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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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Sacha Baron Cohen’s best-known character is back. Read on as our movie critic shares if it’s worth the watch.

 

 
“My genius at making fun of Republicans is unparalleled to the point we must dance!” Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Tutar (Maria Bakalova) party in the USA in a scene from director Jason Woliner’s ribald BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM. Credit: © 2020 Amazon Studios. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

DIRECTOR: Jason Woliner

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova

THE BACK STORY: Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen), Kazakhstan’s no. 1 TV journalist, hasn’t been seen in a while … And that’s because he’s been in jail for the last 14 years because of everything that happened on his first trip to America. But now, he’s been offered a chance to redeem himself by traveling back to the USA to deliver a gift on behalf of his country’s leader to impress President Donald Trump via Vice President Mike Pence (although those aren’t exactly the terms Borat uses for either one of them).

But upon his release from the gulag, Borat discovers he has a daughter, Tutar (Maria Bakalova) who loves her cage (feminists may have a hard time seeing the satire in the early going) as any good Kazakhstan girl would. That doesn’t stop her, however, from stowing away with her (in)famous father stateside on his journey … And once there is a mishap upon their arrival, their journey together soon proves that their relationship has only just begun …

 
THE REVIEW: Given the sheer number of reports ahead of the film’s release about those Rudy Guliani scenes, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm continues Baron Cohen’s favorite activity: Exposing America’s goofy (and often, terrifyingly gullible, not-so-smart) sides with the occasional dash of sweet to balance things out. (Google Judith Dim Evans after you watch the movie; it is well-worth your time and knowledge.)
 

Continuing in the tradition Andy Kaufman and others before him that have found the greatest comedy is exposing the truth about the world; is Baron Cohen crazy or simply holding up a mirror to the craziness going we are all willingly participating in? Yes, you will get plenty of male full-frontal nudity, there is plenty of older people being put into uncomfortable situations and if you think many of Kazakhstan’s residents were not pleased with their depiction in the first movie, this one isn’t going to change that at all. This is pure “The joke’s on you” comedy … And Borat Subsequent Moviefilm shows the joke in fact may be on all of us.

But much like his first cinematic outing, Borat’s charm (if that is the operative word) remains in the way he approaches his audacious activities with earnestness and a childlike sense of glee and excitement. This is why the audition of Tutar (played perfectly by Bakalova) as his daughter serves to further both the outrageous nature of the characters exposing of America (both in terms of being full of uptight stuffed shirts and genuinely nice people alike) and Borat’s own growth. (This is a father-daughter relationship more akin to an episode of Adult Swim staples Rick & Morty and The Eric Andre Show more than it is To Kill A Mockingbird.) Granted, the film starts off a little slow in feeling like it’s relying on its predecessor’s success at first, but as the film progresses, it proves it has legs to stand on its own. 

The last 30 minutes of the movie, however, is what audiences will be talking about the most once they get done utilizing their Amazon Prime accounts. To say more is to give away too much of the plot and its twists, but trust me: If you are a die hard Make America Great Again devotee, you are going to likely be infuriated, embarrassed or in a perfect world, both.

If there were a film that perfectly sums up the insanity of 2020, it would be Borat Subsequent Moviefilm – especially in lieu of reports like these and this big date on America – and the world’s calendar – coming up in less than two weeks. 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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Two con artists have spent 26 years training their only daughter to swindle, scam and steal at every turn. Read on to see if this far-out flick conned our movie critic into a good review.

 

“Now, just remember, if anyone asks, we went grocery shopping BEFORE it was mandated you had to wear a mask in public!” (Gina Rodriguez) and Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood) go out for a non-grifting grocery trip in a scene from writer/director Miranda July’s KAJILLIONAIRE. Credit: Matt Kennedy / Focus Features © Focus Features. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

DIRECTOR: Miranda July
 
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Evan Rachel Wood, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger
 


THE BACK STORY:
 Old Dolio Dyne (Evan Rachel Wood) is a 26 year-old Los Angeles resident. Her home, however, is unconventional as it is an office space next to some sort of industrial park where a pink liquid oozes into the room. Joining her in this most unconventional of living spaces are her parents Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins), grifters by trade who are always on the lookout for their next scheme or heist. It’s not a good life, but it’s the only one Old Dolio knows.

Then Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) comes into the picture. 

Meeting her by chance on a flight as part of their latest scheme, Melanie seems excited at the prospect of getting into a new line of work and comes up with a plan of her own to pull off a new heist. But, as Melanie’s love of life – and other circumstances – start to open up her mind to other aspects of the human experience, Old Dolio starts to question her current existence and what could lie ahead in the future.

Who knows – becoming rich in her own spirit might be the most rewarding prize of all.

THE REVIEW: “Quirky.” “Abstract.” “Weird.” 

Sometimes you watch a film and appreciate it for what it is, even if it’s not something you really enjoyed, so to speak, yourself. In the case of Kajillionaire, you likely will find yourself wrestling with that same emotion due to the committed performance of Wood against a story that essentially can be viewed in one of two ways: (1) This is a (insert one of the three adjectives above) story about broken people and someone trying to find what many of us inherently do (or at least, believe we should enjoy) or (2) This is a (insert one of the three adjectives above) that is just (insert one of the other two remaining adjectives above). 

Earlier this month, Wood gave a rather revealing interview to The New York Times in which it was revealed she uses many of her roles to heal herself from past trauma. That in turn should help explain her (1) connection to Old Dolio and (2) portrayal of the character, a woman who has never felt any real (or, if you prefer, “normal”) emotions to or from anyone, including her parents. She is essentially – like many of the personalities on her HBO series Westworld – a near-robotic humanoid life form who knows her role and her function in the functioning disfunction that is her family’s business. You get to watch a young person (Wood may be 33, but she pulls off 26 with a way that makes her character feel even younger) coming to grips with her concept of the world around her and trying to deal with deprogramming herself in the process. Whereas as Rodriguez gets to play an upbeat, bouncy young woman who seems very eager to get involved in something she sees as exciting, Wood’s character is a solitary, introverted one growing desperate to escape her reality. 
 
If you enjoy the films of Wes Anderson, you’ll likely like Kajillionaire, which are the first type of things that come to mind in terms of the humor (which is SPARSE). If you simply enjoy a deep dive into a character (even if the others aren’t characters aren’t explored enough as you’d hope), you’ll probably enjoy Kajillionaire.
 
Then again, if watching people who are essentially without redeeming qualities do nothing to change your opinion of them over the course of 100 minutes, are weird seemingly for the sake of it and/or are the type of people you’d see in Walmart, report to an employee and then leave, this is not the movie for you. What will find intriguingly unconventional, others will find annoying. Whereas some will be drawn to Wood’s performance of a shy, sheltered introvert, others will see the weirdo in their high school class they one day figured would end up on the local news for less than stellar reasons. If you start to watch the movie, you’ll likely watch it to the end to see what will happen, only to probably be either elated or deflated by what happens. 
 
In much the same fashion that very few are destined to become millionaires and billionaires, Kajillionaire is likely only for the select few. But those select few will really enjoy it no matter what the rest of us see.
 
OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):
 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

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Jon Stewart skewers modern politics in this satirical flick but is it worth the watch? Keep reading for our movie critic’s review.

 

“Hmmm … Do you think that the NFL is going to have a season this fall or no?” Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell) and Diana Hastings (Mackenzie Davis) ponder their next move in a scene from writer/director Jon Stewart’s political satire IRRESISTIBLE. Credit: Daniel McFadden / Focus Features.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:



KEY CAST MEMBERS: Steve Carell, Chris Cooper, Rose Byrne, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha Lyonne, CJ Wilson, Brent Sexton and Will Sasso DIRECTOR(S): Jon Stewart

WEBSITE: www.watchirresistible.com

THE BACK STORY: A story of politics and tricks, Irresistible stars Steve Carell as Gary Zimmer. A strategist for the Democratic party, Gary is seeking a candidate that can galvanize the party — and more importantly, the general public – as a potential future presidential candidate.

And that’s when he comes across a viral video shot in Deerlaken, Wisconsin featuring Jack Hastings (Chris Cooper).A retired Marine colonel, Jack’s speech at a local city council catches Gary’s attention as it has everything he could want in a candidate: Passion, emotional appeal and all American values with compassion for his fellow man. Intrigued, Gary heads to Deerlaken to convince Jack to run for office while getting to know his daughter Diana (Mackenzie Davis). Problem is, once Gary sees the opportunity to turn Jack into a star, his Republican strategist rival Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) arrives on the scene to help the town’s incumbent mayor (Brent Sexton) win at any cost. 

So, what happens when small town America becomes the center of the political universe? A story that, as the events are set to prove, makes politics as unusual irresistible. 

THE REVIEW: Written and directed by Jon Stewart (yes, the former host of The Daily Show), Irresistible is a classic slow build comedy where sitting through the lead up to the payoff can at times feel a little like a chore – until the payoff hits.Carell is much like a smarter, savvier version of his former Michael Scott persona from The Office days with Byrne serving as a very Kellyanne Conway-esque foil to his character. Likewise, Cooper – ever great at playing the older everyman – turns in another solid performance to add to his extensive resume while showing a softer side than he typically gets to exhibit. And Davis is competent enough to do everything her character needs to do in a believable fashion to keep things moving along.

The thing, as alluded to above, that makes Irresistible a solid watch is the film’s last 15 minutes in which the point of the film hits home. Given Stewart’s knowledge (and well-known) critique of the American political system as it stands today, Irresistible sharply skewers everything from cable news, viral videos, the selling of a candidate’s image versus what they actually believe and of course, the two party system as a whole. While not re-inventing the wheel in any sense, Irresistible‘s biggest joke comes in showing how much the current setup is primed to show the joke is on all of us.

In doing so, the film packs enough laughs to show why, without major change, our current political system is quite possibly no laughing matter.

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

 
 

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Amazon Studios’ new hijacking thriller takes flight. Is the flick a soaring success or does it crash and burn? Read on as our movie critic shares all.

“I really wish I had watched that Blu-Ray of Airplane my friend gave me before I got up here!” Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finds himself in not-so-friendly skies in director Patrick Vollrath’s hijacker thriller 7500. Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Studios. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar Murathan Muslu, Carlo Kitzlinger, Aylin Tezel and Paul WollinDIRECTOR(S): Patrick Vollrath

LINK TO WATCH NOW: Watch here
 
THE BACK STORY: Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an American, is set to serve as the co-pilot to Michael (Carlo Kitzlinger) as they fly from Berlin to Paris. Tobias’ girlfriend/mother of his child (Aylin Tezel) is one of the flight attendants and much more interested in discussing their personal lives than the flight ahead of them.

That all changes, however, when three hijackers – Kenan (Murathan Muslu), Daniel (Paul Wollin) and teenager Vedat (Omid Memar) – armed with piece of broken glass make an attempt to take over the plane. Tobias is successful in subduing Kenan and locks the cabin on his accomplices, but not before grave injury to Michael. Thus, when Daniel begins threatening the lives of the other passengers on the plane unless he is let back into the cockpit, Tobias – dealing with a severe injury of his own, is left with extreme moral dilemmas and not much time in which to make them.

THE REVIEW: 7500 starts off intriguing … And then pretty much crashes and burns thanks to a familiar plot line that brings nothing new to the table. While Gordon-Levitt clearly shines above his co-stars, there are plot points that don’t feel realistic in the circumstances presented, the secondary characters are either over-developed in cliché fashion or barely developed at all … And the overall Muslim hijacking storyline is “been there, seen that” pretty much from beginning to end.Fortunately, at barely over 90 minutes including the credits, 7500 has enough inherent “how will it end?” intrigue to it to keep enough people watching … Even if it ends how 90% of people are likely to figure it out. Director Patrick Vollrath keeps things tight and claustrophobic to enhance the super-familiar story, but there’s a good chance that if you’ve seen a plane hijacking film recently, you’ll ask for transfer and/or put 7500 on a quick layover and not get back on the flight.

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

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An old horror icon gets re-envisioned for the #MeToo era. Keep reading to see if our movie critic says it’s worth a watch.

 

“Take my hand … And then watch me try to kill you with the other one!” Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) showers while an unbeknownst presence keeps watch in a scene from Saw-alum Leigh Whannell’s THE INVISBLE MAN. Credit: Universal Pictures. © 2020 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Harriet Dyer, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Storm Reid and Michael Dorman DIRECTOR(S): Leigh Whannell

 
THE BACK STORY: Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss) is an architect that seemingly has it all given that the house she lives in is nothing short of a multi-million dollar beachfront palatial estate in San Francisco. But that doesn’t explain why Cecilia is attempting to flee in the middle of the night, now does it? No, that answer comes in the form of the abuse Cecilia claims her now ex, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) has heaped upon her mentally and physically. Barely escaping, Cecilia takes refuge with a childhood friend turned police detective in James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). 

Then Adrian’s brother – and the director of his estate – Tom (Michael Dorman) informs Cecilia and her sister Alice (Harriet Dyer) with bombshell news: Adrian, a tech magnate who built his fortunate in the field of optics, has committed suicide and left her millions to be paid out in increments of $100,00 over the next few years – as long as she doesn’t commit any crimes and lives a generally good life. There’s just one problem …

Cecilia, over the course of a series of rather weird and unfortunate events, becomes convinced Adrian is still alive. And he’s apparently determined to drive her insane – or worse. Thus, Cecilia is forced to answer a question most people would never ponder.

How do you prove someone who is supposed to be dead is very much alive and torturing you when no one – including you – can see them?

 
THE REVIEW: There are typically two types of movies released in the first few months of a new year: (1) Award contenders/art house endeavors that studios hope get that one last push before the statues are given out and (2) films that the studios greenlighted … But in retrospect probably wish they hadn’t (Fantasy Island, anyone?) But, every once in a while, you get those “‘tweeners:” Movies that have elements that are somewhat enjoyable and fun … Even though you know in your heart you really wouldn’t call it a “good” movie.About one hour into writer/director Leigh Whannell’s (the Saw and Insidious franchises) take on the often forgotten (no pun intended) member of Universal’s monsters, it becomes quite apparent The Invisible Man matches the last description to a “T.”

On the pro-side, Moss delivers enough of an emotional performance to drive The Invisible Man, which is essentially a domestic abuse tale examining what happens to victims at the hands of their accusers. Moss carefully walks the line between movie dramatics and emotionally believability to keep her character’s credence valid, never giving in to the temptation to go bad 80s horror movie scream queen at each abusive turn. She is by far the most interesting character on screen, making her character interesting enough to keep watching the film to its climax. There’s also enough twists and turns to keep you intrigued in what will happen, a must in a film where too much predictably could have been present.

On the con-side, however, the majority of characters that aren’t Moss – Dorman is acceptable as Adrian’s brother – are lackluster in either direction or execution (again, no pun intended). Likewise, most of the scenes where Moss and others are attacked by, well, an invisible assailant just feel cartoonish despite the cast and crew’s best efforts. Thus, you get a mixed bag of push/pull that keep the film from diving too far off the deep end, but a lot of missed opportunities that could have pushed it into groundbreaking territory. However, by focusing on Moss’ character’s pain, The Invisible Man basically becomes a metaphor for all the abuse women have suffered at the hands of men in the #metoo era – and a stern warning to men about what could happen if they refuse to stop it.

All things considered, The Invisible Man isn’t a great movie by any means, but it’s not a completely unwatchable mess, either. It’s more a simple thriller for those seeking a simple thriller, but one that may catch fire due to today’s current socio-political climate. Some people may hate it, some people may love it – and arguments can be made to justify both’s point of view objectively.

Just don’t say you weren’t warned, however, if you come expecting to “see” something more.

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

 
 
 

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Martin Lawrence and Will Smith reunite for entertaining nostalgia in this new flick but is it worth the watch in theaters? Read on to see.

 

“Over here, partner – I think I see the dude who convinced me to do Gemini Man! Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) proceed with caution in a scene from co-directors Adil & Bilall’s addition to the Bad Boys franchise, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE. Credit: Ben Rothstein ™ 2019 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved. 


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Nicky Jam, Jacob Scipio and Kate del CastilloDIRECTOR(S): Adil & Bilall

 
THE BACK STORY: Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) has never needed the money. He has that thanks to his inheritance. He’s also apparently never needed love; sure he’s had “love” but nothing like what his partner Marcus Burnet (Martin Lawrence) and their always embattled leader, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), have in their lives. Sure, he had a thing with Rita (Paola Nuñez) in the past, but that’s in the past. 

So, when his partner to make good on his threat to retire upon becoming a grandfather, Mike makes a bet with Marcus and wins – only he doesn’t get the chance to collect on that bet due to a ghost from his past: Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo), a.k.a. the Witch. It seems Isabel has an old score to settle with Mike from a very long time ago and has no problem using her willing son Armando (Jacob Scipio) to collect the debt. 

Now, as the body count starts piling up, Mike is going to need Marcus, Rita, Captain Howard and all the help he can get if he’s going to survive.

THE REVIEW: One key component of HBO’s acclaimed Watchmen television series revolved around the idea of one of the main characters being able to experience another a person’s memories via the ingestion of a pill dubbed “Nostalgia.” And while they had an adverse affect on Regina King’s character at first, they ultimately led to revelations that eventually proven to be essential to her and the overall ending of the first (and only?) season of the series.Watching Bad Boys for Life, one might have a similar take – for while the beginning of the film may start off a tad slower and/or more mundane than one might expect, once it gets going, all the fond memories fans of the first two films had will come quickly back to life.

Whereas the first two films relied inordinately upon the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence to carry them in Michael Bay’s explosion-filled paradise, Bad Boys for Life adds small bits of nuance to the mix to dive deeper into Smith’s and Lawrence’s characters personal lives. Smith’s rockstar cowboy realizes he’s fading into the twilight if he doesn’t change his ways in a way that doesn’t feel terribly contrived, all while Lawrence, Pantoliano and the film’s supporting players add strong punches of humor into the mix. (It’s kind of what last year’s already forgotten Shaft movie was hoping for but didn’t quite get right.) The ideas of growing old and growing up are at dual play in the film, Lawrence and Smith luckily handle both with enough flair and finesse to not make the film too dry or too frivolous for its own good.

Of course, the nostalgia of watching 90s comedy icons Smith and Lawrence is likely going to be more than enough for most audiences as the duo hasn’t any of their timing. Likewise, the action sequences under the eye of co-directors Adil & Bilall have all the usual buddy cop/action comedy panache you’d expect yet feel more fresh than familiarly overblown (for the most part). Throw in some strong female representation from Hudgens, Nuñez and del Castillo and the film has the entertainment value to make casual and die-hard fans happy.

If nothing else, Inner Circle will be just as pleased to take home all those residual checks for his best known song once again.

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

 
 

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Adam Sandler is back for a new film. Is it a diamond in the rough or a frustrating piece of fool's gold? Our movie critic tells all.

“OK, OK – I won’t ask you anymore questions about LeBron if you agree to not ask me anymore about Rob Schneider!” Kevin Garnett, left, listens as Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) tries to make a deal as their mutual acquaintance Demany (LaKeith Stanfield) looks on in a scene from the Safdie Brothers’ latest drama UNCUT GEMS. Credit: © and ™ A24 Films. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 


 



KEY CAST MEMBERS: Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, LaKeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Eric Bogosian, Julia Fox, Keith Williams Richards, Tommy Kominik and Judd HirschDIRECTOR(S): Josh and Benny Safdie

 
THE BACK STORY: Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a jeweler in New York City’s famed “Diamond District.” He’s got healthy children with his estranged wife Dinah (Idina Menzel), a wealthy father-in-law in Gooey (Judd Hirsch) and a streetwise business partner in Demany (LaKeith Stanfield) to help him get clientele like Boston Celtics power forward and future NBA champion Kevin Garnett (yes, played by Kevin Garnett). 


Unfortunately, Howard also has a lot of personal problems caused by his demons. That’s why he has an apartment in the city where his employee/girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox) and he can enjoy their rendezvous and he is a massive gambler, which is why his in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian) wants him to pay him the money he is owed ASAP. That’s also why Arno’s two “business associates” Phil (Keith William Richards) and Nico (Tommy Kominik) are ready to beat Howard any chance they get. 


So, what happens when Howard receives a rare gem that ends up tying his future with Garnett, Arno and Julia all together? Let’s just say you can bet on it changing all of their lives forever. 

THE REVIEW: Sometimes you see a movie that features actors turning in fine performances with characters that are realistic in a story that makes perfect sense given the world in which they exist. Likewise, the direction is tight, the camera work draws you into those characters’ respective worlds and the pacing (for the most part) makes sense. But, for whatever reason, you just aren’t captivated by it, it lacks something that makes many (outside of those into artistic endeavors and/or laud “cinema” or “movies”).Unfortunately in the case of Uncut Gems, this factor works against the film and turns what one would hope could be a diamond into a rather frustrating piece of fool’s gold.

Other than the surreal joy of watching Kevin Garnett playing Kevin Garnett without acting like he is Kevin Garnett, Uncut Gems features a protagonist who is the textbook definition of a sad sack due to his own inability to get out of his own way. Sandler’s Howard Ratner is manic, fast-talking, obsessive and unappreciative of his own fortunes, always driven by his next big hit. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley once famously coined the phrase “the disease of more,” saying “Success is often the first step towards disaster” – meaning that once one has a little bit of it, the compulsion for more of it often leads to one’s own undoing. Perhaps the Safdie brothers, like Sandler himself, are really big basketball fans, hence their need to create a character Riley himself might deem uncoachable. Thus, Uncut Gems is much like being a fan of a popular sports team that the rest of the league hates – only built for die-hard Sandler fans only (for the most part) who will support “their guy” no matter what.

Unlike Robert Pattinson in the Safdie brothers’ previous effort, the stellar Good Time, Ratner has zero redeeming qualities to the point you almost – almost – enjoy watching him fail. This is a self-destructive man doing self-destructive things: That may be the point, but while it’s a point well-taken, it is also one that isn’t exactly (for lack of a better word) fun point to watch.

Whereas Pattinson’s character was trying to do something wrong to provide a better life for he and his mentally challenged brother, Sandler’s character is a pure narcissist who treats everything and everyone – Julia especially – like just another trophy. (Given that he is a jeweler and what gems represent in both the film and in American society, of course, the metaphors abound aplenty.) Sandler’s character is King Midas … And anyone who’s paid attention to any basic Greek mythology in a social studies class knows how well that worked out for him.

Which is a shame, because Uncut Gems had a lot more potential to be a good Christmas present for someone outside of just hardcore Sandler and Garnett fans.

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

 
 
 
 

 

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It’s the ninth and final chapter of an epic saga, but is it worth the watch in theaters? Our movie critic offers insight.

 

“Just think – in some other galaxy, people will actually go pay to throw axes indoors when they could just get lightsabers and fight people to their potential deaths!” Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) faces off against Rey (Daisy Ridley) in a scene from STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. Credit: © 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd.  & ™. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Richard E. Grant, Domhnall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher, Ian McDiarmid and Keri Russell with Billy D. WilliamsDIRECTOR(S): J.J. Abrams

 
THE BACK STORY: The ninth and final installment of arguably the greatest science fiction franchise in history, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker finds Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and what’s left of The Resistance preparing to take a grand final strike against The First Order, now firmly in the grasp of its new supreme leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) a.k.a. Ben Solo (if you don’t know why, you’re probably NOT ready to see this movie and need to catch up to the previous episodes). After a series of revealing discoveries, the Resistance and the First Order are set to face an epic clash, Rey and Kylo Ren destined to be the ones who may determine the fate of the galaxy.

Then again, the presence of the previously thought to be deceased Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) may change both of their plans forever if he has his way.

THE REVIEW: You have four types of people when it comes to Star Wars: (1) The uninitiated/unconcerned, a.k.a. the people who have ever never seen a Star Wars movie, don’t care to see another Star Wars movie and/or don’t even know The Rise of Skywalker is here; (2) The relatively familiar – people who have seen one or two of the films, most likely the “original” three from the 1970s and 80s and are good with that; (3) the generally knowledgeable – they’ve seen all the films, but are not dedicated fans who can rattle of planet names or easter eggs from one film to the next; (4) the Comic Book Guys (or Girls). So named for The Simpsons-inspired character inspired in part by Star Wars-obsessive fans, they are protective of the franchise the way parents are a first-born child, love and hate different aspects of the series with the passion of a young Olympic boxer pursuing a gold medal and know so much Jedi/Sith trivia they would make Ken Jennings Jeopardy run look like child’s play.So, that all being said, as someone who falls into category 3 and knows plenty of people that fit into categories one, two and four, my spoiler free assessment of the last installment in the main Star Wars canon is this: Episode IX (nine for those who don’t remember their Roman numerals), while not perfect, contains enough positives to satisfy the people in the last two groups while perhaps making those in the first two groups curious enough to at least wonder what all the hype is about.

The previous Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, is a divisive issue among the hardcore fans as for as many people loved it, just as many seemingly did not – leading to it to serve as an “OK Boomer”-style case study in letting go of old things vs. embracing new possibilities. (You can read more about that here, here and here. Abrams has shared his thoughts on the matter extensively.) Whether that unconsciously (not likely) or consciously (most likely) played a factor in J.J. Abrams’ approach to the final installment may be up for debate, it won’t feel like it watching The Rise of Skywalker as the film tries to bridge a nostalgia gap for the old guard of fans while finishing the new work.

Here’s what most of you will care to know in regards to the actual quality of the film: The action sequences work well, Ridley proves herself capable of earning the massive responsibility her character is thrust into, Driver makes his character more than a Darth Vader clone and the classic elements of good vs. evil – complete with dad jokes aplenty courtesy of C-3PO. There are sky battles, ground battles, journeys across the galaxy to find missing pieces of information, character revelations, homages to the past … It’s a basic 2-and-a-half hour blowout of the things most fans have come to enjoy about the franchise.

Yes, it would be nice if Fisher hadn’t passed away before the filming finished (luckily for Abrams the cut footage from previous films fits in nicely). Likewise, some people may take issue with the incorporation of past characters into the film and their usage and the Palpatine situation may serve as the stuff of blogs and YouTube videos for many eons to come. Then again, when you’ve got over 40 years’ worth of cinematic history coming to an end, there is no way you’re going to satisfy everyone.

But, much like everyone’s favorite little green friend re-invented as a child on Disney+ once famously said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Thus, if you don’t embrace some change over the course of nine films, you’ve probably missed what Abrams and company have attempted to do: Deliver a fitting end to a story with plenty of history while giving it some fresh life along the way. After all, one must “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Keeping that sage-like wisdom will likely send most longstanding fans home happy from this galaxy to the next.

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

 
 

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It’s a portrait of an African American family in turmoil that comes to vivid life with what our critic says is a stellar cast. Worth the watch? Read on for more.

 

“Now … Remember – this is a movie, not This is Us, so we won’t have commercial breaks!” Tyler (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), Emily (Taylor Russell), Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) and Catharine (Renée Elise Goldberry) share a moment in a scene from WAVES. Credit: © 2019 A24 Films. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:




KEY CAST MEMBERS: Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Renée Elise Goldberry and Alexa Demie

DIRECTOR(S): Trey Edward Shults 

 

THE BACK STORY: Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) is a talented high school wrestler who has a lot going for him. Sure, his father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) pushes him hard, but he’s got great support in the form of his stepmother (Renée Elise Goldberry), his sister Emily (Taylor Russell) and the “goddess” in his cell phone, a.k.a. his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie).

Then, over the course of one night, his life changes forever – and so does the life of everyone close to him.

Their lives now turned completely upside down, the Williams family finds themselves struggling to recover in the wake of tragedy. But when Emily meets a shy classmate in the form of Luke (Lucas Hedges), she discovers she may hold the key to healing her family so that they can once again be whole. 

THE REVIEW: Finding the beauty of life and love out of tragedy and heartbreak … If there is one thing that you will take away from watching Waves – which honestly should be a nominee for Best Picture for all the reasons that past Academy Award-winner Crash shouldn’t have been – it should be this sentiment. For in crafting a tale full of promise, then self-destruction, then heartbreak and a resurrection of a chance of hope, writer/director Trey Edward Shults and his cast have created what may be the best film of 2019.Waves features a very simple story – to say more would be to give away too much – that would NOT simple to process in real life. As the domineering but well-meaning Ronald, Sterling K. Brown gives a powerhouse performance that serves almost like a “Hey – don’t forget me in the conversation of great African-American male actors” announcement, showing the type of sensitivity rarely seen in a lead black males role. It is the performances of and interaction between Russell’s Emily and Hedges’ Luke, however, that steals the show, rounding out Waves’ set of emotional exploration with grace, aplomb and wisdom beyond their years. Both show a level of talent and skill that drives their story arc home in a way people of all ages, races and orientations will likely admire and aspire to have in their own existence. There are some very hard moments to watch of self-destruction, turbulence and turmoil, followed by some extremely gentle, heartfelt and warm moments that may bring a tear of happiness as much as the others do out of sadness.

The performances truly bring out the radiance of the story of Waves, one in which you are fully immersed in the characters’ respective worlds. Shults’ nuanced work behind the lens makes the characters’ world come alive, in turn making their respective heartbreaks and outcomes all the more intense and more importantly, authentic and relatable. Watching one character’s self-destructive path give birth to the awakening of another’s could come off extremely clumsy or clichéd in the wrong hands; fortunately for Shults and company, their commitment to the tale makes everything work in grand fashion. Whether you are a parent, a confused adolescent trying to figure out the world, someone trying to overcome grief, a person holding on to a past tragic experience, Waves offers something most movies do not – therapy and hope – that may serve to help as much as it does entertain.

Yes, the story is compelling in and of itself, but it also looks to explore healing and what that may look like for many different people. Despite a predominantly African American cast, race is not the focus of the story as much as our general humanity is. That in turn may actually help in showcasing African-Americans in a way they are rarely shown in mainstream media, a fresh breath of air that explores the “we’re all human” notion without being blatant, over-the-top or fool-hearty (hence the earlier Crash reference). With apologies to Brown, one might consider it a long episode of This is Us that doesn’t explore the past or present as much as it does look towards the future.

In short, Waves should make waves upon its national release this week because in a world – pardon the terrible wordplay – full of storms, the film serves as an oasis all should experience.

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

 

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It’s a compelling drama from familiar subject matter, but is it compelling enough to see in theaters? Our movie critic offers insight.

 

“C’mon – I think I see the dude that convinced me to do Draft Day is right over there!” Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) and Frankie Burns (Siena Miller) rush in pursuit of two wanted suspects in a scene from director Brian Kirk’s 21 BRIDGES. Credit: Matt Kennedy / Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Chadwick Boseman, Stephan James, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Siddig, Morocco Omari and J.K. Simmons

DIRECTOR(S): Brian Kirk

THE BACK STORY: Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is a detective in New York City. He had to be. It’s in his DNA, or at least that’s how he puts it. And given that his father was murdered on duty by three men – one of whom lived – his dedication to bringing criminals to justice rivals that of D.C. Comics’ biggest crimefighter Bruce Wayne. But while Batman may keep watch over a fictional Gotham, Andre is entrenched deep in New York City, which is why Internal Affairs is looking into his latest episode where he added to his growing body count of alleged criminals. 

Ray Jackson (Taylor Kitsch) and his partner Michael (Stephan James) don’t know Davis, but they soon will. For when it turns out the heist they’re involved in features 300 kilos of cocaine and not the 30 they were expecting, something seems off. Throw in an ensuing gun battle with a group of police officers who just so happen to show to the restaurant they’re robbing as if they were supposed to be there and Ray and Michael know something is wrong.

Arriving to the aftermath, Andre finds himself paired up with another detective, Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) and a police captain in McKenna (J.K. Simmons) who want revenge moreso than justice for what has transpired. Quickly surmising the situation, Andre realizes the perpetrators have to still be in the city – which is why he orders all 21 bridges leading out of Manhattan closed. But the clock is ticking on Andre and Frankie … So there is no time to waste if they are going to catch the men responsible for what has happened.

THE REVIEW: While he has had plenty of roles in his acting career, Boseman has essentially become known for playing two kinds of people: Famous dead black people (Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall) and a certain costumed superhero from a fictional African country that helps save the world.

21 Bridges showcases the depth of his talent – along with that of co-star James – to deliver an entertaining film despite having a very all-too-familiar style story with which to work.

Cops, robbers and conspiracy/cover tales are nearly as old as movies themselves; 21 Bridges doesn’t really do anything dynamic in regards to telling this type of tale (you can probably figure out most of what’s happening an hour or so into the film). What director Brian Kirk does do, however, is wisely present a stage where (1) the action sequences don’t feel forced and instead intense; (2) let Boseman take center stage and allow him to deliver a performance that is gripping enough to keep you interested as he breaks down scenarios and (3) trusts his actors, particularly Kitsch and James, to make their characters motivations, emotions and decisions relatable. Whereas last month’s Black and Blue dealt more with the issue of the thin blue line and which side of it African-Americans (both as police and possible perpetrators) fall on it, 21 Bridges is a standard tale of good vs. evil.

Whereas Boseman does a good job of playing the by-the-book-cop, he also does it enough style where it doesn’t feel so textbook that it lacks appeal. The same can be said for James, the co-star of the overlooked stellar 2018 release If Beale Street Could Talk. Giving his character a sense of humanity often lacking in shoot-em-up movies, watching Boseman and James play off each other adds to what would otherwise be another mash up of films that you’ve seen before.

Thus, while no one would – or should – expect 21 Bridges to do anything close to Black Panther business, it’s definitely worth seeing if you want to see Boseman flex his acting chops outside of spandex or a historical figure’s shadow.

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

 

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