.5. Get out and see it in a movie theater near you!!

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‘Deadpool 2’ Movie Review

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‘Deadpool 2’ (2018)
20th Century Fox

Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick & Ryan Reynolds
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Zazie Beetz, Brianna Hildebrand & Julian Dennison

Describing ‘Deadpool‘ to someone unfamiliar with the character can sometimes be… difficult. Yes, it’s a comic book movie, but it’s unlike any other comic book movie out there. The titular character is a katana-wielding, mass-murdering, 4th wall-breaking, joke-cracking anti-hero. The original film brought in over $780 million at the world wide box office and if reaction at the press screening last week was any indication, the sequel which hits theaters this weekend will far surpass it. Yes, Wade Wilson is back in ‘Deadpool 2‘ and, once again, Ryan Reynolds is the perfect embodiment of “The Merc With A Mouth”. This time around, he’s trying to protect a young mutant named Russell Collins from a time traveler Cable who is hell-bent on killing Rusty at all costs. Along the way, Deadpool must learn how to be a team-player as he assembles his X-Force to stop Cable and save Russell while also redeeming himself in the process.

The introduction of Cable is an interesting one because the vast majority of comic book fans know the character who first appeared in “New Mutants #87” (co-created by the same Rob Liefeld who also co-created Deadpool himself in the same title just 12 issues later!) and Josh Brolin does a fantastic job of portraying the no-nonsense, time-traveling mutant. This film, however, provides virtually no character development for him. We don’t know why he has come back in time to kill Russell until over half way through the movie. Honestly though, due to the nature of Deadpool both as a character and a film franchise, it’s very hard to let that little hiccup stop one’s enjoyment of the film. The other new cast members including Zazie Beetz as Domino, Terry Crews as Bedlam, Lewis Tan as Shatterstar, Bill Skarsgard as Zeitgeist, Rob Delaney as Peter and Julian Dennison as Russell all make for fresh and welcome additions along side returning actors such as Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Stefan Kapicic as Colossus, Karan Soni as Dopinder and TJ Miller as Weasel. The stand out for me was definitely Zazie Beetz whose performance here as Domino merits that she gets her own spinoff movie and soon!

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The plot, even involving the idea of time travel, is not overly complex at all but again, I wasn’t expecting a deep story line from a Deadpool film. I went in expecting more of what I saw in the original movie and I got it in spades! ‘Deadpool 2’ was exciting, irreverent, action-packed, hilarious and definitely not for children. That’s a hard ‘R’ rating, people!! I can’t say too much more without spoiling certain aspects of the movie, but I will say that the writers get huge credit from me for finally doing one of my very favorite Marvel Comics characters proper justice AND also for having the BEST post credits scenes of any comic book movie. Ever. Period! So if you enjoyed the original, if you’re a huge comic book fan, if you can’t get enough Ryan Reynolds OR you just want to go laugh harder than you thought possible, see ‘Deadpool 2’ in theaters this weekend! On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d have to give this film a solid 9 for “maximum effort”!! (But good luck getting that Air Supply song out of your head.)

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‘Life Of The Party’ Movie Review

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‘Life Of The Party’ (2018)
New Line Cinema

Directed by: Ben Falcone
Written by: Melissa McCarthy & Ben Falcone
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Gillian Jacobs, Debby Ryan, Adria Arjona & Stephen Root

Certain actors make certain kind of movies. That’s something we can all count on and something that, for me, is comforting. We more or less know what we are going to get when we go see a Julia Roberts movie or if we go see a Tom Cruise film. The same holds true with Melissa McCarthy. She has a style of humor and a type of movie that she makes. ‘Life Of The Party‘ is definitely a Melissa McCarthy movie and that’s a good thing. In my humble opinion, her movies are always funny, albeit in varying degrees, and her supporting cast is always strong. Her current offering is no exception! McCarthy plays Deanna who, just after sending her only daughter off to her senior year of college (and I mean literally JUST after dropping her off and hasn’t even left the parking lot) is told by her husband that he wants a divorce. Unsure as to what to do with her life, her parents (played by Jacki Weaver & Stephen Root) suggest that she should start by finishing college. Now, heading back to her former college to finish her last year (the same school from which her daughter is also set to graduate), Deanna is determined to “make lemons out of lemonade” (you’ll get that one once you see the movie).

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McCarthy not only stars in this film but she also co-wrote it along with her real-life husband Ben Falcone (who makes a delightful cameo). As I mentioned, it is ripe with her brand of humor in the vein of ‘Tammy‘ and ‘The Boss‘, but with flavors of ‘Old School‘ and ‘Animal House‘ mixed in along the way. I mentioned her supporting cast which includes her best friend (Maya Rudolph), her daughter (Molly Gordon), her daughter’s friends (Gillian Jacobs, Adria Arjona & Jessie Ennis), her ex-husband (Matt Walsh) and his new wife (Julie Bowen), all of which demonstrate impeccable comedic timing in their various roles. The comedy snowballs as the film progresses from just a few light giggles in the opening to full-on belly laughs by the middle of the picture. It’s fun, if slightly predictable, but mostly… it’s fun! I find that people who don’t like Melissa McCarthy generally don’t like her movies based on that single premise alone. I, however, am a fan of her style and this particular film ranks right up there with the likes of ‘Bridesmaids‘ and ‘Spy‘ as far as laughs delivered. I would have to give this movie as solid passing grade of 7 out of 10 and recommend that, if you’re in the mood to laugh, you go see it in theaters this weekend!!

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‘Bad Samaritan’ Movie Review

‘Bad Samaritan’ (2018)
Electric Entertainment

Directed by: Dean Devlin
Written by: Brandon Boyce
Starring: David Tennant, Kerry Condon, Robert Sheenhan, Carlito Olivero & Jacqueline Byers

There are certain movies that have stand-out moments to everyone. Every genre of film has these moments from rom-coms to action flicks to animated features. Thrillers & horror films, for me anyway, have those moments even more so. This weekend, writer Brandon Boyce and director Dean Devlin will serve up several of those moments to you on a silver platter in their new movie ‘Bad Samaritan‘. Robert Sheehan & Carlito Olivero play valets (Sean & Derek, respectively) at an upscale Portland restaurant who use their access to customers’ cars to gain access to their homes and rob them. On this particular evening, they find more than just valuables when they break into the home of Mr. Cale Erendreich (played with sociopathic aplomb by David Tennant) to find a woman chained to the wall of his private home office and a “kill room” in his garage. Sean decides he has to alert the police even though it means admitting to his own crimes. But Erendreich is already ahead of him and has moved his prisoner to another location. Desperately, Sean goes to the FBI for help but even they seem to be unable to stop this mad man from killing his prisoner and systematically destroying Sean’s life piece by-piece in the process.

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Dean Devlin is a masterful director and does a fantastic job of slowly and mercilessly building tension scene-by-scene. The entire cast give strong performances including Kerry Condon as Erendreich’s prisoner Katie (who delivers what is probably my favorite line of the film). David Tennant is unrelentingly intense and razor sharp as Cale Ehrendreich. His portrayal of this sociopath ranks right up there with  greats like Robert De Niro‘s Max Cady and Anthony HopkinsHannibal Lecter. This is one of those films that you’ll be thinking about days after you’ve seen it. We had a great talk with Dean Devlin about the film if you’d like to hear his thoughts on the film, the casting and more. Movies like this that are original ideas and driven by a strong cast are few and far between in today’s age of the Hollywood blockbuster where it’s all big names, special effects and barely plausible plotlines. To that end, ‘Bad Samaritan’ is a breath of fresh air that will leave you holding your breath until the pulse-pounding finale. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this film a blood-chilling 9! Don’t see it alone!!

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