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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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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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It’s a feminist, uber-conscious update of the spy story and 1970s TV series, but is it worth the watch? Our movie critic has the scoop.

 

“Hey, what’s over there – is it the music video shoot we’re supposed to be in for the soundtrack?!” Townsend Agency agents Elena (Naomi Scott) and Sabina (Kristen Stewart) peer over into enemy territory with their newfound on-the-run client Jane (Ella Balinska) in a scene from writer/director/co-star Elizabeth Banks’ take on CHARLIE’S ANGELS. Credit: Nadja Klier © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Nat Faxon, Jonathan Tucker, Luis Gerardo Mendez, Sam Clafin, Djimon Hounsou and Sir Patrick StewartDIRECTOR(S): Elizabeth Banks

 
THE BACK STORY: The product of a screenplay from and directed by Elizabeth Banks (who also co-stars), the 2019 version of Charlie’s Angels stars Ella Balinska as Jane Karo, a developer at an energy company owned by Alexander Brok (Sam Clafin). Her invention could help revolutionize energy as we know it, which is why her boss Peter Fleming (Nat Faxon) can’t wait to show it off despite the fatal flaw that could allow the project – codename Kalisto – to become weaponized. You see, Kalisto could be hacked to release a devastating electromagnetic pulse (EMP for short) in the wrong hands, which is why Jane wants to stop the project from going forward. Peter, however, has his own ideas and wants to get the product to market as soon as possible.

Jane, however, is about to have a bigger problem on her hands when in attempting to meet with a man named Bosley (Djimon Honsou), an assassin (Jonathan Tucker) tries to kill her. This leads to Jane meeting up with the rebellious Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and no-nonsense Elena (Naomi Scott), two female secret agents who work for the Townsend Agency – the same agency that employs Bosley … the soon-to-be-retiring Bosley (Patrick Stewart) … And the woman Jane will also come to know as Bosley (Banks). 

Confused? Well, you should be – it’s about to get a lot more complicated from here. And that’s why Jane’s guardian angels are about to try to save not only her life, but the world, too.
 
THE REVIEW: In the era of “woke” and “cancel” culture in the wake of the #MeToo movement, one might be inclined to see Charlie’s Angels as an example of empowerment in the action comedy genre. It could be taken as an attempt to show women being just as strong, sophisticated and stylish as their male counterparts with modern women in control of their careers, their bodies and life in general. There’s just one little problem with that, however, as it pertains to the film.In the quest for empowerment, Charlie’s Angels lacks a lot in the entertaining department and nearly ends up becoming at best a caricature of what it wishes to destroy in terms of the cinematic patriarchy and at its worst, an unmemorable movie.

Now, before one accuse yours truly of a blatant case of mainsplaining, let me simply point to the film’s opening scene as an example of empowerment run amuck: Stewart’s character is literally explaining to the audience why women are underestimated, unappreciated and generally taken for granted as underachievers. This is balanced out, of course, by a male antagonist so taken with her beauty, he must then via his substandard, terribly over-the-top dialogue explain why everything she is saying is basically wrong – only of course to get his comeuppance because Stewart’s seductive agent has been setting him up. Of course the audience knows it, but the film makes sure to spell it out for them because it wants to drive home the point of the entire 80 minute-plus experience: Women can do whatever and they’re gonna do it loud, brash and however they want.

Unfortunately, as the heavy handed scene also shows, in the case of Charlie’s Angels, they’re gonna hit you over the head with it at every possible turn.

Charlie’s Angels wants to be the ultimate badass female movie: It attempts to feature Stewart as a wise-cracking rebel who’s quick with her one-liners, the Rihanna-esque Scott as a … Rihanna-esque no nonsense agent (who is by far the most believable character) and Balinska as an awkward, fish out of water just trying to do the right thing. Problem is, Stewart feels like she’s doing her best imitation a female action movie hero and it’s never believable, Balinska’s fish out of water is so out of water it’s almost like a live-action cartoon a la The Simpsons and Scott feels like she’s overcompensating for the other two. None of the three characters are really developed beyond a simple explanation (“She grew up rough!” “She’s smart” “She’s smart and nerdy and awkward!”). The timing of the sexualization of their characters comes off a bit misplaced (“Let’s infiltrate this mansion … With a fully choreographed dance routine as part of our cover!”), the fight scenes are comical when meant to be serious and just silly when they meant to be comical and the heavy-handed storytelling makes sure to guide the audience instead of letting things play out more naturally.

Complicating matters further is the fact the jokes are (1) usually forced (2) usually stale and (3) just not working. The male characters are either complete bumbling morons to the point you can’t take any of them (save for Jonathan Tucker’s heavily tattooed assassin) seriously or so sleazy they might make Harvey Weinstein wince. Charlie’s Angels may go down as Stewart’s worst performance in eons. While his Bullock character on Seth McFarlane’s now exiled to TBS cartoon American Dad! is supposed to be a buffoon, the fact this character is supposed to be taken seriously is cartoonish in and of itself.

It doesn’t make for a great viewing experience outside of its target audience: Young women who want to see young women be heroes, no matter how ridiculous the story and how over-the-top pretty much everything else in the mix may be. In trying to be empowering, it almost comes off as egregious and does the very opposite of what it wishes to do for all audiences. Just like this year’s earlier action detective reboot Shaft (which had slightly better jokes … slightly), Charlie’s Angels just isn’t memorable as much as it is missable.

As a sign of very heavy foreshadowing, the music video for the lead single from the film’s soundtrack – the inane “Don’t Call Me Angel” by polarizing pop stars Lana Del Ray, Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus – is pretty much an entire encapsulation of the project: A group of artists begging people to take them seriously by exhibiting a ton of “I don’t need your approval” attitude … While falling into every negative trope of using overly and overtly sexual grinding, lip-biting possible in a desperate attempt for approval. Don’t believe me? Check out this lyrical wizardry for yourself:”Uh, don’t call me angel when I’m a mess,
Don’t call me angel when I get undressed,
You know I, I don’t like that, boy,
Uh, I make my money, and I write the checks,
So say my name with a little respect,
All my girls successful, and you’re just our guest”

 
Thus, much like the aforementioned song, Charlie’s Angels whole point seems to exist for the sake of simply extending a middle finger to the cinematic patriarchy … Which would be fine if it has deeper characters (it doesn’t), an interesting, rich story (absent), or just anything that felt original, fresh and inspiring (no dice). Instead, it comes off as maligned as when Poochie was introduced on The Simpsons‘ beloved cartoon-within-a-cartoon “Itchy & Scratchy” and with similar results
 
So, don’t call them angels if you like … But much like the aftermath of a bad date, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t just call, period. 
 
OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN): 

 

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Elsa and Anna return for Frozen 2, but is it as magical as the first? Read on for our critic’s review.

 
“This winter, it’s personal – no, it really is!” From left to right: Olaf (Josh Gad), Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa (Idina Menzel, center), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Sven return for FROZEN 2. Credit: © 2019 Walt Disney Pictures. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel WoodDIRECTOR(S): Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck

 
THE BACK STORY: Following up on the events of the first film, Frozen 2 finds the magical Elsa (Idina Menzel) living happily in the utopian Arendelle with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), her wanting-to-pop-the-question-but-unsure-how-to-do-so boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his beloved reindeer Sven and everyone’s favorite one-liner cracking snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). But not everything is as peaceful and happy as it seems.

As a flashback will reveal, the sisters’ parents told them of Northuldra, a forest where the people of Arendelle were enjoying a nice time with the natives until something happened and the two groups found their lives forever changed. And now, as fate would have it, a mysterious voice is calling Elsa, who has become more and more curious about the origin of her powers. Could the voice have something to do with her powers? Could there be a connection to Northuldra? 

There’s only way Elsa, Anna, Sven and Olaf are going to find out … Looks like a new adventure awaits! 

THE REVIEW: Sometimes a sequel is better than the original. Sometimes it’s worse. And then there are times where the sequel looks to deliver pretty much everything the first film had that made it successful … even if the second go round, while solid, lacks the magic of the original.The last option is the one that describes the collection of jokes and songs collectively known as Frozen 2.

Frozen 2 is not a bad movie. But if you are not a major fan of Disney’s princess collection of films, the plot is not likely to hook you in. Likewise, while some will undoubtedly find the collection of songs – especially Kristoff’s somewhat hilarious homage to 80s power rock ballads – entertaining, others may find them to be a bit repetitive in both tone and execution. (If you are not an opera fan, some of the jokes may feel a bit long in the ear, er, tooth.) Gad’s Olaf character gets to take center stage for much of Frozen 2 in terms of delivering a much needed levity to the affair, which is balanced by the cuteness factor of Bruni, the salamander representation of fire in the enchanted forest.

Frozen 2 adheres to the longstanding adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” by making sure that if was in the first film, try to wedge it into the second film. While Elsa and Anna’s sibling rivalry has subsided, there’s still plenty of bonding in the story, as well as the idea of self-discovery, teamwork … and of course, good ol’ Olaf. Frozen 2 isn’t here to break new ground as much as it is to keep it nice and chilled as fans sing the songs long after they leave the theater. Whereas the first Frozen felt special and unique, 2 is like a slice of pizza from your favorite restaurant: satisfying but extremely familiar.

Thus, while it might be better suited for young children and Disney die-hards only, those two groups will love it … Even if everyone else might be happier if they just let it go and stopped before there is a part three.

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

 

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Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story friendship between a jaded magazine writer and America's most beloved neighbor.

 

“Hey kids – if this was a Yeezy 350 Boost, I might tell you how to toss it on eBay to make a profit with which you could start a nice savings account!” Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) strikes a familiar pose in a scene from director Marielle Henner’s inspired by true events biopic A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Credit: Lacey Terrell © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper, Susan Kelechi Watson, Christine Lahti, Wendy Makenna, Enrico Colantoni, Tammy Blanchard, Noah Harpster and Maryann PlunkettDIRECTOR(S): Marielle Heller

 
THE BACK STORY: Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a journalist for Esquire magazine who’s used to doing hard-hitting, investigative pieces that often leave the subjects of his stories, much like a James Bond martini, a bit shaken if not internally stirred. So, when his boss (Christine Lahti) assigns him to write a 400 word piece on children’s television show host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), he’s a bit miffed to say the least. 

Then again, Lloyd’s negative predilection to get to dig deep to find the dirt on people might have something to do with his own issues. He’s still very mad at his dad (Chris Cooper) – whom he prefers to call by his first name of Jerry – for what he did when his wife/Lloyd’s mom got sick. And now that he’s got a newborn son of his own with his wife (Susan Kelechi Watson), he’s feeling a bit of pressure not to pass along any of his own pain to his offspring. 

Thus, what happens when a cynical, depressed reporter is asked to spend extended time with perhaps the most upbeat, positive person in the world? Something that is definitely going to not fit into 400 words but definitely may touch plenty of hearts in theaters nationwide. 
 
THE REVIEW: Inspired by true events biopics often take liberties with the facts of their subject matter, omitting certain controversial details, adding characters or sometimes straight up just diverting from the facts for the sake of the story the filmmaker wants to tell. And given the success of 2018’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, putting a well-known actor like Tom Hanks in the role of playing a beloved cultural icon like Fred Rogers could be a recipe for disaster if not done well with a compelling story.Anyone debating whether or not to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, however, should have no such concern – for the film is easily one of the finest releases of 2019.

Neighborhood‘s storytelling, under the direction of Marielle Henner (2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?), is almost like watching an episode of Rogers’ beloved television show itself – a simple yet genius move that brings the story to life. Instead of digging deep into its subject’s personal life (that aforementioned documentary does exist, after all), the film shows how the relationship between Vogel – based on Esquire writer Tom Junod who’s article served as a basis for Neighborhood – and Rogers. In doing so, it showcases the reasons Rogers became and remains an inspiration to millions of people throughout North America: In talking with Vogel about what drives him, Rogers works Vogel through his myriad of problems, making the writer learn about him but more importantly, himself.

Of course, this wouldn’t happen without Heller’s excellent direction that incorporates elements of both Rogers’ show and Hanks’ full immersion into the role. From his voice affectations and mannerisms to his legendary calm tone of speaking and self-deprecation, Hanks does about a fine a job as you’d hope for in a portrayal of a beloved figure without crossing into saint territory (which the movie directly addresses). Hanks’ ability to channel Rogers own approach to tough subject matter shows how his wisdom rings true for both children and adults to this day.

Rhys, however, may arguably deliver the strongest performance in the film, giving his reporter a layered depth to serve as the canvas on which Rogers’ true magic is fully revealed. Rogers hoped to create healthy positive adults instead of the type of adult Rhys’ character is: angry and wrongs done to him and unable to let it go, cynical, distrustful and afraid they’ll screw things up worse than their parents did. (Sound like anyone you know in your own life?) In showcasing the juxtaposition between the two, Heller crates a walking, talking exercise in a lesson typical of an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood with her two male leads playing their parts perfectly. Strong supporting turns by the always strong Cooper and Watson further complete the exercise, the latter’s enthusiasm for life and peace playing well against Cooper’s apologetic manchild father trying to make amends.

All things considered, the thing that will stay with you after the film is over is how dedicated Rogers was to making the world a better place, no small feat in a world where so many of us let so many things destroy our happiness. An atypical film in a cinematic landscape filled with remakes, the perennial sex and violence and hokey family fare that often misses the mark,  A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood proves that good people still exist in the world – and good movies about them do, too.

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

 
 

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A new cop drama toes the line between reality and fiction. See if our movie critic says it’s worth the watch.

 

“OK, if they try to put Cardi B. in the next Fast & Furious movie, I’ll go – Wait! They already did it?!” New Orleans Police Officer Alicia West (Naomie Harris) prepares to fire on a would-be assailant as Mouse (Tyrese Gibson) looks on in a scene from director Deon Taylor’s action thriller BLACK AND BLUE. Credit: Alan Markfield © CTMG Inc. All rights reserved. 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Mike Colter, Reid Scott, Beau Knapp, James Moses Black and Nafessa Williams 

DIRECTOR(S): Deon Taylor

THE BACK STORY: Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is many things. She’s a veteran with two tours in the Middle East. She’s a woman with no family now that her mother passed away earlier this year. And she’s a native of one of the most notorious wards that was done no favors by Hurricane Katrina.

Now, she’s a rookie member of the New Orleans Police Dept. working with her partner Jennings (Reid Scott) learning the beat. So, when Jennings begs her to take her place on a night shift, Alicia decides to take his place so he can go enjoy date night with his wife. 

Brown (James Moses Black), the veteran officer she’s with, isn’t the nicest fellow in the world, but he’s still a cop like Alicia so she respects him because, after all, they both back the badge. So, despite being told to stay in the car, once she hears gunshots, she’s going inside to make sure Brown isn’t in trouble.

Then she finds out Brown – along with narcotics officers Malone (Frank Grillo) and his partner (Beau Knapp) – are the ones she needs to be afraid of.

Aided only by an unlikely alliance with a local super market employee, Jackson “Mouse” Milo (Tyrese Gibson), Alicia is on the run to upload the footage on her body cam to put away the bad guys. But given that she’s now got (1) crooked cops after her; (2) local drug dealer Darius (Mike Colter) and his entire crew after her and (3) the ‘hood thinking she is the one behind a crime she didn’t commit, she’s going to be forced to make a choice: Is she more black than she is “blue” – and will it ultimately matter if no one believes her story.

THE REVIEW: On its surface, Black and Blue is a very easy movie to dismiss as it has a somewhat familiar premise (cop sees bad cops do bad stuff) and the inherent issues (African-Americans trust of the police, African-Americans in the line of police work – see HBO’s new take on Watchmen for more – etc.) within. What keeps Black and Blue from being another run-of-the-mill Training Day knockoff is how the cast and crew approach and deliver the story.

Now, to be honest, there are plenty of things that will either enhance or detract from your Black and Blue viewing experiences, hence a need to explain them here. So, if you:

  1. Are African-American;
  2. See the film with an audience also full of minority members relating to the characters on screen in a prime example of groupthink; and 
  3. Are familiar, either through the news or sadly, personal experience, with the types of police officers and “‘hood rules” present in the film, it will enhance your viewing experience.

On the flip side, if you:

  1. Are not African-American/a minority;
  2. Dismiss many of the stories in the news like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or – I think you get the point; and 
  3. Don’t believe life imitates art and vice-versa, well … Black and Blue will likely just come off as another crime caper that ventures a little bit too far into the ridiculous (there’s really only one or two incidents of that) to be anything significant.

That notwithstanding, Black and Blue works on a basic level as Harris’ makes her character intriguing despite her extreme naivety (the audience is almost ahead of her the entire movie) and the tense nature director Deon Taylor builds throughout the film. Given that Taylor’s most three recent feature lengths were the awful The Intruder (2019), the forgotten Traffik (2018) and the absolutely atrocious Meet the Blacks (2016), it seems he’s finally found a way to take his knowledge of African-American cultures and put them into a thriller that actually makes sense.

While the film doesn’t feature anyone who’s a standout name on their own (Harris is a solid actress but be honest, you probably couldn’t pick her out of a lineup by name if you don’t follow her career), Taylor uses his players well. Grillo is a quintessential character actor in the role of either a criminal or cop (check his IMDB for proof), Brown channels Bill Duke extremely well to the point you’ll find yourself surprised it’s NOT him and Gibson wisely follows Harris’ lead to move things along well. Mike Colter even does a nice job of showing he can play the opposite of his better known Luke Cage alter ego as the drug dealer heavy Darius. Of course, that’s what an actor is supposed to do, but it’s done with convincing fashion. It’s a trope, but it’s one that works. The story turns are easy to see coming, but again, thanks to the dedication of the cast, they don’t feel as stale as they otherwise would.

But to go back to the earlier checklists and why they are relevant to your enjoyment of Black and Blue, let me explain it like this: If you have experienced harassment by the individuals meant to protect and serve you, you will feel a connection to the characters in the film that are not law enforcement officials. If you are a minority trying to toe the thin blue line, you will understand all of the internal and external strife Harris’ character does being turned away by both officers and her own community. And even if you haven’t experienced it, if you have watched recent developments in America you will understand the impact of these things on both Harris’ character and others in the film. But, if you do not and worse yet, care not to know, Black and Blue will ultimately be a work of fiction and nothing more. 

The reality is though all good works of fiction are stemmed in some form of truth – and Black and Blue has far too much reality around it to not make the fictional parts seem real, or, in the case for many, hope they could be, too. 

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

 

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

 

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


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): Ruben Fleischer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): Paul Downs Colaizzo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): Thurop Van Orman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

RED BAND TRAILER (NSFW)

 

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): Gene Stupnitsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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