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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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An original cast and director reunite to bring fresh laughs to zombie genre with this new flick, but is it worth the watch? Read on as our movie critic tells all.

 

“You know, there are a lot of situations where the four of us with torches could get REALLY misinterpreted in the news … If TV news stations were still a thing in the apocalypse!” Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Wichita (Emma Stone), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) look towards another threat in a scene from ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP. Credit: Jessica Miglio © 2019 CTMG Inc. All rights reserved.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutsch, Luke Wilson, Avan Jogia and Thomas Middleditch

DIRECTOR(S): Ruben Fleischer

THE BACK STORY: Taking place a decade after the events of 2009’s original film, Zombieland: Double Tap finds our familiar unlikely foursome of the sarcastic Wichita (Emma Stone), her now grown-up sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Wichita’s rules-for-survival following Columbus (Jessie Eisenberg) and Little Rock’s would-be father figure/cowboy wannabe Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) living in bliss in the former White House. Unfortunately, Columbus’ dreams of marrying Wichita are driving her nuts and Wichita is ready to hit the road and hang out with some people her own age.

So, when Wichita and Little Rock split unexpectedly, Columbus and Tallahassee end eventually hitting the road as well – only to end up on a journey that will meet a less-than-intellectual bubbly girl named Madison (Zoey Deutsch), a guitar-playing pacifist named Berkley (Avan Jogia) and some more colorful characters that are going to make life in an era of zombies – many of which are evolving into new forms – quite interesting … If they survive.

THE REVIEW: Sometimes, a movie gets a sequel right  year or two after the original’s release and it feels completely unnecessary, like an absolute money grab made just because (see Hangover II and III). Sometimes, a sequel is made years if not decades after the original and it seems like it was just made for the fans but offers nothing really special to justify it needing to exist (too many to name).

Zombieland: Double Tap is neither of those things; what it is, however, is a very funny film that honors the original and will satisfy fans old and new alike.

Double Tap does everything the original does with enhancements for round two: Have plenty of zinging jokes (Harrelson is almost like Samuel L. Jackson’s bald Caucasian brother both sarcasm and language wise), plenty of surprises (just wait till you see what they do with two characters … Also stay through the credits), character development/evolution and a general sense of fun while crafting a story that flows as it should in a completely absurd world. Whereas the public may be suffering zombie fatigue these days (we KNOW who to blame for that), Double Tap adds a bit of refreshing by focusing on its comedic elements without the characters themselves being silly. That allows the characters to be relatable, interesting and entertaining.

Of course, re-teaming the original cast with their original director in Ruben Fleischer helps to deliver the perfect mix of zany comedy with well-paced, reasonable action sequences to help the story progress. Double Tap is geared towards keeping the original film’s fans happy, but opens itself up to new fans with its irreverence. It’s bawdy, rowdy but balanced with its own unique (dare-I-say sweet?) qualities to deliver laughs from the literal opening title card to the credits.

You’d have to be a zombie not to like it.

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

 

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Learn about the new flick that our movie critic says uses heart, not clichés, to share an inspiring, entertaining and relatable journey.

 

“I gotta keep running … It’s the only way to avoid hearing that blasted ‘Old Town Road’ song anymore!” Brittany (Jillian Bell) takes to the streets in a scene from BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON. Credit: © 2019 Amazon Studios. All rights reserved.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jillian Bell, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Micah Stock, Micaela Watkins, Lil Rel Howery, Kate Harrington, Patch Darragh and Alice Lee

DIRECTOR(S): Paul Downs Colaizzo

THE BACK STORY: Brittany (Jillian Bell) is a hard-partying late 20-something who is living it up in New York City with her roommate/bestie Gretchen (Alice Lee). With her sister (Kate Harrington) and the brother-in-law who basically helped raise her Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery) back in Philadelphia, Brittany isn’t too concerned that she’s late to work all the time, she drinks too much and her place is a mess, but she’s too busy living her best life to care. 

Then she goes to see a doctor (Patch Darragh) to try to score a prescription for Adderall only to receive some bad news: One, she’s not getting it and two, she needs to lose 44-55 pounds for health’s sake.

Inadvertently befriended by her upstairs neighbor Catherine (Micaela Watkins) and the wanting-to-do-better-for-his-child-Seth (Micah Stock), Jillian decides to try to join their running group to get into better shape. But as she is soon to find out, running outside isn’t going to be the only challenge in her life since she’s been running away from all the other problems that have manifested themselves into who she is today.

THE REVIEW: Inspired by true eventsBrittany Runs a Marathon is a very good movie. It’s doesn’t provide a revelation in terms of its story, how it arrives to its final destination or contain some element of its cinematic presentation that is so overwhelmingly unique that it propels it to something resembling classic status. What it does do, however – thanks to a very fine leading performance by Bell that many will understand and find more relatable than many of us will care to admit if the numbers are true – is present a story that makes you root for the main character will in turn examining your own shortcomings (and potentially inspire you to do better, too).

Leaving out the more over-the-top elements one might find in a Amy Schumer or Rebel Wilson picture, Bell – best known for her comedic turns in films such as 22 Jump Street and Rough Night – makes Brittany a person (let alone woman) you know. In a culture where many publicly either body shame the overweight or crucify those that do, Bell’s performance digs just a little bit deeper into tackling issues like how our bodies make us feel about ourselves as a whole, the complications that come with perception of the types of lives overweight people have resigned their selves to and dealing with setbacks not just with exercise, but life as a whole.

This emotional depth exhibited by Bell, Watkins, Stock and Utkarsh Ambudkar as Brittany’s annoying co-worker is what keeps the film from feeling and being formulaic. Not everything is wrapped up nearly with a bow, the characters aren’t so cookie cutter you could simply replace them with others from another movie and there’s no over-the-top, that doesn’t make sense EXCEPT to make “x” happen moment. Instead, you get a woman trying to change her life while fighting demons that many of us face, working through them as best she can and coming to a place where she can be happier than she is not.

Seeing Brittany Runs a Marathon may just do the same for you … Or at least New Balance hopes so given all the product placement in the movie.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Angry Birds 2 touts to be full of enjoyable animated lunacy for kids and adults alike, but click to see if our movie critic says that flies.

 

 

“Look – that’s all the parents laughing at the jokes the little kids aren’t getting!” L to R: Bomb (Danny McBride), Chuck (Josh Gad), Silver (Rachel Bloom), Red (Jason Sudeikis), Courtney (Awkafina), Garry (Sterling K. Brown) and Leonard (Bill Hader) in Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animations’ ANGRY BIRDS 2. Credit: © 2019 Courtesy of Sony Pictures. All rights reserved. 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K. Brown, Eugenio Derbez, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage, Pete Davidson, Zach Woods, Dove Cameron, Lil Rel Howery, Nicki Minaj, Beck Bennett and Brooklynn Prince

DIRECTOR(S): Thurop Van Orman

THE BACK STORY: Following the events of the first movie, Angry Birds 2 once again stars the voice of Jason Sudeikis as Red, the town outcast turned hero when he – along with help from Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Terence (Nolan North) – ended up saving Bird Island from the green pig egg-stealing invasion led by Leonard (Bill Hader). Now happily enjoying his role as the leader of the island, Red is enjoying life with little anger these days …

And that’s when Leonard returns to inform him of a third island where Zeta (Leslie Jones), the leader of the eagles, is plotting to take out both of their homes.

Being forced to work with Leonard – as well his assistant Courtney (Awkwafina) and his tech pig Garry (Sterling K. Brown) – would be bad enough for Red, but add Bird Island’s own Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) and Chuck’s whiz kid sister Silver (Rachel Bloom) to the mix and you’ve got everything you need to make Red one very angry bird. Again. 

THE REVIEW: In a world where superhero movies have gone from pitiful to (usually) fantastic, the original Angry Birds movie was an OK adaptation of a video game to animated big screen adventure. It established the worlds of its pixelated counterparts where a story could be told, delivered enough family-friendly adventure and set the stage for future iterations of the franchise if it did well. Well, it obviously did well enough to result in The Angry Birds Movie2, which for many people would seem to be easily dismissible as another unnecessary sequel probably best saved for little kids or anyone who really liked the first movie or the mobile game it was inspired by … And if you are in the former camp more than the latter, you’d likely be forgiven for your decision to ignore adding no. 2 to your watchlist.

Once you see it, however, you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised to learn that Angry Birds 2 is a throwback to the days when Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs dominated 90s animated programming – for this Looney Tunes on acid affair features enough entertainment to make even the angriest movie goer laugh repeatedly.

Angry Birds 2 is one of those movies where everything nuance and detail clicks; whereas the first movie felt a little predictable and more about telling the story, Angry Birds 2 finds its vocal actors injecting each character with distinct personality, playing well off each other and walking the line between “did they just say that in a kids’ movie?!” to the point adults where the film feels entertaining enough for kids, but really made for adults. Jones shines as Zeta, delivering in your face quips that strike a good balance between traditionally cartoon silly and effective with the rest of the cast following suit as well. Director Thurop Van Orman keeps things moving along quite efficiently, his storyboards coming to life in a fashion where each scene feels like its own Saturday Night Live sketch in the frame of one giant story. Then again, that should come as no surprise given all the SNL alumni in the cast; whoever picked the film’s musical soundtrack should win some sort of award (or at least be given a bonus) as each song is placed in perfect accordance with the scenes, setting moods and/or enhancing jokes.

Throw in the Despicable Me/Minions-like B story involving the Hatchlings from the first film and one of them’s desperate, almost like Scrat in the Ice Age franchise-like pursuit to retrieve their baby sisters and you have a near perfect balance of entertainment for those 8 to 12 years old with those 18 and older. It all helps make Angry Birds 2 the funniest animated movie thus far in 2019 and one of the more entertaining to boot.

Just don’t get angry at anyone but yourself if you choose to skip it in favor of that app you keep playing with on your smartphone instead.

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

 

 

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Tweens walk the line between innocence and debauchery in this good-natured flick but is it good enough to see in theaters? See what our critic has to say.

 

“I don’t think that drone is flying to wherever are friends are playing Fortnite …” Lucas (Keith L. Williams), Max (Jacob Tremblay) and Thor (Brady Noon) in a scene from GOOD BOYS. Credit: Ed Araquel/Universal Pictuers. © 2019 Universal Studios.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

RED BAND TRAILER (NSFW)

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Lil Rel Howery, Retta, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Josh Caras, Will Forte and Midori Francis

DIRECTOR(S): Gene Stupnitsky

THE BACK STORY: Three best friends – Lucas (Keith L. Williams), Thor (Brady Noon) and Max (Jacob Tremblay) – are adjusting to life in 6th grade when they one of them gets invited to a party that could change their life. That’s because the party is a kissing party and Max’s crush Brixlee (Millie Davis) is going to be there. 

Unfortunately for Max and his two friends a.k.a. “The Bean Bag Boys,” none of them have any idea how to kiss, so they find themselves in a panic of trying to learn on the fly. This leads to the bright idea to use Max’s dad’s (Will Forte) work drone to spy on Hannah (Molly Gordon) and her boyfriend Benji (Josh Caras), who Hannah and her friend Lily (Midori Francis) to show up with the drugs for their road trip to Chicago. So … What happens when the he boys inadvertently find themselves on the run from Hannah and Lily and needing to replace Max’s dad’s work property?

A whole lot of things that your average sixth grader isn’t prepared to handle, that’s for sure.

THE REVIEW: A comedy that rides a fine line between showing its trio of leads as innocent youngsters … Who also can be a tad foul-mouthed and too knowledgeable for their own good, Good Boys is a funny, entertaining romp that is more sweet than it is sinful. But when the film is sinful, it’s likely going to be more than the average parent (moreso than their children) can likely handle given the exposure to sex toys, drugs and alcohol and hearing three kids who look as innocent as our makeshift heroes do curse. But therein lies the hook of the film as the boys are not troublemakers out to looking to do foul things; instead, they are more apt to try and do the right thing in the most ludicrous of situations, which is what results in the film’s best moments more often than not.

Whereas Jacob Tremblay (Room) does a good job of serving as the group’s makeshift leader, Keith L. Williams constant snitching on the trio’s misdeeds (even when they weren’t doing anything that wrong) plays well for comedic effect affect against Thor’s wannabe bad boy (who really doesn’t) act. Thus, you get a mix of kids trying to do what all children do at their age: Trying to become more mature and find their way in the world even though it’s obvious to almost anyone looking they have no clue what they’re doing.

That strive to maintain the innocence of the characters does restrain Good Boys at times from reaching its potential peak hilarity as there are several moments you can feel that either director Gene Stupnitsky or the film’s producers said “let’s not push further than this.” This creates a bit of a catch-22 for the audience, for once you’ve found yourself laughing at a boy giving his crush a necklace that is NOT a necklace, you’ve pretty much already gone past the “see, we’re not pushing the envelope that far” notion. At its essence, Good Boys is a film about trying to maintain a childlike innocence in a world where that is increasingly hard to do and growing up through and overcoming adversity … Just with more items you’d expect to find in your closet than your kid’s.

So …. If you’re looking for a comedy with heart and spirit that also will make sure to talk to your kids about staying out of mommy and/or daddy’s drawers when they’re not at home, Good Boys will likely win your heart with laughs a plenty. If you’d rather not look at your young middle schooler and have to have a conversation on the way home in the car, you might wish to sit this one out or – as some of the parents at the advance screening yours truly attended – leave them at home.

Just don’t say that no one warned you what you were getting into.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Does this flick deliver everything fans of the series have come to expect and love, or did it crash and burn? See what our movie critic has to say.

 

“OK – Luther the Movie vs. “The Rock” vs. “The Transporter” in a biggest box office draw wins triple threat match!” Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, left in t-shirt) sits chained with his unlikely partner Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) while Brixton (Idris Elba) watches front and center in a scene from Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Credit: Universal Pictures © 2019 Universal Studios. All rights reserved. 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Eliana Sua, Cliff Curtis, Eddie Marsan, Lori Pelenise Tuisano, Eiza González and Helen MirrenDIRECTOR(S): David Leitch

THE BACK STORY: The Fast & The Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw centers around two men who could not be more polar opposites: Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is a hard-nosed, meat and potatoes, truck-driving badass who splits his time working for the DSS and being a father to his 9 year-old daughter Sam (Eliana Sua). Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is a suave, suit-wearing former Mi6 agent with skillful hand-to-hand fighting skills to go with his beloved sports cars. His imprisoned mother Queenie (Helen Mirren), however, wishes he would reconcile with his sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) so she could see her kids together before she possibly gets out of jail.

As luck would have it, Queenie may get her wish because Hattie, who is currently a top-level Mi6 agent, just got framed for murdering the rest of her crew by Brixton (Idris Elba), a cybernetically-enhanced worker for a mysterious corporation named Eteon that looks to speed up the next step in human evolution … By releasing a super virus inadvertently created by Professor Andreiko (Eddie Marsan) with a 100 percent fatality rate. But guess who stole the virus and injected into her body before Brixton could get his hands on it, leaving her only 72 hours to live unless those capsules get taken back out of her body first?

Now with Hobbs and Shaw commissioned by their respective agencies to go recover the virus and save the world – and if they can in the process, save Hattie, too – these two dudes are going to have to learn to get along before they kill the bad guys … Or each other.

THE REVIEW: After eight Fast & Furious movies, you could say that the series pretty much has its formula down pat: You get a bunch of guys (and girls) who are equal parts pure sex and testosterone who in turn exhibit traditional values of family over everything, staying faithful to those faithful to you … And forgiving people who have been coerced into seemingly turning against only to find out they had good reason to do so and/or never did. Hobbs & Shaw continues this tradition, pausing only to add two big name comedic stars in roles that could have long-term implications, a precocious child in Sua’s Sam and another female lead that proves she can more than hold her own.

In short, if you’ve liked the last say three or four Furious movies, you’re going to love Hobbs & Shaw which does everything in its power to prove the old adage of “too much of a good thing” never applies when you’ve got insane driving sequences, rampages of hand-to-hand combat and gunplay and a group of Samoans ready to throw down.

Evoking a strong “I hate you/No, I hate you more” vibe not seen working this efficiently since the days when Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte were also paired up against a clock, Hobbs & Shaw focuses on everything Johnson and Statham are good at: Kicking asses while dispensing quick one-upping one liners before turning to show the classic “badass with a heart” mode with their respective family members. Each actor makes all three elements of their characters work in a genuine fashion, never once feeling forced, out of place or silly in a way that would make an ever-so-tight-lipped Dominic Toretto smile.

Elba hits all his marks as the bad guy who doesn’t really view himself as the bad guy yet know why everyone thinks he’s the bad guy (besides all the killing), making his Brixton the baddest black Brit since Lennox Lewis was winning heavyweight titles. He fares well as a matchup for Hobbs and Shaw, playing his antagonist well in much the Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger vein of black supervillains. Likewise, Kirby more than holds her own as the tomboy girl all young boys would want to hang with before growing up into the girl next door you’d love to date … If she and/or her older brother didn’t beat you down first with their fighting skills.

Throw in a final showdown in Samoa that pays homage to both The Rock, er, Johnson’s wrestling roots (complete with a signature move by his cousin Joe “Roman Reigns” Anoa’i) and the Fast & Furious longstanding foundation of family and you’ve pretty much got everything you need to make Hobbs & Shaw a worthwhile spinoff. (The three well-known comedic actors who also lend their talents to the film also carve out great comedy niches in their abbreviated screen time, making their roles more effective in the brevity.)

But for a franchise now nine films deep with at least two more on the way, brevity is not something Fast & Furious fans are going to have to worry about – at least not while Hobbs & Shaw has anything to say about it.

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

 

 

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Tarantino is back with a comedy/crime tale featuring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino. Read our movie critic’s review to see if it’s worth the watch.

 

“Hi … We’re also getting paid a ton of money for this!” Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) shakes hands with Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) while Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) looks on in a scene from writer/director Quentin Taratino’s wild and wacky ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. Credit: Andrew Cooper. © 2018 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Qualley, Margaret Qualley, Damion Herriman, Emile Hirsch, Mike Moh, Lena Dunham, Julia Butters and Kurt Russell with Bruce Dern and Al Pacino


DIRECTOR(S): Quentin Tarantino

THE BACK STORY: Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a man at a crossroads. His TV career isn’t fulfilling him and his last leading role just got canceled, hence the reason he wishes to transition into films … But he’s having trouble doing so. His longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), however, is just at peace with his lot in life, driving Rick to and from set while hanging out with his loyal pooch in his AirStream trailer home. 

But while Rick laments his falling star and Cliff tries to make him realize the sky isn’t falling with it, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is living the high life as Rick’s new neighbor. Married to hotshot director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha), Sharon is enjoying a budding movie career and life with her husband … And her ex-boyfriend/hairdresser to the stars Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). 

While Cliff is living his life fairly carefree, things are about to change when he picks up a hippie hitchhiker (Margaret Qualley) who can’t wait for him to meet Squeaky (Dakota Fanning), Tex (Austin Qualley) and Charlie (Damion Herriman). But since Charlie is the leader of a “family” that has a very unique view on the world, things are about to change in a way that only can happen in a Taratino-helmed picture …

THE REVIEW: For a movie that’s 2 hours and 40 minutes-plus in length, you would be inclined to hope Once Upon a Time in Hollywood wouldn’t feel a bit (1) disjointed; (2) incomplete; (3) half-baked and (4) have some focus storytelling flair to match its visuals that are writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s homage to the last “golden era” of Hollywood. Instead, what you have are two movies in one: (1) A buddy comedy about an aging film star (DiCaprio’s Dalton) finding his place in the world and (2) a crime fantasy drama about the Manson family and a stuntman’s interaction with them.

If that sounds a bit confusing to you, watching Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will make it clearer how they are connected … Even though you will likely leave the theater with feelings as mixed as the movie itself.

A man who loves to do things brash and big, there is no wonder why Tarantino would love to explore the world of Hollywood in the 1960s. Likewise, given his penchant for crime tales and revisionist history, there is plenty of source material for Tarantino to utilize. Instead, Once Upon feels more like exploiting all of the glitz and glamour before devolving into a live-action cartoon of South Park-level insanity but with Family Guy-like intelligence. (By the way, I like both cartoons, but let’s be honest: One has gone from frathouse humor to a near graduate studies course on modern socio-political issues while the other will throw out a Conway Twitty clip or a chicken fight when there isn’t a more involved punchline.) Once Upon instead is a hodgepodge of everything that Tarantino wants to cram into a movie; problem is, when you try to cram everything in, a lot of those things don’t get the time they need to develop. And when you have a movie that is trying to essentially be two things in one, it often doesn’t work. Once Upon suffers this fate as the true crime aspects – Tarantino’s take features real people, but isn’t exactly based on a true story – at times feel forced and Dalton’s story was worthy of its own movie, not one in which it shares it with another idea.

On a positive note, DiCaprio does DiCaprio things which prove his worth as one of modern Hollywood’s best actors with Pitt smiling and charming his way as only he can through his scenes. Problem is, that’s pretty much all Pitt does save for the film’s twisted final 20 minutes. His interaction with the Manson Family is a bit like a pro wrestling character: You either buy it or you just kinda go “meh.”

The real tragedy may be Robbie’s performance, or rather the lack thereof of it. Robbie does very little as Sharon Tate other than laugh, smile, giggle and hug – that’s it – but it’s not her fault. There’s really not much else to her role nor is she given any opportunity to showcase why she could have been a compelling person other than a tragic footnote in real-life Hollywood history. With so much that could have been done with the character, Tarantino’s tribute to her feels more like a caricature of her, needless to say it does not achieve the desired result.

The main thing that will stick with audiences, however, is that outside of the Dalton tale, the film feels grandiose, long as its runtime and just a really potluck of stories and storytelling. If Tarantino’s plan really is to retire after 10 films, he’s going to need a dynamite exit piece to atone for the Once Upon. For this is the equivalent to New Coke, Kanye West’s 808 & Heartbreaks, the last season of Game of Thrones and LeBron James leaving Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach. Sure, there will be plenty of die-hard Tarantino fans that will laud it as the greatest thing since his last greatest thing, but the causal fan may simply go “I get it … But was it really worth getting?”

For a film that attempts to entertain by celebrating and then exploring Hollywood’s Golden Age, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will be fortunate to settle for anything close to bronze.

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

 

 

 

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It’s an unpredictable blend of teen romance and superhero action, but does this new flick spin a web of must-see Marvel adventure?

 

“Hi there … We’re getting ready to make a lot of money together for a major Hollywood studio!” Peter Parker (Tom Holland, center) gets introduced to Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal, right) while Nick Fury’s assistant soldier Dmitri (Numan Acar, far left) in a scene from SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME. Credit: Jay Maidment © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jon Favreau, Jacob Balaton, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Angourie Rice, J.B. Smoove, Martin Starr, Tony Revolori, Remy Hii and Marisa Tomei

DIRECTOR(S): Jon Watts

THE BACK STORY: Still reeling from the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home finds Peter Parker (Tom Holland) still attempting to get over the [SPOILER ALERT – BUT YOU’VE HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO FIND THIS OUT!] death of his mentor Tony Stark. Now, Tony’s trusted right hand man Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is trying to help Peter progress and move forward; Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), on the other hand, are hoping to talk to him about the Elementals, a threat that just popped up in Mexico and may be moving in to more spots around the globe. 

Peter, however, has one thing on his mind – well two, if you count his suspicious about what his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) may be up to in her free time – and that’s his upcoming class trip to Europe with Ned (Jacob Balaton), MJ (Zendaya), Flash (Tony Revolori), Betty (Angourie Rice), Brad (Remy Hii) and their science teachers/chaperones Mr. Harrington (Martin Starr) and Mr. Bell (J.B. Smoove). Unfortunately for Peter, (1) Nick Fury isn’t going to take kindly to him trying to ghost his calls; (2) Brad – who grew up quite a bit in the 5 years after “the blip” – has his eyes on MJ, too and (3) It seems like that disturbance in Mexico seems to be heading towards Europe.

But luckily for Peter, he’s about to get some help in form of a soldier from an alternate Earth who has come to fights the Elementals by the name of Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal) … Or, as the world will soon come to know him, Mysterio …

THE REVIEW: Given all that happened in the latter movie, many fans were shocked to learn that it would be Spider-Man: Far From Home and not Avengers: Endgame that would wrap up Marvel’s Phase Three plans. It would almost seem that by doing so, Far From Home would have an immense amount of pressure to live up to, especially since a year is slated to pass before Marvel drops another film on the public. But this is Marvel we’re talking about, which means there is no way they were going to let Sony Pictures let one of its most iconic characters go out and make the studio nor Iron Man down.

In other words, Far From Home lives up to expectations and then some with a well-crafted story, action sequences, plenty of humor and a game-changing ending worthy of passing the torch from Tony Stark to Peter Parker.

Given that longtime fans of the character have already watched Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield attempt to carve out their own niche as Spider-Man, Holland may now own the mantle as the definitive actor to play him – Far From Home serving as his greatest showcase to date. Exhibiting the classic naiveté of a teenager at times as he still tries to understand of what he is fully capable both as a superhero and a young man with his eye on a girl, Holland also shows all of the classic comic book elements that made Spider-Man such a big deal in the first place in terms of his humor, creativity and strength when he is forced to step up and go to battle. His interactions with his all of co-stars only serve to enhance these facets of the character as his ragtag group of fellow students feels perfectly cast with Balaton, Zendaya, Revolori, Hii and Rice all adding perfectly to the story.

Likewise, the adults more than come through in Far From Home with their respective roles. While you’re never really going to ever go wrong with Jackson doing Jackson-like things for two hours as Nick Fury with Smulders exhibiting a calm cool as his second-in-command, Favreau keeps his comedy contingency high while adding as a bit of diet Stark to whom Holland’s Parker can vent his frustrations. Tomei keeps finding ways to make the cinematic version of Aunt May more interesting she’s ever been and Gyllenhaal expertly exhibits all of the elements of his character ala the way Michael Keaton did in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Director Jon Watts (who co-wrote the film with Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers) proves his previous work with Spider-Man wasn’t a fluke, as Far From Home steps up everything the aforementioned Homecoming does in terms of pacing, humor, peril, general storytelling and visual engagement well. The film never feels as long as its 2 hour, 15 minute running time, no moments feel wasted and his ability to get everything he needs in the moment out of his actors definitely pays dividends with the finished product. In short, Watts and co. have done the thing that is very hard to do with any superhero story, let alone a movie in general: Craft a tale that satisfies every need with a cast that you won’t spend time second-guessing if they were right for the role and a story that contains enough original, organic moments combined “oh – didn’t see that coming!” ones to tie into the larger world (in this case, the Marvel Cinematic Universe / MCU for short) while still being its own unique thing.

So while the character himself may be far from home, the latest Spider-Man movie proves that when it comes to the future of the MCU, he’s definitely found one as long as Holland, Watts and co. can continue to deliver quality stories like this.

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

 

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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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