‘Captain Marvel’ Movie Review

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‘Captain Marvel’ (2019)
Marvel Studios / Walt Disney

Directed by: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Nicole Perlman, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Meg LeFauve, Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Gemma Chan, Lashana Lynch, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Djimon Hounsou & Lee Pace

The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe blasts into theaters this weekend! ‘Captain Marvel‘ hits the ground running as we are treated to the MCU’s first female-led movie to date starring Brie Larson in the titular role. Beginning the film as a Kree soldier, Vers (Larson) fights alongside her elite team working to stop the spread of the shape-shifting Skrull alien race. But when a mission goes wrong and she ends up being captured by the enemy, she begins to learn that her memories may have been tampered with and she soon begins to question everything that she’s come to know.

Anyone familiar with the comics will recognize the convoluted and complicated history that Carol Danvers (AKA: Ms. Marvel, AKA: Binary, AKA: Warbird, AKA: Captain Marvel) has had since she first debuted in Marvel Super-Heroes #13 back in 1968. So while her origin story isn’t as clear cut as, say, Captain America’s or Iron Man’s, the writing and directing team of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck do a truly superb job of giving us a succinct and solid genesis for this dynamic character. The story is set in the mid-1990’s which provides a lot of fun moments complete with Blockbuster Video stores, NIN shirts and AltaVista search engines. We also get to see a young Agent Nick Fury and rookie Agent Phil Coulson (although much more of the former than we see of the latter). The film has all of the action, fun and heart that we’ve grown accustomed to see in the Marvel movies and, being set in the 90’s, also boasts the best soundtrack since the original ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy‘.

The entire cast is exceptional and it’s always great to get more of Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury. I was also very pleased at the inclusion of young Monica Rambeau (who is the Captain Marvel that I remember when I started reading Marvel Comics) but her mother Maria Rambeau has a larger role as Carol Danver’s former USAF partner (played by Lashana Lynch). Jude Law plays Carol’s / Vers’ commander Yon-Rogg and Gemma Chan is plays Kree soldier / sniper Minn-Erva. Other noteworthy names such as Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Ben Mendelsohn and Lee Pace round out this awesome ensemble who come together to deliver one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s strongest entries to date. It provides a serviceable origin to a character who has a rather complex back story and it perfectly sets the stage for the upcoming ‘Avengers: Endgame’ due out in May. Tickets are on sale now AND make sure you stick around for both of the post credit scenes!! On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say that ‘Captain Marvel’ rates an out of this world 8.5! Take it from Kree… I mean… take it from me, this will be one movie that you’ll need to get out and see in theaters right away!

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‘LEGO Movie 2’ Movie Review

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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Warner Bros

Directed by: Mike MItchell
Written by: Chris Miller, Phil Lord & Matthew Fogel
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Allison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, Jadon Sand & Brooklynn Prince

The newest LEGO movie comes out this weekend – ‘The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part‘! Picking up right where the original left off, we see Emmet (Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett) and Company adjusting to life after the fall of Lord Business but then… invaders from DUPLO (a younger child’s LEGO toy) appear and begin to wreak havoc. A time jump 5 years into the future finds that the town of Bricksburg has become a hostile dystopia after constant attacks from the DUPLO universe. Wyldstyle’s insistence that Emmet toughen up makes him take on a dangerous mission leading him to meet adventurer Rex Dangervest who has a plan for how to destroy their mutual enemies once and for all.

As with most sequels, this film falls a little short of the rather high benchmark set by the original. It’s still fun and still an enjoyable movie with several “LOL” moments, but the charm and panache of its predecessor have vanished. The film’s score and musical numbers are dynamic and catchy and there’s enough humor to keep you from getting bored however the whole product feels rather lackluster despite this. Obviously the whole plot of the movie is an imaginary scenario revolving around the desire of real life little sister Bianca (played by Brooklynn Prince) to play with her real life older brother Finn (a role reprised by Jadon Sand from the original) but, the whimsy of the LEGO action that the first film had didn’t quite translate over into the sequel. No doubt this movie will still perform well at the box office, but I wouldn’t expect it to rake in quite as much of a box office haul as others in the series have garnered. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d have to say that this film only builds its way up to a 6.5. Sadly, everything is not as awesome as it originally was, but it’s still a good film to catch if you’re looking for some silly fun as an alternative to some of the other films currently in theaters.

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‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Movie Review

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A new movie hits theaters on February 14th which somehow may escape the notice of the casual moviegoer but should definitely be on everyone’s radar. ‘Alita: Battle Angel‘ is based on the manga of Yukito Kishiro and brought to life on the screen by producers James Cameron & Jon Landau and director Robert Rodriguez. That pedigree alone should make people stand up and take notice, but actually seeing the film is something else altogether. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where cybernetic genius Dr. Ido finds the discarded core of a cyborg in the trash heaps of Iron City. He places the core in the cyborg body he had built for his daughter before she was tragically killed. Upon awakening, Alita (named by Dr. Ido) has no memory of her past but soon begins to discover her extraordinary skills as she learns more about herself and the world around her. The film is grounded, yet visually stunning thanks to seamlessly combined elements of motion capture, CGI and real sets. The incredible cast which consists of such heavy-hitters as Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly & Christoph Waltz as well as solid players like Ed Skrein, Michelle Rodriguez and also Rosa Salazar in the title role, give top notch performances thus helping to keep the viewer immersed in and committed to the story.

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There was one little, tiny complaint I had with the film which, for the sake of not spoiling anything, I cannot mention. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It combined small elements from some of my other favorite films which added to my enchantment. I saw aspects of ‘Blade Runner‘, ‘Hunger Games‘, ‘Dark City‘, etc in both the fantastical story as well as in the characterization by some of the actors (maybe I like post-apocalyptic films too much, now that I think about it…). The screening I attended was in IMAX and, given the vibrant richness of the effects and the breathtaking visuals, is definitely the way to see this movie! For me, this is a film that fired on all cylinders 98% of the time and I can’t see any other way to describe ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ other than “a collaborative masterpiece by Cameron & Rodriguez.” Both of these craftsmen left their indelible mark on the movie and it will, no doubt, come to be included among the top films of their career. It also rates very high on the rewatchability scale which is always something I take into consideration when rating a film. Personally, I’d rate this movie a solid 9.5 out of 10. Get your tickets now as this is a movie that deserves to be seen in theaters and especially in IMAX or 3-D if you can!!

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‘Glass’ Movie Review

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‘Glass’ (2019)
Blumhouse Productions & Blinding Edge Pictures

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Anna Taylor-Joy, James McAvoy, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson & Spencer Treat Clark
Glass‘ is a movie I’ve been hyped about ever since the post credits scene of ‘Split‘ which hit theaters almost 3 years ago to the day. A fantastic movie with so many memorable performances was now tied into the same world as ‘Unbreakable‘ which was released back in 2000 when writer / director M. Night Shyamalan was at the top of his game. Suddenly, we realized we were getting an origin story with ‘Split’ and that we would be getting a trilogy out of all of this. It was brilliant in its design, simple in its execution, and we eagerly awaited the payoff. Whether through expectations being too high or due to Shyamalan being unable to stick the landing, ‘Glass’ was not quite the exciting third act climax that we’d hoped to see. Picking up several months after the events of ‘Split’, David Dunn (a role being reprised by Bruce Willis) owns an electronics store with his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark also reprising his role) but he also patrols the city as the mysterious vigilante “Overseer” on the search for Kevin Wendall Crumb (played by James McAvoy) who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. One of Crumb’s personalities is a super human figure known as The Beast who plans to kill 4 cheerleaders who were kidnapped by a few of his other personalities. An initial confrontation between Dunn & The Beast comes to an abrupt end when a squad of police intervene along with psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) who has both men subdued and taken to a mental hospital for treatment to cure them of their delusions that they are super heroes. Also at this clinic is a catatonic Elijah Price (played again by Samuel L. Jackson) AKA: Mr. Glass. Soon it becomes apparent that Mr. Glass has been playing the long game and intends to seize this opportunity to pit David against The Beast in front of the entire world to prove his theory that comic book heroes actually exist among us.

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While the ride itself is decently satisfying, the payoff feels less so. There are some fun moments seeing these characters together on the screen and the performances are solid from the cast with McAvoy stealing the show by once again portraying 20+ personalities. Samuel L. Jackson is also fantastic (but c’mon… when is he not?) as this film’s title character but Bruce Willis seems just kind of… there. Not that there was anything wrong with his performance, but I feel that his character was not done much service in this film and he’s not used to the levels I was expecting to see. Sarah Paulson is wonderful and Anya Taylor-Joy (back from ‘Split‘) also delivers a terrific performance. This is definitely a film where one needs to see the first two installments to fully understand and appreciate what the movie does have to offer. The twist ending (an M. Night Shyamalan staple) is fine, but it’s only ‘The Village‘ fine and not ‘Unbreakable‘ fine. Due to the rather unsatisfactory conclusion and a lack of feeling any of that real gut-twisting suspense that was quite present in the first two installments, I’d have to give ‘Glass’ a very fragile 5 out of 10.  See this film for closure and not for any new ground to be broken. Maybe if you go in with lower expectations, you’ll end up enjoying it more than I did. (It’s also worth noting that there are no post credit scenes in this one, so feel free to take off as soon as the movie concludes.) ‘Glass’ opens in theaters across the U.S. on Friday 1/18/2019.

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‘Aquaman’ Movie Review

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The next entry in the DC Cinematic Universe hits theaters this weekend and “hit” is exactly the word I’d use to describe ‘Aquaman‘. We’ve already seen Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry in 2017’s ‘Justice League‘ but now he is on his own in an epic film that serves as both a solo adventure and an origin story. For a character that has always been treated as sort of a throwaway member of the DC stable, this movie does an excellent job of painting Aquaman as a major player in the the DCEU pantheon while detailing the incredible history of this superhero who first appeared in comics nearly 60 years ago! Caught between the human world in which he was raised but also feeling the call of his Atlantean heritage, Aquaman is sought out by Princess Mera (Amber Heard) to help stop a war led by Aquaman’s half-brother, King Orm (played by Patrick Wilson) who plans to unite the remaining kingdoms of Atlantis, wipe out the surface world and declare himself Ocean Master. In order to stop him, Arthur must embrace his heritage and seek out the lost Trident of Atlan in order defeat Orm and prove himself worthy of leading his people.

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The story itself is fairly predictable, but the stylized journey on which we are taken is worth every second. While Ocean Master is the main adversary, a better known DC Comics baddie also appears – Black Manta (superbly played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and I wish we could have gotten to see even more of him!! However, the entire cast is brilliant and director James Wan ensures that the pacing of the movie stays consistently strong, which it needed to considering the lengthy 2hr, 22min run time. The visuals are stunning and seeing it in 3D only enhanced the experience. In fact, I’d say that it is easily the most visually captivating and beautiful of any of the DC films to date! With ‘Wonder Woman‘ having done so well for Warner Bros and now with ‘Aquaman’ already making such a splash at the world wide box office, I’m sure that the tsunami of hits will just keep coming for the DCEU at this point! On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say that ‘Aquaman’ crests at an 8.5. Make sure to get out and see it in 3D or IMAX where available as this is one movie that you deserve to have flood your senses at maximum levels!!blackmanta_01

‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Movie Review

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The Harry Potter film series is truly a world unto itself. Between being both a box office sensation and a franchise that has spawned toys, books and even a theme park. After the release of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them‘ in 2016 and that film’s commercial and critical success, a new series of movies was a given. ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald‘ picks up where the first film left off with Gellert Grindelwald being transferred from New York to London. Obviously he escapes and from there… the plot gets complicated, to say the least. All of the familiar faces from the original are back: Eddie Redmayne reprises the role of lovable Hufflepuff alum and Magizoologist Newt Scamander. Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller & Johnny Depp also return for the sequel along with newcomers Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore, Callum Turner as Newt’s brother Theseus and Claudia Kim as Nagini. Sadly, despite the best efforts of a talented and illustrious cast, this is one sequel that falls woefully short of the mark.

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The problems mainly lay in a convoluted plot that seems to be scattershot at best and downright jumbled at worst. It is devoid of the nostalgic charm & whimsy of the original film and it’s only in the passing references and nods made toward the Harry Potter world we all have come to love that make it sufficiently interesting for the viewer to slog through to the rather lackluster climax. As stated earlier, the actors are first rate and seem to not only embrace their respective roles, but also relish in them as the movie advances. In the end, I feel like I am getting a product that only serves as a step towards the next film, which in my opinion, is a waste of a film. Subplots are waved away with ham-handed carelessness and Harry Potter canon is changed in an eyebrow raising manner. Were I not such a fan of this universe in which I have been immersed now for nearly 20 years, this movie might have caused me to write it off and be done. My only hope is that the next film in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series provides some degree of payoff from this shambles. For the sake of the actors involved and for the fans who are invested in the happenings of the greater Potter world, the 3rd entry needs to do some major damage control right off the bat. Due to the reasons listed above, I am only able to “Accio” my way to give ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’ a muggling score of 4 out of 10. There isn’t enough magic out there to get me to wade through a 2nd viewing of this one, Friends.

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‘Overlord’ Movie Review

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‘Overlord’ (2018)
Bad Robot & Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Julius Avery
Written by: Billy Ray & Mark L. Smith
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbaek, John Magaro, Iain De Caestecker & Bokeem Woodbine

Some movies are exactly what you expect based on the previews you see. ‘American Pie‘ always springs to mind for me because if you saw the previews, then you basically saw the movie. Then there are some movies that give you an idea of what you might be getting and then completely take you by surprise when you see the actual film. For me, ‘Overlord‘ definitely falls into this second category. Based upon the previews I kept seeing, I thought I’d be getting a “Wolfenstein” style, World War II era zombie flick. This movie had all that and then some. The story follows a group of American soldiers who drop behind enemy lines in Nazi occupied France in order to knock out a radio tower to give the D-Day forces a better chance of victory the next morning when they attack. Their mission is further complicated when they find that the Nazis are using the townspeople in some ghastly genetic experiments. Now they must not only complete their primary objective, but also save their new friends from becoming horrifyingly mutated agents of the Third Reich.

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The only actors who I immediately recognized from the cast were Bokeem Woodbine & John Magaro & Iain De Caestecker but everyone in the film gave an outstanding performance. The setting and atmosphere of the film permeated the theater and I found myself on the edge of my seat throughout. There is violence aplenty (it’s a WWII film so hopefully that comes as no surprise), a healthy dose of sci-fi gore and some heart-pounding scares all given in equal parts. Unfortunately, there were a few times early on when it tried to become too drama oriented and took me slightly out of the moment as a result. It was almost as if some scenes had been extended to lengthen the run time of the film which, at 1hr and 49min, I think could have been trimmed to make for a sleeker final product. The ending was satisfying with the door left just slightly cracked open for a sequel should the need arise. The plot is very simple and straightforward making this a great popcorn flick for those who are looking for an adrenaline-filled alternative to the normal “holiday movie” fare currently in theaters. Perhaps due to my low expectations going in but mainly due to the outstanding cast who all brought their A-game to their performances, I’m forced to bestow upon ‘Overlord’ a rank of 7.5 out of 10. If a theater near you is offering it in 3-D or IMAX, I can only imagine it would enhance the enjoyment of this movie. Drag a friend out to see it this weekend!!!

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‘Instant Family’ Movie Review

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‘Instant Family’ (2018)
Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Sean Anders
Written by: Sean Anders & John Morris
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz, Octavia Spencer & Tig Notaro.

Normally, I’d feel bad for any movie opening on the same weekend as a behemoth such as the sequel to ‘Fantastic Beasts‘, but for my money ‘Instant Family‘ may be a film that is an entity unto itself. It’s got a great story, exceptional cast, heart, humor and a great deal of fun. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne star as Pete & Ellie, a couple who have a successful home flipping business and, at the peak of their career, decide that maybe they have something missing in their lives. Upon deciding to go through the adoption process, they are impressed by a 15 year old orphan named Lizzy (played by Isabela Moner). The catch is that she comes with a little brother and sister as well. So now, with a sudden influx of 3 children at once, their once normal routine gets turned completely upside down. Hilarity and heart-warming moments ensue from there in rapid succession.

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The director and co-writer of this film, Sean Anders, is mostly known for his screwball comedies like the ‘Daddy’s Home‘ films and ‘Horrible Bosses 2‘. He outdoes himself on this movie with perfectly intermingling humor and heart in a substantial manner. The story is based partly on his own experience with adoption and the results are a truly wonderful film that finds its footing quickly and maintains a perfectly seamless balance between laughs and love. Had it been a PG rating instead of a PG-13 (and it’s a pretty hard PG-13), I’d say it’s great for the whole family, but the language and a few of the situations may not be suitable for small children. Use your best judgment when deciding. With that being the only minor issue I had with the movie, I’d say that ‘Instant Family’ adopts a solid 9 out of 10. If you don’t want to fight the crowds for the opening weekend of ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald‘, then ‘Instant Family’ is an excellent alternative that you will most definitely enjoy!!

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‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ Movie Review

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‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ (2018)
Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by: Lasse Hallström & Joe Johnston
Written by: Ashleigh Powell, E.T.A. Hoffmann & Marius Petipa
Starring: Mackenzie Foy, Morgan Freeman, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant & Matthew Macfadyen

As the holiday season approaches, Walt Disney brings us a big screen adaptation of the beloved story of “The Nutcracker.” At a brisk 99 minute pace and amid a flurry of the classical music and glorious spectacle, ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms‘ makes itself an instant classic. Those familiar with the tale know that Clara is presented with a nutcracker soldier as a Christmas gift by her godfather Drosselmeyer. She falls asleep and finds that the Nutcracker has come to life! She is magically transported to the Land of the Sweets and fights against the Mouse King. This film contains many of those elements, but presents them in a completely different way so that even people who know the story will be pleasantly surprised.

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In this story, Clara attends a party at her godfather Drosselmeyer’s home and, while searching for her Christmas gift, finds her way to a magical realm and is escorted to a large castle by The Nutcracker. There she meets Hawthorne, Shiver & Sugar Plum who are from 3 of the 4 realms. The fourth realm is controlled by Mother Ginger & The MOuse King who, according to the others, seeks to rule all of the realms now that Clara’s mother (who was the Queen) has died. Tchaikovsky‘s classic score resonates throughout the movie and the film itself is equal parts ‘Narnia‘ and ‘Wizard of Oz.’ The acting is solid from the entire cast with the standouts being, not surprisingly, Morgan Freeman as Drosselmeyer and Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger. Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight as Clara and The Nutcracker, respectively, were also very good in their roles. What I enjoyed the most was the change-up of the story and giving us a fresh take on a well-known and beloved tale. I found the final battle to be slightly anti-climatic, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of this otherwise stunning film. This is a great movie for the whole family and one that will be a perfect fit for the holiday box office! On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ a royally solid 8. Get your tickets this weekend at a theater near you!

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‘Halloween’ Movie review

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‘Halloween’ (2018)
Miramax Films & Blumhouse Productions

Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Nick Castle, Haluk Bilginer, Will Patton, Rhian Rees & Jefferson Hall

With a film series spanning 11 entries (counting this newest one) and a rather confusing sequence (which ones count and which ones don’t???) the newest installment in the ‘Halloween‘ franchise will arrive in theaters this weekend and it arrives in style! This movie acts as a direct sequel to the original film from 1978 with both Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle reprising their respective roles of Laurie Strode & Michael Myers. Set 40 years after the events of the first ‘Halloween’ movie, Laurie Strode has spent her life since then preparing for the inevitable showdown with her tormentor, Michael Myers. While being transferred to a more secure facility, Michael escapes and cuts a swath of violent death through Haddonfield once again to find and kill Laurie and her entire family. It’s a climatic battle 40 years in the making and, for my money, it does not disappoint!

Trying to follow the ‘Halloween’ movies can be confusing at best. Different storylines with different plots set in a different order than chronological… it’s a lot to process. The one constant throughout is the menacing, silent mountain of pure evil that is Michael Myers. Since the first film in 1978, the stark white visage (which is actually a Captain Kirk mask) and eerie theme music by composer John Carpenter have become synonymous with horror and now, even after 40 years, this new movie doesn’t miss a beat. Jamie Lee Curtis is absolutely outstanding in her role and having her back as Laurie helped make an already impressive sequel even better. Director and co-writer David Gordon Green expertly creates tension and suspense throughout the movie in a way that seems almost effortless. This film may be one of the very best horror sequels of all time and can even stand on its own without any need to have seen the original in order to enjoy this entry. Judy Greer as Laurie’s daughter Karen and Andi Matichak as Laurie’s granddaughter Allyson also give harrowing & wonderful performances. I was pleasantly (if that’s a term one can apply to a horror film such as this) surprised a few times with  this one as the film occasionally zigged where I expected it to zag. A phenomenal job was done of honoring the source material, paying subtle homage to a few other films in the series and also delivering an incredibly visceral movie all while giving us a near-perfect sequel to a legendary classic bit of terrifying cinema. I have little doubt that ‘Halloween’ will manage to scare ‘Venom’ out of the #1 spot at the box office this weekend. Get your tickets now! You’d have to be crazy to not see this one on the big screen!

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