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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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Sony’s latest Spider–Man adventure brings diversity, depth and action to the family-friendly film world, but is it a worthwhile flick? Read on to see what our critic says.

 

 
“Man … If there are multiple Iron Men, this is gonna get REALLY confusing!” Peni (Kimiko Glen), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) in Sony Pictures Animation’s SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. Credit: Sony Pictures Animation. © 2018 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

 

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Hailee Steinfeld, Luna Lauren Velez, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Lily Tomlin, Lily Tomlin, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage and John Mulaney 

DIRECTOR(S): Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman

WEBSITE: http://www.intothespiderverse.movie/

THE BACK STORY: Ever hear the theory that there are multiple dimensions all existing at the same time? Ever read a Marvel Comic book? If not, the fact that Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore of Dope and The Get Down) – a Brooklyn African-American/Puerto Rican teenager – grows up admiring Spider–Man may not be all that surprising … Until you realize that he, too, like Spider–Man, is bitten by a radioactive Spider right before The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) is able to do the one thing most super villains haven’t be able to do in any other Spider–Man tale: Kill Peter Parker. 

Or at least, one version of Peter Parker.

As it turns out, the Kingpin’s “Super Collider” – which he has designed for a very specific purpose with the help of one female Dr. Octavious (Lily Tomlin) – has opened up a porthole to other dimensions … Which is why Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) ends up arriving on the scene … As does Gwen Stacy a.k.a. Spider–Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) … And 1930s black-and-white crime fighter Spider–Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) … And Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her Spider-Robot from the future … As well as Peter Porker, a.k.a. Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Yes, Spider–Ham … Don’t believe me? Look here

Now, with the Kingpin and his cronies on the loose and a bunch of other radioactively enhanced people in his world, Miles not only has to deal with newfound powers and responsibilities, but a new school and the biggest issue he can’t seem to conquer: the balancing act he has to keep between his police officer father (Brian Tyree Henry) and his less-than-on-the-up-and-up uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). 

Needless to say, Miles life – as did the entire world around him – just got a whole lot more complicated than the average teenager these days is likely ready to deal with.

THE REVIEW: When you’ve got an iconic character that has had no less than six solo live action films (not including his Avengers cameos) with three different lead actors playing him, you’ve already got the deck stacked against you. Throw in the fact that you already had an offshoot film release earlier this year from the Spider–Man catalogue (the critically destroyed but fan accepted Venom) and the odds get even worse. To top it all off, let’s make this film throw in a bunch of characters casual fans are unfamiliar with, one of whom its an anthropomorphic talking pig who just so happens to also have been bitten by a spider and you’ve got all the elements in place to produce one of the biggest disasters in the history of animated/superhero film.

That’s why the team behind Spider–Man: Into the Spider-Verse deserves any and all awards they may be nominated for – because despite those odds, they have produced not only one of the best Spider–Man movies ever, but one of 2018’s finest releases, period.

Miles Morales – both in concept and execution as brought to life by the animators and Moore – is a perfect take on a modern teenager. Long before you think of him in any superhero capacity, he is crafted to be relatable on a human level (quite an accomplishment for a cartoon, if you think about it) who’s journey into superhero-hood not only does the legacy of Spider–Men justice, but possibly enhances it as well. Likewise, the family dynamic that has always been essential to the character is fully on display here, as Miles’ desire to be his own person versus taking advantage of all the gifts his parents (and later, that infamous spider) bestow upon him makes for a complex duality in him. It’s not that Miles wants to be a criminal nor is he struggling with being a “goody-goody;” it’s just that he is trying to come into his own as the world around him becomes more and more complicated and complex, which is something people of all ages (and Spider–Man enthusiasts) to which can relate.  Spider–Man’s greatest strength has always been his common man given a great, unexpected gift that he must now use for good mentality; Into the Spider–Verse never loses sight of that ideal and makes that ideal its centerpiece to fantastic effect.

The supporting players serve up elements that compliment the film well as well, be it the self-assured “women can do anything without having to tell you they can” presence of Gwen Stacy and Peni as portrayed by Steinfeld and Glenn, the “what if Spider–Man wasn’t exactly super away from his super hero duties” Parker Johnson makes his own or the comedic elements both Cage and Mulaney bring to their more outlandish characters … But the family dynamic is the film’s heart and soul, whether it is the relationship between Miles and his family or the new one he finds with his fellow spider-people.

Throw in a beautifully alive, animated world and a perfect for the movie but now ironically beautiful (and sad since it will be one of his final if not the final cameo) by Stan Lee with a soundtrack that perfectly fits the film’s (and today’s musical) environment and Into the Spider–Verse is just about everything you could want it to be: Familiar yet original, funny yet serious, hip and street smart while remaining smart as well and entertaining yet poignant.

You can now rest in peace, Mr. Lee along with his former partner Steve Diko … To quote A Tribe Called Quest, “We got it from here. Thanks for your service” – Spider–Man: Into the Spider–Verse makes sure of that.

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

 

 

 

 

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Disney’s favorite 8-Bit Superstar returns for a pop-culture savvy sequel. See what our movie critic has to say about it.

 

“Aw man – I hope this sequel is good enough to make kids forget about Fortnite for a little while!” Ralph (John C. Reilly) and  Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) explore the World Wide Web in a scene from RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT-RALPH 2. Credit: © 2018 Disney. All rights reserved.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Gal Gadot, Alan Tudyk, Jane Lynch and Ed O’Neill

DIRECTOR(S): Phil Johnston and Rich Moore

WEBSITE: https://movies.disney.com/ralph-breaks-the-internet-wreck-it-ralph-2

THE BACK STORY: Returning from his smash debut Wreck-It-Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet finds our hero (again voiced by John C. Reilly) hanging out with his best friend Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) at the arcade center owned by Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill). The problem is that Vanellope’s game “Sugar Rush” is about to get unplugged – permanently. That’s why she and Ralph are heading to the Internet to find a steering wheel to save her game.

But once they enter the Internet, they discover a digital universe for which they couldn’t be less prepared. And given Ralph’s pedigree for wrecking things, it’s a safe bet that the World Wide Web – and his relationship with Vanellope – may never be the same.

THE REVIEW: For about the first 45 minutes of Ralph Breaks the Internet, you might find yourself wanting a break from what seems like a somewhat tepid and unnecessary sequel. Then, in one fantastically self-deprecating scene involving all of Disney’s princesses meeting Vanellope, the entire movie changes for the better and sets in motion a fantastic exploration of pop culture, social media and friendship (did you REALLY think there wasn’t going to be a classic theme in this flick?!).

Once the action picks up, Ralph Breaks the Internet proves itself to be both adult and young adult-alike friendly with clever quips, beautiful animation and easily digestible Disney upbeat enthusiasm. Reilly and Silverman display a great chemistry together, as does Gal Gadot as Shank, the female star of the Grand Theft Auto-style game Slaughter Race that Vanellope comes to idolize. While most films usually rely on their heart – and trust me, there’s plenty to spare in Ralph Breaks the Internet – the pop culture references, self-aware humor and not-so-subtle way it will make the audience look at how we’ve let the Internet influence our lives (both good and bad) are a major factor in what makes the film so entertaining.

And just like your favorite viral cat video, Ralph Breaks the Internet deserves all the views it can get.

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

 

 

 

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Our movie critic says Claire Foy shines bright in this dark thriller, but is this web worth a visit to the theater?

 

Why am I burning down this house? I love Talking Heads, OK?! Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) stands outside the Brandmauer Manor in a scene from THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB. Credit: Nadja Klier © 2018 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks,

Stephen Merchant, Claes Bang, Christopher Convery, Synnøve Macody Lund and Vicky Krieps

DIRECTOR(S): Fede Alvarez

WEBSITE: http://www.girlinthespidersweb.movie/site/

THE BACK STORY: The first (kind of) sequel to the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie (and the first that is actually based on a book in the Dragon series not written by original author Steig Larsson), The Girl in the Spider’s Web stars Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander, the computer-hacking genius who finds herself embroiled in a plot when a computer scientist named Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) contacts her. What does he want? For her to retrieve Project FreeFall from the National Security Agency in the U.S. before it falls into the wrong hands. So, once Lisbeth hacks into the NSA, she draws the attention of agent Edwin Needlam (Lakeith Stanfield) who is on the first plane he can find to Sweden to get to the bottom of things. 

Of course, that wouldn’t be as big a problem if Lisbeth’s little move hadn’t also drawn the attention of a mysterious outfit known simply as the Spiders, a notorious crime syndicate that is about to make itself very well-known to our femme fatale. Calling in the assistance of her journalist friend/sometimes romantic liaison Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), Lisbeth is determined to get to recover the file and keep Frans’ son August (Christopher Convery) safe. There’s just one little problem in her plan she hadn’t counted on: Camilla Salander (Sylvia Hoeks), her sister who has a major plan up her sleeve of her own.

THE REVIEW: Both the original Swedish (starring Noomi Rapace) an American (starring Rooney Mara in her breakout role) Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films were critically acclaimed, dark and moody thrillers that while successful, didn’t quite match the hype of the books in terms of audience excitment. (I mean, the U.S. version did pull in over $200 million, but that might have been the quietest $200 million maker ever. Seriously – didn’t it just seem like the movie kind of came and went?)

Old box office numbers notwithstanding, The Girl in the Spider’s Web continues Salander’s legacy in rousing fashion by finding an actress who seems tailor made for the role in Foy, who is clearer better than the somewhat predictable and heavy-handed foreshadow heavy direction of Fede Alvarez. Foy perfectly captures the sexuality, vulnerability, toughness, intelligence and extremely subtle underlying pain that drives Salander’s life, making the role her own just like the actresses before her. Foy’s presence drives every scene, almost to the point the other actors feel like they are along for her dark and twisted ride.

Foy aside, Spider’s Web plays out a little dry at times, save for the occasional quip by Stanfield. There’s really nothing too dynamic about Blomkvist as Gudnason plays him (Daniel Craig and Michael Nyqvist have nothing to worry about), Hoeks is so dark (ironically, as the palest actress on screen this year) it almost just feels unreal and the secondary characters just don’t have nowhere close the same level of intrigue as Foy character. Throw in a plot that is nowhere near as twisty and turny as it would like you to believe and you have an above average character being called upon to save a rather average story.

Luckily, much like the character she portrays, Foy more than proves she is up to the task.

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

 

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Jamie Lee Curtis attempts to breathe life into latest Halloween flick. Read on to see if our movie critic thinks it’s a trick or treat.

 

“Stop – if you keep walking, they’ll make another sequel!” Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) prepares to take aim at The Shape, a.k.a. Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) in a scene from David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN. Credit: Ryan Green © 2018 Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Haluk Bilginer and James Jude Courtney

DIRECTOR(S): David Gordon Green

WEB SITE: https://www.halloweenmovie.com/

THE BACK STORY: Remember EVERY other Halloween movie since the 1978 original that spawned WAY too many sequels and indirect sequels (but surprisingly not a prequel – I better stop before I give them ideas!) Well, don’t – because the 2018 version is supposed to be a sequel to JUST that original film. That’s why Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) – the one babysitter that survived a serial killer’s rampage 40 years ago on Halloween night – is still alive (she did DIE, after all, in Halloween: Resurrection). The trauma of that night has cost her a lot, including a better relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) and her granddaughter (Andi Matichak).

But Laurie is willing to risk it all for the chance to do one thing and one thing only: The chance to kill the unstoppable kitchen knife-wielding force that is “The Shape,” a.k.a. Michael Myers (now played by James Jude Courtney).

THE REVIEW: For all the hype about this new Halloween movie, one viewing of the film will show you why the phrase “what’s old is new again” is a cliche that still holds its weight in remakes – or in this case, sequels to films that have sequel upon sequel to the point that there’s really not too much new happening at all.

What do I mean by that? Well, let’s see …

  • Is Michael Myers still an unstoppable killing machine? Check.
  • Does NO ONE listen to Laurie Strode until it’s basically too late? Check.
  • Do people get killed at basically random when half of their deaths don’t amount to anything more than “let’s kill this person?” Save for two rather funny ones, check.
  • Is there a version of Dr. Loomis? Check.
  • Is that version of Dr. Loomis just as crazy as Dr. Loomis if not more so? Check.
  • Is there still a bunch of unexplained stuff – both about Michael and why everyone around him finds him so fascinating (save for the new Dr. Loomis character) that if they did, might add some depth? Check. And …

Is there ANYTHING truly groundbreaking that, outside of the die-hard, watched every single entry in the Halloween catalog, can tell you every fact about Haddonfield, Il. and then some fans? Nope. Because when it comes down to it, it’s still the same old story – emphasis on OLD – that you’ve seen several times over. Sure, it’s better than that atrocious mess that was the aforementioned Halloween: Resurrection (seriously – that movie is so dumb it deserves its own ESPN 30 for 30 on it), but unless you’re already all in on the franchise and can’t wait to see it, there is nothing compelling happening here to gain your interest. It’s just another Halloween movie with a few funny moments, enough requisite gore for the hardcore and cast Curtis in a decent light for what should be the last film in the franchise.

Because at this point, I’m not sure if the scariest thing about Halloween is that Hollywood keeps making Halloween movies … Or that audiences keep on turning out to watch them. 

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

 

 

 

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Jennifer Garner returns to her heroine roots in this new flick. Read on to see if our movie critic says it’s heroic enough to see in theaters.

 

“Tell me one more time how Ben Affleck is the worst Batman ever … I dare you!” Riley North (Jennifer Garner) pries information out of Judge Stevens (Jeff Harlan) in a scene from PEPPERMINT. Photo Credit: Tony Rivett; Motion Picture Artwork © 2017 STX Financing, LLC. All rights reserved.
 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher, Jr., John Ortiz, Clifford “Method Man” Smith, Juan Pablo Raba, Tyson Ritter, Annie Ilozeh, Ian Casselberry, Jeff Hephner and Cailey Fleming

WRITER(S): Chad St. John

DIRECTOR(S): Pierre Morel

WEBSITE: https://www.peppermint.movie/

HERE’S THE STORY: Like many women her age, Riley North (Jennifer Garner) is a happily married woman with a husband (Jeff Hephner) and precocious 10 year-old daughter (Cailey Fleming) she loves. But what she doesn’t know is that her husband is considering doing something less-than-legal to help get his family out of their current financial binds …

Problem is, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) – the man Riley’s husband and his friend Mickey (Chris Johnson) thought about ripping off – catches wind of their scheme and decides to make the pay. Dearly. Riley survives the attack, only to see her receive no justice due to a dirty system that lets Garcia’s associates responsible for the attack get off while trying to punish Riley for seeking justice.

Then she goes off the grid for 5 years … And now, Riley North is back. But the Riley North that LAPD detectives Carmichael (John Gallagher, Jr.) and Beltran (John Ortiz) is dead. And a lot of people that wronged her and her family are about to be, too.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Taken fans; people who used to love Alias but always wish it was more violent; feminists; independent women; Jennifer Garner fans; people who like action movies that actually worry about their plausibility a little bit; people who thought if Hollywood was going to remake Death Wish remixing it up a little bit would be a good thing.

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People not wanting to a watch a movie where guns are used basically without any thought to recourse in the wake of (seemingly) weekly mass shootings; people who don’t like gratuitous violence; anyone who’s over the concept of Death Wish-style revenge movies; anyone who cannot buy into the concept of the Garner’s character doing what Garner does for an 90 minutes-plus

SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? Peppermint – which takes its name from a scene that does exactly what you think it’s going to do in terms of setting up the rest of the flick – is one of those movies that you watch the trailer, you hear the catchphrases and go ‘Well, that’s pretty much all that’s going on in this joint.” Then you actually watch it and end up going “Well, that was better than I expected.”

As someone who’s seen it, I can tell you without a doubt that Peppermint – which features the most interesting version of anything Jennifer Garner has done character-wise in ages – is a nice 1970s-era exploitation flick with a 2018 flair that is much more enjoyable than you’d expect.

Peppermint works because Garner is fully-committed to the role, looks the part and plays it as straight as one can with a supporting cast that does the same. Much like Eminem on his latest effort Kamikaze, Garner’s North is a woman who feels she has lost everything and now has found a new purpose in life and is determined to make her foes suffer her wrath. But as opposed to going on a rampage with no humanity, North’s new environment makes her feel necessary, a feeling reflected in the film and in turn, is successfully projected to the audience. 

Further helping the film are some minor twists, turns and gunplay/fight sequences that avoid being both hacky and add intensity to the film. Likewise, whereas veteran actor John Ortiz (not to be confused with cast mate Johnny Ortiz) adds a solid creditability factor as Beltran by keeping you guessing who is allegiance is to while making sure the film stays on course, Raba’s performance as Garcia – a villain who actually recognizes the danger Riley presents as opposed to instantly writing her off in classic “you’re gonna regret that!” fashion – makes the build to their eventual showdown equally appealing. 

Make no mistake, however, watching Garner transform from loving soccer mom to basically Ronda Rousey in her UFC heyday coupled with a Seal Team 6-like focus is entertaining and empowering at the same time. Again, she doesn’t play the role with a “I’m gonna show them what a woman can do” fake coolness, she simply is cool because of what she does and how she does it. There is a reason that despite everything that happens in the world, we still will flock to a movie full of gratuitous violence.

If you’re in the mood to watch Jennifer Garner stomp out a seedy Los Angeles full of lowlifes, Peppermint will deliver a sweet treat – with quite a kick.

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

 

 

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Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel gets the Hollywood treatment. See why our critic says it’s “crazy well done.”

 

“So … Which of these accessories is going to make Lady Gaga jealous?” Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, right, in red) gets some fashion advice from her college best friend – and the secretly rich – Peik Lin Goh (Awkafina) in a scene from CRAZY RICH ASIANS. Credit: 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, Ken Jeong, Awkwafina, Lisa Lu, Ronny Chieng, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Pierre Png, Jimmy O. Yang, Tan Kheng Hua, Remi Hii and Nico Santos

WRITER(S): Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim (screenplay); Kevin Kwan (novel on which the film is based)

DIRECTOR(S): Jon M. Chu

WEB SITE: http://www.crazyrichasiansmovie.com/

HERE’S THE STORY: Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu as Rachel Chu, a New York economics professor who’s happily in love with her Oxord education boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding in his debut feature film). So when Nick asks her to accompany him on a trip home to Singapore for the wedding of his good friend Colin (Chris Pang) to Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno), she happily says yes. And since she’ll be able to see her old college friend Peik (Awkwafina), Rachel is excited to visit the native land of her people since her mother Kerry (Tan Kheng Hua) left Asia before she was born.

That’s when she discovers that not only is Peik rich, but Nick’s family is really rich. Like, crazy rich – and Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) is “old world” Chinese in both tradition and practice. 

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? People who enjoyed the novel; fans of people living lavish lifestyles the average person can only dream of; mothers and daughters looking for a good bonding movie; independent women; anyone of Asian descent searching for a major Hollywood film that features their people in a positive, entertaining light; those looking for a film that doesn’t play into the usual romantic comedy/race-centric tropes; Awkwafina fans

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People with no interest in Asian culture; those will find the slow parts in the film’s first hour too, well, slow; people who always say “the book was better;” people who think you have to be Asian to appreciate the film’s universal themes of love, acceptance and family

SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? A movie that is essentially a classic love story with modern elements in a setting unfamiliar to many American audiences, Crazy Rich Asians is an entertaining, heartfelt romantic comedy that doesn’t break any new ground as far as romantic comedies go – but breaks plenty in just being a good movie.

Crazy Rich Asians features just about everything you could want in a story: Chemistry between its two leads and supporting characters that, well, save for one or two characters that might seem a like a toned down version of co-star Ken Jeong’s work in The Hangover, are not caricatures of Asians in American eyes. Whereas Wu and Golding (he of British-Malaysian descent) seem like a real couple, Awkafina and Nico Santos – who plays Nick’s fashion and family-conscious cousin Oliver T’Sien – steal every scene they’re in with their good-natured, perfectly timed and well-meaning quips. Likewise, whereas Yeoh plays the role of the seemingly icy family matriarch with a good duality to her like many a Marvel Universe villain – she’s is cautious to never operate at one extreme at any one time – and Gemma Chan plays her role as Nick’s beautiful yet personally suffering in her relationship with her husband Michael (Pierre Png) in a way that feels extremely real (and thus inspiring without going out of her way to be so). 

Beautifully shot by director Jon M. Chu as essentially a tourist agency’s dream video postcard for Singapore, the film presents some of the best visuals captured on film this year, acting as the perfect backdrop for the film’s characters to play, love and learn throughout their respective journeys. Throw in a soundtrack that interpolates classic American songs of various genres in native Asian tongues and Crazy Rich Asians is the type of film that will feel revolutionary when in fact it’s simply more evolutionary.

For given how solid the film is, hopefully Crazy Rich Asians marks the evolution of an industry that has long underserved the Asian moviegoing population but at the same time proves a movie like this can entertain anyone.

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

 

 

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See why our movie critic is saying this simple, honest journey through adolescence makes for a phenomenal film.

 

“I could totally be a shark, like, if I wanted to be one!” Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) swims with a lot of her mind in a scene from  writer/director’s debut coming-of-age drama EIGHTH GRADECredit: Josh Ethan Johnson © 2018 A24. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Luke Prael, Catherine Oliviere, Imani Lewis, Daniel Zolghadri and Greg Crowe

WRITER(S): Bo Burnham

DIRECTOR(S): Bo Burnham

WEB SITE: http://eighthgrade.movie/

HERE’S THE STORY: The directorial debut debut of writer Bo Burnham (best known from his days as one of the earliest YouTube comedy stars), Eighth Grade stars Elise Fisher as Kayla Day. And who is Kayla? Just your average quiet teenage girl with acne issues that dreams of having a boyfriend and makes plenty of online advice videos of her own. But beneath the surface, she is much more than that – she’s a young lady that, like many of us at her age, is struggling to fit in with her peers, finds her overly eager to show his enthusiastic father (Josh Hamilton) equal parts loving, annoying and embarrassing at times and unsure of how to break out of her own restrictive bad habits. She’s often smarter and braver than she gives herself credit for, sometimes too naive for her own good and also just someone who knows that today can shape tomorrow but the day before doesn’t have to ruin either.

And now that she’s going into her last week of eighth grade, she’s got a lot of growing up to do, even if she’s not sure exactly how to do it.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Teenagers, parents who “get it;” anyone who can identify with the struggles/concerns of the main character no matter how they are.

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who hate social media and the impact it’s had on America; parents who will become instantly overly concerned with their children’s activities; far right political thinkers; bullies

SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? Eighth grade isn’t an “important” movie because of the statement it makes. It’s not a “must-see” because it comes with deep revelations about the modern teenage experience. Nor is it a “can’t miss” because of some dynamic, revelatory factor that will stun or shock you. For much like those buzz words, Eighth Grade doesn’t adhere to some standard that goes with conventional judgment. 

Instead, it’s an important, must-see, can’t miss film because of the thing most films of its ilk don’t do well: Present an honest, heartfelt and most importantly, realistic view of what it means to be a young person in this moment in a way that is entertaining and educational for teens and adults alike.

As a movie, Eighth Grade provides a phenomenal visceral experience due to the outstanding performance of Elsie Fisher and her contemporaries. Instead of feeling like a character, Fisher makes Karla feel like that girl you’ve seen or been in your classes, next door, at the mall or simply on a social media post. Easy to fall into the crowd, Eighth Grade provides a spotlight that shows her day-to-day life in a way that is both inviting and voyeuristic. As you watch Kayla’s experiences, you feel Kayla’s experiences, either in empathetic or sympathetic means (if not both) where you will find yourself growing along with her. 

Seriously, Fisher (and to a lesser but still very important degree, her co-stars) makes you feel like you are getting to see something rare: a young girl’s raw, uncensored thoughts, feelings, nerves, fears, hopes and dreams and how they manifest in her day-to-day existence. There are times you want to yell at/hug/warn Kayla for her actions and times you simply want to share in the moment with her – without Fisher simply approaching Kayla as a real girl going through real things, there’s no way the film would work as well as it does. 

In a world where people have less and less time these days, spend less time interacting with each other, have personas on social media that don’t match up with their real lives because everyone wants to make sure that they are “living their best life,” Eighth Grade shows how all of those things are affecting today’s generation – while still making anyone who’s been a teen making sense of the world relate to the struggle of adolescence. 

For a man who started off as a teenage YouTube wunderkind, Burnham is able to dig into his own firsthand knowledge with Eighth Grade and has created a film that crosses genders, (some) racial lines and ages to deliver something genius in its simplicity: A story about growing up with modern factors that makes a timeless experience relevant for all that watch it. As opposed to focusing on one particular issue and making Kayla have to overly dwell on it, Eighth Grade just goes over the basics of growing up: acceptance (both by others and of one’s self), not knowing how to deal with starting to have sexual feelings, getting independence but still allowing one’s parent(s) into their life and knowing why they care and maturing. Parents watching will be able to learn more about their kids than many standard conversations may likely deliver while kids will be able to watch someone who looks like them that doesn’t make them feel preachy, over-the-top, sad, stupid and/or lost. Instead, it offers honesty and hope, which makes for an experience that is part comedy, part drama and potentially therapy for all involved.

Or, at its core, it’s just a really good movie about a really relatable subject that is really something you’ll enjoy if – much like adolescence itself – you just breath, realize you can and will get through it. Consider this a simple guide to get you through to the other side of the journey.

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

 

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Dwayne Johnson flexes his dramatic muscle to lead familiar-yet-palatable Skyscraper. Read on for our movie critic’s full review!

 

“You know, compared to this, taking steel chairs to the head from other men in spandex wasn’t so bad!” Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) used a makeshift rappelling apparatus for reasons he’d rather not have to deal with in a scene from writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s action thriller SKYSCRAPER. Credit: © 2018 Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC. and Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Cottrell, Bryon Mann, McKenna Roberts, Hannah Quinlivan, Elfina Luk, Noah Taylor, Adrian Holmes and Pablo Schreiber

WRITER(S): Rawson Marshall Thurber

DIRECTOR(S): Rawson Marshall Thurber

WEBSITE: https://www.skyscrapermovie.com/

HERE’S THE STORY: Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) is a simple man. A decorated military veteran, his life was changed 10 years ago when an unfortunate situation altered his life in two drastic ways: the loss of the lower half of his left leg and meeting the love of his life, his cell phone-challenged/fellow veteran/doctor wife Sarah (Neve Campbell). Now working as the proprietor of his own small security company, Will finds himself thrust into the opportunity of his working lifetime when an old military buddy (Pablo Schreiber) gets him a gig checking out “The Pearl.” 

What is the Pearl? It’s the new commercial/residential structure in Hong Kong designed by billionaire Zaho Long Ji (Chin Han), who now wants Will to make sure that everything in his buildingis up to snuff before the residential half opens up (from the 96th floor on up). But what Will doesn’t know is that why he, Sarah and their two kids Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell) are enjoying their stay, there are some nefarious forces plotting a much different visit to the Pearl. That would be the ruthless assassin Xia (Hannah Quinlivan) and the mercenary Botha (Roland Møller), who are after something that Will has no knowledge of nor why.

But he and his family are about to – if they can survive the certain to be fatal scenario awaiting them in the world’s tallest skyscraper. 

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Dwayne Johnson fans who like it when he does physical roles that don’t focus on comedy; Neve Campbell fans; people who like 80s-style action movies without 80s style dialogue

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who will find some of the scenarios too implausible; those who prefer action movies that either go full-on outrageous or full-on logical; anyone who hates violent films

SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? An action movie that tries to balance its more (seemingly) outrageous moments with committed performances and intriguing camera work before tying together just how you’d expect (if you pay attention to all the foreshadowing), Skyscraper is an entertaining, family-involved-yet-extremely-violent at times diet Die Hard that while not original, it’s satisfying enough to keep you interested. And if that sentence seems like a mouthful, it should.

Because that’s what happens when you are catering to at least three different types of audiences at once.

Johnson, as he has proven in a variety of his roles, commands attention as Will Sawyer, a man who is not invincible yet at the same time extremely determined to do what he needs to do to save the people he loves. His limited stunts seem ridiculous yet, given his commitment and approach, plausible – which, for action movies, has long been an issue for many people paying attention (skip ahead to 1:54 in that link; language NSFW!). Likewise, neither Campbell nor young co-stars Roberts or Cottrell seem to act in an over-the-top fashion, their actions instead seeming reasonable, logical and again, (somewhat) sensible given the situation in which they find themselves.

Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, We’re the Millers) has a history of producing surprising hits, most of which are exclusively comedies. With Skyscraper, he proves he has potential to deliver an action film that, while it does not do anything to reinvent the genre, doesn’t have to be dumb, either. While it lacks a distinct quality to make it stand out from the pack – Johnson’s prosthetic leg accessory comes into play quite often, but it doesn’t always feel as handi-capable as intended – the interplay between the characters works more than it does not, the film moves along swiftly and, again, the story plays out with a good mix of brain and bravado … As best you can in this type of film. Sure, the film could have likely reached a more classic status with a full “R” rating or a

Or at least it does it enough to keep you from wanting to burn down the theater the way the Pearl does on the screen.

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

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Marvel returns to delivering fun in various sizes with this humorous flick. See what our movie critic has to say about it.

 

“When I asked if you had seen Blade, this is NOT what I meant!” Hope Van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) runs against an assailant’s attack in a scene from Peyton Reed’s latest entry into the Marvel Universe, ANT-MAN & THE WASP. Credit: Film Frame © 2018 Marvel Studios. All rights reserved. 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Abby Ryder Fortson, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale with Laurence Fishburne and Michele Pfeiffer 

WRITER(S): Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari; based on characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber and Ernie Hart

DIRECTOR(S): Peyton Reed

WEBSITE: http://marvel.com/movies/movie/245/ant-man_and_the_wasp

HERE’S THE STORY: Set after the events of Captain America: Civil War but BEFORE Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp finds our hero Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) on house arrest as a result of his actions in Sovokia since, you know, he wasn’t legally about to be there. FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is ready to bust Scott at a moment’s notice, even though he only has 3 days until his sentence is up – which he can’t wait to spend with his daughter Cassie a.k.a. Peanut (Abby Ryder Fortson). Even Scott’s ex wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new husband Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) are supportive of his changed ways and his best friend Luis (Michael Peña) is running the security company he started with their other friends Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris), so what could go wrong?

Well, once Scott starts seeing visions of Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) – the wife of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and mother of Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) long lost to the mysterious Quantum Realm – plenty.

Despite having not spoken to Hank or Hope in 2 years since, you know, they became FBI fugitives for their use of the Pym particle technology that enables Ant-Man to shrink and increase his size to massive heights, Scott contacts the duo with his news. This, in turn, makes them excited about the prospect of finding Janet – even if it means having to get technology off the black market from guys like Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), a man always on the lookout for a new way to get rich, no matter what the cost. Sonny and the FBI, however, will soon be far from the biggest problem facing Scott, Hank and Hope, however.

No, that would be the presence of the mysterious malevolent presence of Ava a.k.a. Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a woman who needs Pym’s technology for reasons that will soon be revealed in startling fashion …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Fans of the first Ant-Man movie and Thor: Ragnarok; Paul Rudd fans; people who like superhero movies that go for more lighthearted fare than the darker subject matter of Marvel entries such as the Captain America series; people awaiting anything related to 2019’s Avengers 4 movie 

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who joke about Ant-Man as a character the same way Robot Chicken has Aquaman; those who like a villain that is more pure evil that motivated for a logical reason

SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? Another solid entry into the Marvel Universe from start to finish, Ant-Man and the Wasp features everything fans of the first movie came to enjoy, just with more of it. There is plenty of humor, well-constructed action sequences that balances its human cartoon with traditional fight elements with Peña once again stealing nearly every scene he’s in, Lilly – who’s Wasp proves she’s no second fiddle to her male partner – and Rudd exhibiting a familiar yet growing, believable chemistry. Likewise, Rudd’s character’s desire to be a good dad never feeling forced due to the great interplay between he and the lovably precocious Fortson. (Seriously, she’s just too cute as his daughter like a live version of Agnes from Despicable Me but more mature.) Surprisingly, Douglas adds an unexpected emotional center to the film, playing both the crotchety old man archetype well when necessary but without ever becoming a parody of it (or himself).

If there is any real flaw in the film, it’s that Ant-Man may have the least compelling villains as of yet seen in Marvel films. (It’s really hard to follow Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger and Josh Brolin’s finger-snapping Thanos/hard-ass Cable with a villain who’s cause is extremely sympathetic and more misunderstood than anything.) Perhaps having a more hard-edged, truly threatening presence on screen might tilt the film in a direction director Peyton Reed and his team may not want to explore, but John-Kamen turns in a solid performance, hitting all the necessary beats. Goggins, for his part, portrays a much more interesting character here than he did in the already forgotten Tomb Raider, bringing some of his Vice Principals “I-should-dislike-you-but-you’re-too-fun” charm to the movie to round things out. 

Throw in some really fun, early Spielberg-like use of Pym’s ants their selves and the movie is while nowhere near as emotionally gripping as say Black Panther or Infinity War, it is full of fun while filled with enough nuances to stand on its own.

Other than that, there’s not much else one really needs to know about Ant-Man and the Wasp as Marvel is wrapping up Phase Three of its master plan – except that the movie proves that Marvel having a plan has led to a decade’s worth of quality films. Ant-Man and the Wasp is all about the idea of family and trying to do right by the people they love while overcoming the odds throw in their way. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp does both of those things in spades and while not the mightiest of Avengers heroes, they definitely team players that prove they are worth a spot in the lineup … Especially if you want to see what just may lie ahead for the man who could become one of the biggest (or, depending on his physical size, smallest) players in Marvel plans heading into 2019.

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

 

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Is the fifth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise enough to keep the legacy alive or is it finally extinct? See what our critic says.

 

“OK, we’ve got to walk past this Tyrannosaurus Rex without waking it up … Bryce, did your character remember NOT to wear something ridiculous like high heels unlike the last time we were on this island?!” Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) try to not awaken a Tyrannosaurus Rex in a scene from JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM. Credit: Giles Keyte. © 2018 Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment and Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

 

 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Isabella Sermon, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, B.D. Wong, James Cromwell, Ted Levine, Geraldine Chaplin and Jeff Goldblum

WRITER(S): Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow (written by); Michael Crichton (based on characters created by)

DIRECTOR(S): J.A. Bayona

WEBSITE: http://www.jurassicworld.com/

HERE’S THE STORY: Isla Nublar, the island home west of Costa Rica that has long been home to the late John Hammond’s vision of a park where humans could see the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth again live and in person, is under attack from a once dormant volcano that now threatens to destroy all life on its surface. And while Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has seen the error of her ways and now wants to save the dinosaurs, the U.S. government – especially given the testimony of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) – sees no real reason to do so. And Claire’s old flame Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), who helped trained the now-closed park’s velociraptors, just wants to be left alone to build his cabin in the woods.

But Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell) has different plans. For you see he is the man who, along with Hammond, took the first dinosaur DNA and brought the prehistoric beasts back to life. ANow that he is in the final stages of his own life, he wants to save the dinosaurs by placing them on an undisclosed island sanctuary with natural borders where they can live in peace with no humans to interfere (or be eaten). Iris (Geraldine Chaplin) can look after his granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon), but who is going to look after the dinosaurs?

Well, if Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) and his hunter/dinosaur wrangler (Ted Levine) have their way, something much more sinister than Benjamin, Claire, Owen, Maisie or anyone else on earth may have ever imagined …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Children; Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/TMNT movie series fans; people who like big action movies where splash reigns over substance

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? Anyone who loved the first Jurassic Park; anyone who hates movies where the story is corny, predictable and/or has characters that make silly decisions

SO IS IT GOOD, BAD OR JUST AWFUL? Remember how the first Jurassic Park movie at the time of its release was groundbreaking, innovative and a new take on the monster movie akin to its director’s timeless classic Jaws? Then Steven Spielberg stepped away from hands on directing and moved into a producer’s role … which resulted in two so-so sequels and the franchise lying dormant  until 2015’s Jurassic World saw the park finally open to public.  

And now, the park is closed … And unfortunately, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom proves the franchise should be as well.

As my friend who attended the sneak preview screening I went to said, “I came in thinking of it as a comedy” and that “the bar set low for me, so I enjoyed it.” I had zero expectations based on the previous film’s ridiculousness and the fact the franchise has migrated from sci-fi family film to explosion and monsters and got exactly what I expected. And neither of us is wrong.

Fallen Kingdom, in a word, is silly. In another word, it’s ridiculous. And in a final word, it’s predictable as all get out from start to finish – and there is so much to pick apart, scientists might clone an actual dinosaur before one is done.

While Howard is no longer running around in high heels, the actions of the film’s characters are just so ridiculous that you keep waiting for Mel Blanc to voice this live action Looney Tunes-esque farce. If the first four Jurassic movies have taught us anything, it’s that you are going to always find the following things in a Jurassic movie:

[1] Old rich man who wants to give dinosaurs a place to live in peace;

[2] Person working said old rich man who sees dinosaurs and gets dollars signs running through his or her head;

[3] Scientist who cracks sarcastic one liners;

[4] Business person or scientistic who is clearly so out of his or her element that there is no way they should be there;

[5] Strong male lead that always knows what to do and didn’t want to be there in the first place;

[6] Child who will prove to be smarter and more stealthy than half of the adults in the movie;

[7] A hunter whose own hubris will prove to be his undoing;

[8] The greedy businessman will just be comically – but not in a funny way – dumb and physically weak;

[9] Things that don’t make a lick of sense based on the movie’s own logic;

Continuing on …

[10] A dinosaur hunting a human in a tight space sequence;

[11] A ton of foreshadowing so you can figure out what will happen long before the characters do;

[12] A climatic sequence that will have blown all possible logic out of the window;

[13] A setting that 

[14] … and now, B.D. Wong to pop up since he somehow keeps surviving these movies.

Seriously, Fallen Kingdom couldn’t be a more aptly named release due to the flaws mentioned above. Whereas Daniella Pineda’s character as a female badass dino veterinarian is ok despite a line getting cut that should have been obvious to anyone paying attention, poor Justice Smith comes off as either a humorous Steve Urkel or just a shrieking little (edited for content). Likewise, Howard is still essentially a damsel (albeit not so much in distress as much as just there) for the most part, Spall’s character is a wasteland and the actual story is just filled with “can you tell what’s getting ready to happen next?” moments to the point you get tired of doing so. 

Isabella Sermon continues the tradition of children being smarter than adults in Amblin Entertainment releases, the twist of her character being an allright-yet-predictable one right down to her critical act … Which will then either make you laugh or slap yourself upside the head in “of COURSE SHE does THAT!” fashion. (Seriously, there’s no other option – if you’re surprised, you will love the next sequel, which should be titled “Jurassic World: Extinction” so that either the movies end or at least the stupid humans in them will be.)

Besides the general stupidity of the humans, Fallen Kingdom is essentially an monster movie (oh, how the days of something that felt real with Dr. Alan Grant are missed!) run awry in the same vein of the Transformers and TMNT franchises. The dinosaurs are reduced to either comic foils or, in the case of the new big bad introduced in this particular film, vindictive (edited for content) that, if they could talk, might as well be walking around spouting lines as bad as the ones here. There is no tense build here; nope, instead we’re treated to snarling and stalking silliness at every turn. 

So, to recap, from silly science that no one in their right mind would do (then again, we are in the age of the “space force,” so who knows), dinosaurs that act like superheroes and supervillains, settings which are too “look how the action unfolds in here!” and a story that feels like a 10 year-old wrote the final act with help from a hacky Stephen King wannabe, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom lives up to its title in the worst way possible. Director J.A. Bayona does his best to make this mess look good, but remixing that (in)famous lipstick on a pig quote from a few elections ago, it’s still a mess. 

Then again, Rampage – this year’s other entry into the “how bad can a monster movie be?” category has an “A-” grade with audiences through Cinemascore, so maybe its’ best to just think of Fallen Kingdom like most fast-food. Yeah, it’s bad and it’s bad for you, but it’s quick, cheap and easy and every once in a while, that’s all you want.

Oh, how the mighty Kingdom has fallen indeed.

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

 

 

 

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