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Authors Posts by Tabari McCoy

Tabari McCoy

Tabari McCoy
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Columnist - Tabari McCoy is Cincy Chic's movie critic. An award-winning stand-up comedian who also works as the public relations director at Cincinnati Museum Center, Tabari McCoy is the creator of McCoy on Movies, a blog about movies for film fans. The blog is written by someone who also likes movies that is smart enough to know his opinion isn't always the right one but is willing to express that opinion in public. McCoy also used to review movies for his college paper and a major metropolitan publication, so that helps add to his "street cred." Contact him at tmccoy@cincychic.com. You can also check out more of his work on his blog at McCoyonMovies.BlogSpot.com and follow him on Twitter at @tabarimccoy.

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This new flick takes the franchise on an exciting adventure to Europe, but is it a sluggish sequel as the box office numbers suggest? Read on for our movie critic‘s review.

 

“Hey … Is that a green, incredible-looking hulk of a man over there?!” Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) survey their surroundings in Morocco in a scene from director F. Gary Gray’s MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL. Credit: Giles Keyte © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rafe Spall, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson and Larry and Laurent Bourgeois 

DIRECTOR(S): F. Gary Gray

THE BACK STORY: As a child, Molly (Tessa Thompson) and her parents saw an alien creature … But when the two men in black suits showed up to neutralize her mom and dad, they didn’t know she saw the alien, too, so she never forgot it. Fast-forward 20 years later and Molly has spent her whole life preparing to join the mysterious agency that tracks the ultimate foreigners to earth – which is why she jumps at the chance to prove herself to Agent O (Emma Thompson) once she discovers the Men In Black (MIB).

For her first assignment, Molly – now known as Agent M – is paired up with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) at MIB’s London office. Trained by his superior officer/London office head High T (Liam Neeson), Agent H is as reckless as he supposedly is heroic, a man that likes to party as hard as he sometimes works. Tasked with entertaining an alien from a planet that could destroy earth, things take a turn for the worse when two beings that may be from “The Hive,” a shape shifting alien race that can basically crush anything in its collective path, shows up on the scene. And now, to avoid an intergalactic incident, it’s up to a rookie agent and a philandering agent to save us all.

THE REVIEW: Me, before the screening: “You know, watching the trailer, it doesn’t seem like Hemsworth and Thompson have any chemistry in this movie.”

Friend who shall remain nameless, looking almost taken aback by my comment as if it were absurd: “They were fine together in Thor: Ragnarok.”

Me, nearly two hours after the credits began to roll: “This is NOT Thor: Ragnarok.”

Friend, looking as bored as I was with disappointment in their eyes: “Yeah.”

Chris Hemsworth is NOT Will Smith nor should he ever try to or desire to be as his career up to this point has been pretty phenomenal all things considered. Likewise, Thompson’s star has seemed to be on the up-and-up in recent memory with hits both inside and out of the Marvel Universe to her credit. However, after witnessing the tedious, boring and “let’s go through the very familiar motions without any real emotion for the most part” affair that is Men In Black International (MIBI for short), both Hemsworth and Thompson might be wise to call up Marvel Studios’ head Kevin Feige and ask if there are any chances to cameo in Disney’s upcoming Loki streaming series. For MIBI is a largely flat, soulless affair that would be better served being left in a galaxy far, far away.

As Thor, Hemsworth has found a great way to portray a powerful individual who can be charming, heroic, serious, focused and at times a childlike jerk that has to be coaxed into doing the right thing/learning how to step up and embrace his destiny. As Agent H, however, he comes off as just a boorish, pretentious, dare I say dumb lout of an individual who you can’t believe in any capacity. H is stale from start to finish, which may not all be Hemsworth’s fault as he isn’t given much at all to work with. It could be worse; Neeson looks to be on site to simply collect a check a’la Michael Caine in Jaws: The Revenge. Tommy Lee Jones (or even Josh Brolin in MIB 3) he is not. To watch Hemsworth and Neeson turn in such poor performances is just mind-numbing, both literally and figuratively.

Thompson, for her part, tries to play things very smart, very smooth and very seriously … Which fails due to an incredibly dull script with plenty of “we’ve been here before!” moments that attempt to capture old magic that just isn’t there. Whereas Smith has moved on to bluer pastures as the scene-stealing genie in the equally underwhelming (but still better) live action remake of Aladdin, Thompson is asked to drive a car down a course we’ve all scene before – this time with a LOT less bells and whistles or even scenery to keep you entertained, or at the very least, distracted.

Sure, her encounter with arms dealer/H’s ex Riza (a very game Rebecca Ferguson) adds a little life to the festivities, but MIBI is loaded with so much bland dialogue and ho-hum action sequences Thompson kind of comes off like the best player on an 0-16 NFL team. Kumail Nanjiani adds some humorous commentary as Pawnee, the helpful little creature that serves as the Frank the Pug to Thompson’s Agent M, but the old “let’s have the cute little creature get involved” routine feels more like a desperation move than essential storytelling. And that’s just it: For a film franchise that pumped out three quality stories, MIBI has zero charm, zero captivating effects and a dearth of heart, emotion or even interesting storytelling to enthrall you.

If it weren’t for Thompson and the small doses of Nanjiani’s character, MIBI might serve as a great cure for insomnia as you could be asleep in the first 40 minutes. Even the nods to the past MIB films feel flat; given how lame the movie is, though, NOT reminding fans about the past is probably for the best. The convoluted, uninspired storytelling under director F. Gary Gray – F. Gary Gray of all people! – is additionally saddening. Why is The Hive so deadly? What is their motivation? How does it tie in to Men In Black? Why aren’t these questions answered better so I can give you a better review?!

You can watch Men In Black: International if you wish … But given how long and tedious it is to build to a very anti-climatic climax you may just wish a neutralizer was real to wipe the movie from your memory as a result.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

 

 

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Is Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin a wish come true or is it an idea up in smoke?

 

“You’ve got to stand back and let me guide this ship if you want ANY shot at a good box office number, buddy!” The genie (Will Smith) gives some advice to his new master (Mena Massoud) in a scene from director Guy Ritchie’s live-action take on ALADDIN. Credit: Courtesy of Disney Pictures. © 2019 Disney Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar and Navid Negahban

DIRECTOR(S): Guy Ritchie 

THE BACK STORY: A live-action remake of the beloved 1992 animation feature film, Aladdin stars Mena Massoud in the title role of as a common street thief who falls in love with Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the daughter of the Sultan of Agrabah (Navid Negahban). Jasmine, a woman with a heart of gold who greatly cares for the common people of the city, has to marry a prince – which of course makes Aladdin ineligible to win the heart of the lady he inadvertently meets in streets. 

What he doesn’t anticipate, however, is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). The power hungry head consultant to the Sultan, Jafar convinces Aladdin to unwittingly help him out in a nefarious plot that will help him rise to power. But his plan doesn’t go as well, planned, leaving Aladdin in possession of a lamp that, once rubbed, unleashes a powerful Genie (Will Smith) that grants him three wishes that will forever change his life. 

But, as Aladdin is soon to find out, the old expression “Be careful what you wish for” is about to ring truer to him than it ever has before …

THE REVIEW: “The Fresh Prince of Agrabah …”

It’s rare that you can sum up a movie in one sentence, but if you were looking to tell a friend what to make of the 2019 live action version of Aladdin – a made-for-TV quality movie which is essentially ALL about Will Smithsave for the last 20 minutes – the previous one would be it. For Aladdin lacks any of the spirit of the animated original for the first of its 2 hours and change run time, feeling more like a watered down (from special effects to performances) money grab than attempt at making something substantial.

Smith fans will love or, depending on if they will find themselves saddened he and Nasim Pedrad – who is very entertaining as Princess Jasmine’s no. 1 handmaiden – are the only things fairly entertaining about the film, loathe – Aladdin as all of his natural charms come shining through. Well, they shine as much as they can in a film where the lead actor feels a bit, there’s no nice way to say it, presented in a fashion to make him acceptable to ALL audiences (the whitewashing controversy surrounding Scott was covered last year by media outlets). Then again, the entire production feels like some executive’s whole pitch was “Bigger! Louder! Will Smith!” and when someone said “What about gripping, nuanced performances with eye-popping visuals?” they were met with a stronger “WILL SMITH!” retort. Smith is the best and worst thing about the movie as you’ll either find him the most engaging thing about it or the most irritating when he becomes bigger than everything – literally and figuratively – around him.

Sadly, the live-action version of Aladdin just doesn’t feel special at all unless you are a die-hard Will Smith fan because the aforementioned effects which only seem to be saved for Smith’s musical numbers, the charisma (which is reserved for Smith and Pedrad) or how Kenzari’s turn as Jafar is as threatening as Massoud’s is underwhelming. Putting Smith in a cast with so many underwhelming performers almost turns the film into a live-action Shrek … With WAY too much focus on Donkey. Be it Massoud’s perfectly coiffed hair and Scott’s “I have a heart of gold; can’t anyone see how much I love everyone?!” routine, Aladdin just feels to be too much of too little to make you buy in as much as you need to enjoy it in full.

The animated version of a movie shouldn’t seem to have more heart and pep than the live-action version, but this – like last year’s “Let’s make another Grinch movie because …. Well … We can!” just feels unnecessary, loud, a bit boorish and save for three musical numbers, overdone to the point of it turning into a meal at Buca Di Beppo that’s intended to serve 3-4 …. But ends up being devoured by one. It’s still filling … But when it causes a stomach ache later, you might be inclined to think if you really needed to stuff yourself with it for the sake of having it available. You can tell everyone tried really hard to make a movie, but you can tell that they are trying – and that makes the ride on this carpet feel far less magical than director Guy Ritchie and company surely hoped it would be.

And that’s a shame – because Aladdin is likely to make you think where is poor Uncle Phil when you need him more than anything else.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

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While the cast is something to cheer about, does this film squander its talented stars on a clichéd comedy that disrespects the demographic it's trying to celebrate? See what our critic has to say.

“All right ladies … Let’s get to the climatic inspiring dance number or we don’t have a movie!” Martha (Diane Keaton, center in the “M”) leads her fellow retirement community friends in a dance routine in a scene from POMS. Credit: Kyle Bono Kaplan © 2019 STX Financing, LLC. All rights reserved.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:



 

 

 




KEY CAST MEMBERS: Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Alisha Boe, Phyllis Somerville, Charlie Tahan, Bruce McGill, Celia Weston and Rhea Perlman 


DIRECTOR(S): Zara Hayes
 
THE BACK STORY: Martha (Diane Keaton) is a woman coming to grips with her own mortality, which, given her health, makes sense. It’s also why after conducting an estate sale, she’s heading to a seemingly idyllic Sun Springs retirement community in Georgia to spend her final days in peace and quiet.


Then she meets her neighbor Sheryl (Jacki Weaver) and realizes that’s not going to happen.


Forging an unexpected friendship with Sheryl, Martha comes up with an idea – since she’s required to join or create one by her new community’s bylaws – to form a cheerleading club. This leads to Ruby (Carol Sutton), Olive (Pam Grier), Alice (Rhea Perlman), Phyllis (Patricia French), Evelyn (Ginny McCool) and Helen (Phyllis Somerville) joining their aspiring – or is that perspiring? – team, even if it is to the disdain of community activities leader Vicki (Celia Watson). And if Vicki has to pull out Chief Carl (Bruce McGill) to get her way, she will in a heartbeat. 


But after a video of Martha’s makeshift squad goes viral, they are faced with a choice: Give up on their dreams or prove that you’re never too old to show your spirit.
THE REVIEW: Poms isn’t a good movie, per se; it’s a sweet movie with a good heart and a few chuckles along the way. At 91 minutes, it’s short enough to sit through without feeling a strong urge to leave the theater, but it’s nothing you’re going to revel in. It’s nowhere near raunchy by any means to steer into ribald comedy territory, but it has enough anatomy related jokes that will be dirty enough for anyone who regularly dines at an Old Country Buffet or Cracker Barrel. Likewise, the movie’s pacing and story feels like a mix of a too tame for The Golden Girls but too hardcore for Lifetime or CBS, which, given all the sadness it shows in regards to getting older before attempting to salvage a genuinely uplifting, “nice” finale, Poms doesn’t seem to have a specific enough focus to make you feel the way you should.Then again, Poms isn’t really for anyone under the senior circuit – and that’s not a bad thing. It’s perfect palatable celluloid for daughters to take their mothers to or for seniors to enjoy as the characters (especially Weaver as the film’s resident sexpot/free spirit) are exactly like the members of your mom’s bridge or book club that may or may not exist. Poms isn’t trying to re-invent the wheel; it’s just putting a fresh batch of grease on the wheel to give it one last ride.

Weaver steals the show in Poms; Keaton is more or less the straight woman who serves to keep the movie moving forward. Her character mopes, suffers through bouts of vomiting and feels like she’s just a lady you feel sad for and sad to be around for the first half of the film; problem is, once things get going, you don’t care about her as much as you do how she will get the rest of her squad going as they are inherently more interesting … Even though your interest may never peak with a paint-by-numbers script saved only by the cast’s genuine enthusiasm for each other’s company. Alisha Boe and Charlie Tahan add some youthful exuberance to as Martha’s high school cheerleader rival turned coach and Sheryl’s awkward grandson add some much needed youthful exuberance (to the somewhat stale script, NOT the cast), but only in the way a grandparent is proud of them graduating high school.

And ultimately, that’s the main thing that hinders Poms: Instead of going for its full potential with a game-changing break from the routine, it gives you a safe one sure to please audiences who enjoy a nice, simple one they are used to. Poms will occasionally rub your funny bone, but you definitely won’t fall over laughing and will be able to get up and leave the theater easily once it’s done.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 
 

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In Dennis Quaid's latest film, a happy couple buys a beautiful home in the country only to find out that the previous owner refuses to leave. Is the flick a flip or flop? Read on to see.

 

“I love to cosplay – in fact, let me show you my favorite scene from The Shining!” Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid) forces his way into his former home in a scene from director Deon Taylor’s thriller THE INTRUDER. Credit: Serguei Baschlakov. © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy, Meagan Good and Joseph Sikora

DIRECTOR(S): Deon Taylor

THE BACK STORY: Imagine being in love and finding your dream home. Well, that’s what’s happening for Annie (Meagan Good) and Scott Russell (Michael Ealy), which is why they can’t wait to move in once the home’s former owner Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid) is out. Charlie has grown up in the home and as the story develops, it becomes clear that he doesn’t seem to really be ready to no longer be its owner and caretaker, let alone have anyone else fulfill those roles. 

Thus, as Annie and Scott are about to find out, a house is not a home when the previous owner isn’t ready for anyone else to take it over. 

THE REVIEW: Forty-seven minutes in. That’s when I began contemplating should I walk out of The Intruder or not. Which is a problem given that (a) That’s not the thought I’m sure the film’s cast and crew wanted anyone to have watching the movie and because (b) There’s at least another 50 minutes of the movie left from that point.

Let me be brief: The Intruder is bad. Like, really bad. I could spend a long time picking apart all the things wrong The Intruder … And since the filmmakers felt compelled to make to put them all out there for the world to see, I might as well break it all down for the world to see as well in hopes they chose NOT to suffer the same fate I did.

In 2019, any man with any common sense is not going to spend time discussing Megan Good’s appearance as even saying that she is an attractive woman seems like a way to open yourself up to a host of criticism. However, watching The Intruder, her character’s sweet, seeing the good in everyone nature comes off as naïve to the point of being well, stupid or, to put it nicely, about as smart as the average non-ethnic teenager in an 80s horror movie. Is this progress that an African-American lead can come off as smart as a woman running in high heels or doing her best Bryce Dallas Howard impression? I don’t know; what I do know is that Good’s character feels like she was stolen from a bad Lifetime movie. I don’t mean the modern ones, I mean the ones that comedians used to make fun of before Lifetime got hip to its own foibles.

Ealy tries his best to come off as the somewhat smarter of the two – which one could argue makes Good’s character look even worse by comparison since her male counterpart is the one “smart” enough to see what’s happening” – but in doing so he comes off looking like exactly what his character fears: The man who can’t keep his lady safe. In an era where beards and tattoos reign supreme, Ealy’s character’s intellect actually comes off as his potential downfall. But that’s only because of the man who makes The Intruder a horribly bad-yet-so-bad-it’s-borderline-comedic-genius of a movie.

Quaid. Dennis Freakin’ Quaid.

There have been plenty of movies that actors have admitted they did for the most ludicrous of reasons. Michael Caine in Jaws 4. Morgan Freeman in London Has Fallen. And the less said about Nicolas Cage’s reported love of dinosaur bones. Hell, Cedric the Entertainer admitted to me in an interview I did for a revered-yet-now-deceased publication that he did the utter-debacle that is The Cleaner because he got to take his family on a nice vacation to Hawaii. While I await the interview where Quaid reveals why in the world he did THIS movie, his performance is so ridiculous that it deserves its own documentary or, at the very least, a mock ESPN 30 for 30.

As it comes to pass in The Intruder, Quaid’s character is given a reason for his bonkers behavior; given the events of the film, one can’t help but wonder if Quaid himself may be suffering from a similar fate for him to be involved with this utter debacle of a film. (Maybe this article could give some possible explanations?) But BOY OH BOY does Quaid go all in as Charlie Peck.

In one of the greatest over-the-top performances not seen since the aforementioned Cage’s turn in that nuclear waste of a remake of The Wicker Man, Quaid’s performance finds him twitching, shaking, clenching his fists … And doing the craziest sexual thing you may ever see him do in a film that could change how his fans see him forever. Let’s just say I’m sure this man approves of a scene that is sure to become a meme or .GIF if not both in the near future. I cannot – repeat, CANNOT – give you enough detail as to how insane Quaid’s performance is. If he’s not a Razzie nominee, he might deserve an Academy Award as he might be the best Marvel villain to never chase after Infinity Stones, Wakanda or try to stop a teenager from thwarting his plans to take over New York City. (You watch the movie and tell me you can’t help but think what Quaid might have done as Venom. Sorry Tom Hardy.)

Throw in a script that could NOT be more predictable with direction that could NOT foreshadow what’s going to happen more unless the director literally told you and The Intruder is the type of film you watch to go talk to the screen. The Intruder‘s best shot for success won’t come in theaters, however, at least not for a while – for director Deon Taylor may have created an experience that, much like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, needs to be experienced with others to enjoy as you talk, laugh and make fun of it.

If this were an episode of House Hunters, it would definitely be the episode you wouldn’t want to miss. Unfortunately for Good, Ealy and Quaid, it’s supposed to be a thriller – which is why the fact this movie will intrude on audiences’ wallets this weekend is a travesty in and of itself.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

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See why our movie critic is saying this Marvel Studios film delivers a genre-defining masterpiece.

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Mark Ruffalo, Karen Gillan, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Dania Gurai and Josh Brolin … PLUS A BUNCH OF OTHERS (You want me to spoil it for you?!)

 

DIRECTOR(S): Anthony and Joe Russo

THE BACK STORY: The last time we saw them, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans),  Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson),  Col. Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Dr. Bruce Banner aka the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were dealing with the aftermath of being the last heroes standing after “the mad Titan” Thanos (Josh Brolin) found all six of the Infinity Stones and snapped his fingers, eliminating half of the life in the universe in the process. Now, our heroes have no clue what to do with themselves or how to fix the catastrophe.

Luckily for them, the retired Hawkeye a.k.a. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) survived the snap, as did Nebula (Karen Gillan), Thanos formerly war-minded adopted daughter, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who was stuck in The Quantum Realm. And once the pager from a former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative reaches Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), it looks like there may be hope to undo the damage Thanos has caused. It’s just going to require (1) a bunch of time travel, (2) a lot of extremely coordinated teamwork and (3) a wee bit of luck to make everything go right. 

But with the literal fate of the universe hanging in their avenging hands, they’re the best – and only – chance we have …

THE REVIEW: Imagine telling someone a decade ago “Yeah, I heard Marvel Comics is going to form a movie studio and then make 20+ movies that will all tie together with a huge finale featuring 3 hours of action and emotion the likes of which has never been seen on the silver screen.” Given where superhero movies were as a genre before – 2007 gave us Spider-Man 3 a.k.a. the bad one, Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four featuring yup, Chris Evans – you would have a better bet thinking the Cleveland Browns would become Super Bowl champions.

Fast-forward to 2019 and Marvel has made money hand over muscular fist to the point that the closing film is set to break records left and right and the only question now remaining is – much like the Avengers own prospects battling the toughest enemy they’ve ever faced – can Endgame live up to its massive hype?

Yes. The answer is a resounding, action-packed, emotionally charged and fitting–ending to the first 10 years of Marvel Studios yes.

Sure, next month’s collaboration with Sony, Spider–Man: Far From Home, is the official ending to Marvel Studios’ Phase 3 plans according to studio head Kevin Feige, but Endgame sure feels like a finale in a lot of ways. With spoilers abound on the Internet as of Tuesday, April 23 (when this review was posted), it’s hard to talk about Endgame in detail without giving away too much.

Thus, here’s a checklist of Marvel-themed .GIFs that will give you information without giving you too much information.

Comedy on the level of Thor: Ragnarok that brings great levity at times?

 

Plot that feels convoluted but makes sense for the most part?

Fight scenes that will have your adrenaline pumping?

 

 

Is there a moment that feels like Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” should be playing during it to make it feel complete?

 

Moments that are pulled from the comics that feel natural enough to set up future cinematic adventures?

 

Worried about whether you’ll need tissues? Let’s just say I’d expect a lot of people to do this at some point during the movie …

 

With those non-spoiler spoilers out the way, here’s what I can say: Endgame ties together just about every Marvel movie where it feels like not only a conclusion, but a payoff for sticking with our heroes throughout this journey. We’ve watched them go from not knowing the powers they had or how to use them to maturing and growing with each conflict to now what may or may not be their final and greatest battle to date. The character arcs are executed to perfection, despite its run time, there never feels like any wasted moments and the climax is just about everything you could hope for … Unless you’re a D.C. Comics fan who still has hope Warner Bros. has ANYTHING ready to compete with this. Evans and Downey, Jr. doing the heaviest lifting in the film emotionally (with Hemsworth coming in as the third man quite well) with Renner and Ruffalo – much like their characters – exhibiting strong supporting player performances. To say more would be to ruin the experience, and given how much of an experience Endgame is, that would be a crime against (movie) nature itself.

Superheroes have come and gone over the years; what Endgame showcases, however, is that no matter how much their powers may make them cool or be the things many of us wish we had, its their human traits (yes, even in Rocket’s case) are what keep us watching. Infinity War is arguably the first superhero movie to end on a down note, but Marvel’s heroes have always shown reflected the best and worst parts of the human experience: The desire for power, the need for hope in the face of extreme adversity, the importance of family, you name it – Marvel has covered it and done so in quite spectacular fashion. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have delivered a masterpiece of a movie, but since we all know comic book movies don’t win major awards, what we have to simply do is admire Marvel’s crowning achievement in all its glory and wait for baited breath to see what comes next.

Even when we’re down, Endgame proves that they are just a snap second from helping us all remember why movies like these give us hope for the future.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

 

 

 

 

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Black-ish producer and co-star team up for a film that our movie critic says is great-ish for teens, adults alike. Click to find out why.

 

“You expect ME to tell her she didn’t get the black-ish spin-off?! This is why she’s making a movie jump now!” April Williams (Issa Rae) has a very uncomfortable meeting with her now-13 again boss Jordan Sanders (Marsai Martin) in a scene from director Tina Gordon’s comedy LITTLE. Credit: © 2019 Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Marsai Martin, Issa Rae, Regina Hall, Luke James, Tone Bell, Thalia Tran, JD McCrary, Tucker Meek, Marley Taylor, Eva Carlton, Justin Hartley, Rachel Dratch and Mikey Day


DIRECTOR(S): Tina Gordon

THE BACK STORY: Brought to you by black-ish creator Kenya Barris (who serves as a producer on the film), Little stars as Regina Hall as Jordan Sanders, a 38 year-old successful CEO of her own technology company located in Atlanta. There’s just one thing about Jordan that seems to drive everyone around her crazy: Her insane work ethic and mean-spirited nature drive everyone – her employees, her neighbors, people at stores she frequents and especially her over-worked and highly under-appreciated assistant April Williams (Issa Rae) – crazy. But since Jordan learned at the age of 13 that people can be mean-spirited, she made a vow that when she became big, she would be the boss and bully everyone else before they could bully her.

Now, the tables have turned and Jordan has been mean to the wrong person, which is why she wakes up only to find herself facing her worst fear: Being 13 again.

Cursed to relive the worse age of her life when she was little, Jordan finds herself out of her element. Now, she is forced to rely on April to run her company, can’t spend any quality time with her “D-Boy” (Luke James), drink, drive … Or, after a Child Protective Services agent (Rachel Dratch) is called to her home where April is posing as her aunt, the one thing she hates more than anything else in the world: A return to her old middle school. But with a major pitch to video game upstart Connor (Mikey Day) that could make or break her company on the line, the last thing Jordan has time for is dealing with mean-spirited classmates like Jasmine (Eva Carlton). 

THE REVIEW: Sometimes, when you’ve got a special team in place, you get products that show what happens when you let their creativity bring new life to an old idea. And trust me, the idea behind Little is freakishly old for a movie hitting theaters nationwide this Friday. (If you couldn’t figure out that reference, you shouldn’t be reading this; you should be trying to become little yourself so you can find all the requisite viewing your childhood apparently lacked.) So, given the success Barris and company have had with black-ish and its subsequent spinoff grown-ish, it really should come as no surprise that Little is big-ish on laughs and heart.

First off, while Rae delivers a great performance as a grown woman taking orders from a child half her size, it’s Martin’s performance as a grown adult in a child’s body that wins the movie. Martin is so good in her role there are times that while you don’t forget she actually is a child, you may be taken with just how excellent she is at mastering all of the adult things she nails in the film. Be it a woman feeling amorous, running a company or a young child dealing with the horrors of middle school, Martin hits every note like a Grammy Award winner for best new artist before realizing that they were once a successful indie artist that has just been given a shot on a major label. A bigger scope just showcases the talent they possess on a grander stage, which is exactly what Martin does in Little. She holds center court with adults in every scene when paired up with actors twice her literal size to the point the film never feels unbelievable; when acting around peers her own age she feels as out of place as someone who is supposed to be 38 would around today’s snarky social media savvy (try tweeting that three times fast!) teens.

Throw in a perfect balance of youthful exuberance by the film’s young cast to work alongside the adults – Hall, by the way, does her job well in her limited but largely crucial screen time – and Little delivers original laughs by putting a fresh coast of paint on the “fish out of water” scenario body switch movies have given of such a familiar formula. Little is so well done that its blackness never is a dominant trait of the film; sure, there are some “black girl magic” references and whatnot, but if you go into Little thinking its going to touch the same issues you’d find in a typical story arc of black-ish, you’ll either be highly disappointed or highly surprised. Little is just a good film that stars a large African-American cast, not a film with a lot of African-Americans that just happens to be good – that distinction. As African-Americans continue to prove there’s more to the black entertainment experience than just being pimps, thugs and slaves – they can be quirky, insecure (see what I did there, Issa Rae fans), have the same concerns as anyone else about work and life, etc. – Little delivers a big step forward in making sure that ideal isn’t forgotten by Hollywood anytime soon.

Thus, much like a middle school talent show that actually features more talent than you’d expect, Little delivers big entertainment value mature (and maturing) audiences will enjoy.

 

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

 

 

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It’s an entertaining animated adventure but are there still missing links? Read on as our movie critic offers his review.

 

“Hi … We don’t know the crew from Smallfoot; why do you ask?” Susan a.k.a. Mr. Link (center, voiced by Zach Galifanakis) introduces himself along with his newfound friends Lionel Frost (left, voiced by Hugh Jackman) and Adelina Fortnight (right, voiced by Zoe Saldana) in a scene from Annapurna Pictures’ animated adventure MISSING LINK. Credit: © 2019 Laika Studios/Annapurna Pictures. All rights reserved. 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia and David Walliams 

DIRECTOR(S): Chris Butler

THE BACK STORY: Sir Lionel Frost (voiced by Hugh Jackman) is an adventurer and explorer constantly in search of mythical creatures like the Loch Ness Monster … Even if his fellow explorers don’t see him as one of their contemporaries. That’s why when he gets a letter calling him to Washington state with a tip to find the elusive “missing link,” he couldn’t be more excited, even if Lord Piggot-Duncep (Stephen Fry) – the head of the explorer club to which Lionel wishes he belonged – not only vows he will fail in his quest, but hires the equally villainous Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) to make sure he does.  

Then again, Lionel is going to have bigger problems once he meets Susan (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), the male – yes male – sasquatch who wants him to take him to the land of Shangri-La where his “cousins,” the yetis, may exist. Now, if Lionel can just get a map from Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana) the widow of his former partner Aldis, he might have a shot at helping Susan and finding the acceptance and legacy he wishes he had.  

THE REVIEW: A kids movie that isn’t exactly a kids movie given the brief moments of gunplay, the jokes which definitely skew a bit more towards teenagers and adults than younger children, Missing Link is a familiar yet solid film families of all ages will enjoy as it hits all the necessary notes well enough to make each age group smile.

While Galifianakis’ brings a nice, innocent charm to this happy-go-lucky sasquatch, the film really leans more heavily on Jackman’s character to drive its story forward, both in terms of the action and each characters’ arc. Starting off as a purely pompous, self-indulgent man who thinks he is better than he is, only to evolve into what you would expect him to become by the story’s rather intense ending. Emma Thompson adds a nice injection of dark humor to her role as the Yeti queen, bringing out the film’s best original comedic moments. Throw in some animation reminiscent of Aardman favorites Wallace & Gromit rather than Laika Studios’ most recent release Kubo & the Two Strings and Missing Link is visually pleasing to watch as well.  And that’s the good and the bad of Missing Link – the film doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong, but it also doesn’t do ANYTHING that you don’t expect or haven’t seen before.

A tight 95 minutes in length, Missing Link hits all the beats (characters meet, adventure begins, evil characters come into play and our heroes come together to face their challenge). But the film lacks anything about it that feels special to make it seem, well, exceptionally memorable. Short and sweet, the film is tight and concise but feels more like the matinee to a second feature (or, at the very least, a more dynamic one of a double bill). To use an example I’m sure I’ve written before, Missing Link is like going to your favorite chain restaurant and ordering your usual meal. Maybe there’s a newer version of it for a limited time only – this one’s got ghost pepper cheese! – but it’s still a safe choice as you know what you’re getting with no surprises.

For a film about a missing link, though, you’d hope the only thing missing wouldn’t be something that felt so familiar.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

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It’s a World War II-romantic drama, unexpectedly best-suited for a girls night out. Read on as our movie critic shares his review.

 

“Hello … I’ll be attempting to seduce you later.” Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) extends a hand to Rachel Morgan (Keira Knightley) as her British soldier husband Lewis (Jason Clarke) looks on in a scene from THE AFTERMATH. Credit: David Appleby. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Kate Phillips and Flora Thiemann

DIRECTOR(S): James Kent

THE BACK STORY: Based on the novel of the same name by Rhidian Brook, The Aftermath stars Keira Knightley as Rachel Morgan, a woman married to her British colonel husband Lewis (Jason Clarke). Lewis is charged with helping to rebuild Hamburg, Germany following the official end of World War II, even if several Hitler supporters lurking in the city long to do damage to anything British. 

Rachel, however, has her own German issue to confront in the form of Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård). You see, it’s his home that Rachel will be staying in as Lewis works to rebuild Hamburg. In addition to his daughter’s apprehension to having unwanted guests in her late mother’s home, Stephen’s subtle charm – seemingly against her own wishes – is bringing out an attraction to him that Rachel isn’t sure how to handle given her own disdain for being in Hamburg.

But in the aftermath of the tragic death of her son, this new uncomfortable living situation might become a little too comfortable for her own good. 

THE REVIEW: As cliché as it is to call a movie a “chick flick” or a Lifetime movie, sometimes the cliché – as in the case is in life – it fits. In the case of The Aftermath, it is easy to call it a chick flick/Lifetime movie, but given its mix of over-the-top drama and heavy-handed foreshadowing filled with tropes … That is also just passable enough to entertain its target audience of women (let’s say ages 28-65, middle to upper class and very much into old world romance/affairs).

Knightley’s performance in The Aftermath is uneven at best, with certain moments coming off well, feeling like they are missing from a Lifetime movie with others feeling more genuinely consistent with the story. Clarke is likewise the owner of one of the worst moments of laughing crying possibly seen on film and the backstories for the characters is pretty flimsy with the side stories feeling exactly like that: a side item. What will work for many, however, is the inherent drama of the story, the backdrop of 1940s Germany and the leading man appeal of Skarsgård carries enough weight to steer the film when it starts to lose its sea legs (so to speak).

That all being said, The Aftermath is a film that is geared to those who believe in love, to those who love a good love triangle, those who have experienced loss and/or love a romantic movie and are more than willing to overlook flaws when they get a film that is intended to be an audience pleaser. The story is watchable once it gets going … Even if it never really gets going to anywhere you haven’t been before and better.

Just make sure that any male that gets drug to the movie knows what he’s in for or the aftermath of that decision might lead to quite a royal argument. 

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

 

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After Jordan Peele’s box-office sensation two years ago, this sophomore release just had the largest debut for an original horror film. See what our movie critic has to say about it.

 

“Now … Say it: Nakia was the real MVP of Black Panther!” Adelaide comes face-to-face with her doppelgänger Red (both played by Lupita Nyong’o) in a scene from writer/director/producer Jordan Peele’s Get Out follow-up US. Photo credit: Industrial Light & Magic/Universal Pictures © 2019 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Madison Curry, Cali and Noelle Sheldon

DIRECTOR(S): Jordan Peele

THE BACK STORY: Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) has a loving (if not somewhat cheesy) husband in Gabe (Winston Duke) and two loving, if not distracted by their cell phone and own devices children in Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). Headed to a beach home for the summer, Gabe and her two children are looking forward to a relaxing time with their friends the Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker) and their two daughters (Cali and Noelle Sheldon). 

What nobody knows, however, is that while everyone else seems to be ready to have a good time, the Santa Cruz beach holds a horrible memory for Adelaide: For this is where, in 1986, she got lost from her parents one night, wandered into a house of mirrors and got a terrible scare in the form of the one person she wouldn’t have expected to cause it: herself. 

Traumatized by seeing her dopplegänger, Adelaide’s PTSD has laid dormant until she returns to the beach and Jason goes missing for 5 minutes. The real horror, however, awaits when the Wilsons return to their beach home that night and Jason – who got a glimpse of a man with bloody fingers standing at the beach with his back turned to him – says six words:

“There’s a family in our driveway.”

There goes the neighborhood … And possibly a few more, too …

THE REVIEW: The type of film people could – and likely will – end up writing college dissertations about in both film and social studies classes, Us is an entertaining, engaging and – pardon the language – mind**** of a horror movie. And while his first work may have had more direct, easily digestible social commentary, Us proves that Jordan Peele has a lot to offer in terms of getting us to think about life in many aspects – even if that means leaving us in awe of what it is we exactly should be pondering about both his films and ourselves.

First things first, Us shows that while horror is a genre that gets about as much respect from award season voters as does say, oh, superhero movies, you need a really talented lead to make them work in any capacity; in Nyong’o’s case, I dare you to find a better performance – let alone in a dual capacity as the traumatized Adelaide and her deliciously devilish dopplegänger Red – that the one she brings here. Playing two opposite ends of a very difficult to showcase spectrum, Nyong’o makes every scene an intense, can’t-turn-your-eyes-away moment once the film’s second act gets going. Throw in the Black Swan-like climax and while she likely won’t get nominated for anything outside of a MTV award, Nyong’o will likely make voters think long and hard about how they are going to justify not giving her at least a Best Actress nod. 

That’s not to suggest that Nyong’o is the only one who shines in their respective role, however. Duke is phenomenal as the completely out of his element, book smart but NOT street smart Gabe, which is only enhanced by his gruff, lumbering, Incredible Hulk (or should that be M’Baku-like?) performance as his uneducated, only-existing-to-kill-opposite Abraham. Then again, keeping with a longstanding horror movie tradition, Alex pulls off both his roles as the mask wearing Jason and his fire-obsessed opposite Pluto and Joseph is downright frightening as her character Zora’s smiling devil opposite Umbrae. (Seriously, if you ever see a grown woman, let alone a child, look at you the way Umbrae does, run for your life and when you can’t run anymore, run some more.) Fans of his old Adult Swim shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! will be happy to see Heidecker will be happy to see him up to his old zany tricks in Us while Moss shows that her ability to play innocent in The Handmaid’s Tale shouldn’t overshadow her ability to be a bit, how would you say, malevolent when necessary. 

Now, while the film’s cast does a phenomenal job at bringing Peele’s vision to life, the meaning of – and deciphering what exactly that meaning is – Us is one that will rouse great debates well past the time audiences leave the theater. Given the twisty (and not in a M. Night Shyamalan way) nature of the plot, there is so much to unpack that one could see the film two or three times and not process everything in it. While the film contains homages to many celebrated horror films of the past – as well as being inspired somewhat by a Twilight Zone episode (which, given that Peele will now be the Rod Serling for the upcoming CBS reboot of the show makes perfect sense) – Us can be viewed from many aspects: (1) Is Peele trying to say something about how class has almost become as important in modern America after bubbling up since the 1980s; (2) Is this an exploration of how one can truly be one’s own worst enemy or, on a deeper level; (3) how the suppressing one’s violent side can lead to that side being one day to overtake us all; (4) Is there an even deeper meaning that we’re all missing, like say the film is possibly tied to the world of Get Out where we see a loving African American family trying to distance itself from the trappings of many others with their affluence only to potentially succumb to the same perils of others? or (5) Just a really crazy, well done (albeit not perfect) horror film that makes sure you’ll never think of the Beach Boyz, the Lunizclassic hip-hop work or Hands Across America the same way again? Throw in the film’s ending, which, if you don’t follow all the clues, may serve to help – or further confuse – and you’ve got all you need for a “See, what I think it meant was THIS!” debate among your inner circle. 

Well, in the case of Us, the answer will obviously be “yes” – even if we’re not sure if we’re asking the right question. Because whatever the meaning is, the movie is near two hours of insane entertainment that’s sure to make you think about us – and yourself – at large. 

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

 

 

 

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Marvel continues its comic book domination with the 90s nostalgic Captain Marvel. See what our critic has to say.

 

“Jean who? Do I look like Famke Janssen to you? DO I?!” Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) goes into full fire mode as the titular character in Marvel Studios’ latest cinematic adventure CAPTAIN MARVEL. Credit: Film Frame © 2019 Marvel Studios.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Lee Pace, Annette Benning and Djimon Honsou with McKenna Grace and Akira Akbar

DIRECTOR(S): Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

THE BACK STORY: Vers (Brie Larson) is a part of an elite star force from Hala, home to the noble warriors known as the Kree. Trained by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers is locked in to a battle against the shape-shifting Skrulls, led by the seemingly ruthless Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). Under the guidance of both Yon-Rogg and the god-like artificial intelligence known as the Supreme Intelligence (Anette Benning), Vers is training to become the best warrior she can to save her people from the Skrulls intended domination.

But while she trains to become a super soldier (hmmm … Wonder where we’ve heard that before?), Vers is haunted by the nightmares – or are those memories? – of a life she seems to have lived before. Who is the mysterious woman the Supreme Intelligence keeps taking the form of when it communicates with Vers? After all, the Supreme Intelligence is supposed to only take the form of the person you admire the most, right? Why does she keep having visions of airplanes and a woman (Lashana Lynch) … And why can she not fully control the powerful photon blasts that come from her hands? 

Well, once the battle between the Skrulls and Kree reaches the planet home to a young government agent named Nicholas J. Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the newly hired Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), Vers – as she is known among the Kree – is about to find out. 

And the Marvel Universe will never be the same once she does. 

THE REVIEW: Despite all the efforts multiple entities have made, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and his team obviously either have not received or simply have ignored the current anti-bullying effort sweeping across America. Because every time he and his cohorts release a new superhero/comic book-based film from Marvel’s expansive collection, it serves to simply remind all D.C. Comics fans that while they can continue to hold out hope, hope is all they have at this point. For if this was a fight, the referee would have called it at this point or let D.C. face an Apollo Creed-like fate at the hands of Marvel’s Ivan Drago.

Captain Marvel is the latest proof that anything D.C. can do, Marvel can do and possibly always do better – and it’s not even close.

Don’t get me wrong: Patty Jenkins’ stellar Wonder Woman is arguably the best D.C. Comics movie ever made. (Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is its own thing; it’s like comparing Michael Jordan’s championships to Robert Horry’s. Sorry Big Shot Rob, but it’s true!) And while Captain Marvel may not be quite as good as the lady with the golden lasso, it’s really good and does something far better than any D.C. release in terms of (1) introducing a character that (2) has a major significance to (3) an entire cinematic universe that (4) only keeps getting better as it expands.

Whereas Justice League was an utter atrocity compared to Wonder Woman (and well, most superhero films in general), Captain Marvel hits all the beats is needs in anticipation of next month’s Avengers: Endgame and then some. Larson, an actress that one could argue wouldn’t likely come to most moviegoers’ minds when they think of a potential action star, gives her version of Carol Danvers a sly sense of humor and all the confidence needed to make her believable in the role. One can almost imagine Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot calling her agent and saying “You mean I could have done THAT superhero movie?!” with all the furor of the average NFL star demanding a trade from a contending team, only to end up on the NY Jets. Larson’s evolution of the character works in a way an established action star’s would not, all of which Carol Danvers a marvelous captain of her own ship (or as the case may be, plane).

Jackson, seen here as a younger, dual ocular version of Nick Fury, plays well as a more in experienced version of S.H.I.E.L.D. counterpart while Lynch comes off like a younger Viola Davis (and that’s meant in a positive, complimentary sense). Of course, the precocious performance of Akbar will steal most adults hearts – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more wide-eyed, charming child in a superhero movie this year – Mendelsohn’s turn at Talos might be the best of the entire film; without spoiling anything, it’s a key performance that, like the rest of the cast, helps round out Larson’s character while making sure his own is far from afterthought.

Throw in a well-written, not-so-easy to predict plot and an equally well-paced story under the eye of co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and you’ve got enough to inspire little girls to follow their dreams while making men and women of all ages salivate in anticipation of what will happen next month. The 90s references (oh, Blockbuster Video …) are perfectly timed pieces of humorous nostalgia, the action sequences aren’t needless story filler and the film draws you in its journey across the universe in excellent fashion … And the tribute to the late Stan Lee is just perfect as is his cameo, which hopefully won’t be his last.

Now with everything queued up for the next Avengers movie, Captain Marvel will ensure Marvel continues its quest for world domination … Or, at the very least, making sure D.C. stays in distant second place with a simple snap of their fingers.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

 

 

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