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

 

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

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

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


DIRECTOR(S): Tina Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): Chris Butler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): James Kent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): Jordan Peele

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

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

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

“There’s a family in our driveway.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

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

DIRECTOR(S): Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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This genre-bending flick proves there can be plenty of fun, romance in a serial killer thriller. Read on as our movie critic explains.

 

“Wait a minute … Didn’t this happen the last time I starred in this movie?!” Tree (Jessica Rothe) experiences deja vú in a scene from HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U. Credit: Universal Pictures © 2019 Universal Studios

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, Rob Mello and Charles Aitken

DIRECTOR(S): Christopher Landon

THE BACK STORY: Did you happen to catch 2017’s Happy Death Day? If not, you might have missed what happened when young college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) got murdered on her birthday, only to wake up in the bed of fellow college student Carter (Israel Broussard) … Who was nice enough to try to bring her home before she got killed … And then go through the rest of her day, only to get murdered again. Then she found out who was her killer – SPOILER ALERT: It was her jealous roomie Lori (Ruby Modine) – and then she was able to break the loop and begin living her life again without the threat of a baby-masked assassin coming to kill her. 

Or so she thought.

For you see, Happy Death Day 2U begins with Ryan (Phi Vu) dying at the hands of a baby-faced killer. And then he wakes up in his garbage-filled car, only to get back to his room where he catches Tree and Carter about to … embrace. And once he starts describing what happened to him, Tree quickly realizes much to her horror what is happening: The loop has started all over again, only this time it’s affecting Ryan. Thus, you can imagine her shock, horror and anger when she discovers both loops were inadvertently created by Ryan and his fellow science students Samar (Suraj Sharma) and Dre (Sarah Yarkin) due to a time-altering device they’ve nicknamed “Sissy.” 

And that’s when things get REALLY weird – I’d say more, but it would ruin all the surprises. But if there’s one last thing Tree is looking for, it’s surprises; unfortunately for her, there are plenty of surprises on the way that is going to alter her reality in ways she never, ever envisioned in this dimension – or any others for that matter. 

THE REVIEW: Are you in search of a film this Valentine’s Day that (1) will make you laugh at the most unexpected, surreal scenario possible while (2) delivering a few cheap scares while still somehow (3) being self-deprecating to the point it might be one of the smarter films of its genre-bending ilk which in turn (4) makes it inexplicably entertaining and dare one suggest one of the most genuine-in-an-extremely-absurd-way romantic comedies in quite some time? If the answer to all of those winding enough to drive the average editor nuts questions is “yes,” look no further.

For Happy Death Day 2U is a must-see that deserves praise not seen since Scream made people say the name “Skeet Ulrich” with reverence.

Boasting a keen sense of self-awareness and a wicked-funny yet strong performance by Rothe, Happy Death Day 2U does the thing that is extremely rare with movies rooted in a horror/thriller mold: Not only live up to the original, but surpass it. Whereas the original Happy Death Day felt like a silly-yet-enjoyable one-off, 2U provides a back story that expands its characters growth without losing any of its predecessor’s charm. Of course, that is due largely to Rothe’s ability to make her Groundhog Day-like existence consistently intriguing while making you root for her as her quest continues. It’s almost like writer/director Christopher Landon and the rest of the Blumhouse team (the production company responsible for hits like Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Get Out and the most recent Halloween remake/sequel/way to keep making money off that franchise) found out about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and said “How could we make a movie like that with a killer and keep all the humor?”

To her credit, Rothe does something rarely seen in horror-esque movies: Act. Like really, really act. She makes Tree equal parts crazy yet determined, hilarious yet not a caricature while at the same time using her skills to help make fun of and show reverence for the very genre that may make her a star. Playing well off of her co-stars Vu and Broussard, 2U is Rothe’s show the way the Golden State Warriors are Seth Curry’s team (at least, pre-Kevin Durant). And while the movie – which does have its fair share of “Ok, that’s corny even for this movie” moments and it is kinda easy to figure out who’s behind the mask if you pay a lick of attention – isn’t perfect, it’s got a great mix of comedy, thrills and irreverence to prove itself worthy of being a sequel.

In fact, given that it’s releasing just in time for Valentine’s Day, Happy Death Day 2U might just be the most romantic way to show your significant other you really love them … By watching a film breathe new life into a genre that can always use some.

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

 

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M. Night Shyamalan delivers his twist on superheroes and villains. See what our critic has to say.

 

“Man … I think someone has paid ‘Dance, Dance Revolution’ a little bit TOO much …” Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) watches in awe as one of the many personalities of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) dances with his newfound friend in a scene from the final (?) installment in M. Night Shyamalan’s heavy comic book-influenced thriller GLASS. Credit: Jessica Kourkounis/Universal Pictures © 2019 Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard and Adam David Thompson

DIRECTOR(S): M. Night Shyamalan 

THE BACK STORY: The culmination of the events of his previous films Unbreakable and Split, Glass stars Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychologist who has been brought in to a Philadelphia-area mental hospital. It is there where she is working to relieve three men of their delusions of being superheroes: Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), better known by his nicknames of “The Horde” in reference to his two dozen personalities ranging from 9 year-old Hedwig to stern British headmistress Patricia and “The Beast,” named for his deadliest, serial-killing personality. Only one woman, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) has escaped The Beast and lived to tell about it … And now she is fixated on the him in potentially unhealthy ways. 

Next up is David Dunn, a.k.a. The Overseer, a green poncho-wearing seemingly unbreakable (sorry – couldn’t resist!) man who was the only survivor of a train accident 19 years ago. Now, with the aid of his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), works as a vigilante around the City of Brotherly Love … As long as he doesn’t get wet. Last but certainly not least? Elijah Price, better known to law enforcement as first name Mister, last name Glass – a criminal mastermind with a very severe case of brittle bone disease that did not stop him from orchestrating the train accident that revealed David’s gift (or is that caused his delusion?) all those years ago. His mother (Charlayne Woodard) loves her son and just can’t seem to look past his murderous ways …

Now tasked with curing the men, Dr. Staple has her work cut out for her … Especially if their delusions of grandeur aren’t.

THE REVIEW: Much like his beloved comic books, M. Night Shyamalan’s movies are often the source of great debate about which ones are really good and which ones are just, well, awful. And after taking a much-deserved beating afters several hate-it-or-love-it features, the captain of the twist pulled a Dark Knight and redeemed himself with 2015’s quirky The Visit and then 2016’s Split, which featured one of the greatest (I know what I said!) performances in recent history by McAvoy as the Dissociative Identity Disorder-suffering Crumb. Then it was revealed (spoiler alert – you’ve had enough time) that the film was connected to the world Unbreakable created way back in 2000 and the hype that Glass would be his penultimate work became very real among his longstanding fans.

Well, guess what? Glass – while not perfect – delivers a super (enough) payoff for all your years of patience.

Glass has story holes in it – I mean, how else to explain one of the character’s actions given that everything that happened to that character should likely make them act in the EXACT opposite way they do. Likewise, if you’ve been paying attention to Shyamalan for any significant period of time, you’ll likely figure out there is something amiss before it is revealed even if you don’t figure out everything.

Those two things notwithstanding, Glass benefits from its best elements well: Shyamlan’s true exploration of comic book dynamics (as opposed to pure good vs. evil fights) and the performances of McAvoy and Jackson. Seriously, Glass isn’t the type of film that will ever get someone nominated, but McAvoy really deserves some type of recognition for making his role work so well while Jackson really pulls off that whole “evil mastermind despite his limitations” character phenomenally well. Be happy Mr. Glass isn’t real, folks …

The last point is made because in this golden age of superheroes movies, Shyamalan’s film is much more of an intellectual comic book movie moreso than what audiences have come to expect from the Marvel Universe (and usually pray DC Comics/Warner Bros. can try to emulate with their various properties). Thus, if you really enjoyed Unbreakable and Split, you’ll likely like Glass. If you are expecting something like Aquaman or Avengers: Infinity War‘s big blowout action sequences, you’re in the wrong place. This is more Scream for the superhero movie … If instead of parodies and murder you just had Jamie Kennedy’s Randy character moving the story forward. This is more a tale of connected lives, destinies and of course, the unique ways people with extraordinary abilities in comic books function.

Given the glut of superhero movies these days, the fact Glass challenges you to explore them in a way rarely seen these days is quite a twist, indeed. 

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

 

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“Girl, I love you … But you’re kind of killing my left shoulder right now …” Fonny (Stephan James) contemplates his next move while Tish (KiKi Layne) ponders their future in a scene from IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK. Credit: Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures. © 2018 Annapurna Releasing, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

 

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Beach, Teyonah Parris, Finn Wittrock, Dave Franco, Emily Rios, Ed Skrein and Aujanue Ellis

DIRECTOR(S): Barry Jenkins

THE BACK STORY: Based on the novel of the same name by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk stars newcomer KiKi Layne as Tish, a 19 year-old New York resident (the opening title card explains why a movie set in NYC takes its title from a famous New Orleans locale) who is in love with Alfonso (Stephan James) – Fonny for short. The young lovers embrace each other completely having known each other for years, producing the sort of romance that young people have dreamed of for centuries.

But their relationship is not without its problems for certain.

There’s Fonny’s sisters (Ebony Obisidian and Dominique Thorne)  and mother (Aujanue Ellis) who doesn’t exactly approve of Tish or the situation she’s gotten Fonny into …. But if you think Tish’s mother (Regina King) or sister (Teyonah Parris) is going to just let them run down their family, however, you, like them, have another thing coming. At least Fonny’s dad (Michael Beach) and Tish’s father (Colman Domingo) get along. Fonny’s friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry) is having a rough go of things, too, following his release from prison.

But none of those problems are anything compared to what lies ahead when Fonny is accused of raping a woman (Emily Rios) by a police officer who may or may not have an axe to grind …

THE REVIEW: It’s romantic. It’s majestic. It’s infuriating. It’s depressing. It’s soulful. It’s upbeat. It’s melancholy. It’s heartbreaking. It’s artistic. It’s creative.  It’s hopeful. It’s frustrating. It’s raw and it’s unapologetic. In short, If Beale Street Could Talk is the African-American experience captured in two hours for the world to see.

Certain movies strike cords with certain audiences more than others. For as many people loved Black Panther, the film showed the economic power that African-Americans have in catapulting what could have been just another superhero movie into an Academy Award contender. I mention this because while the critical acclaim for If Beale Street Could Talk is widespread (just Google it – ok, I did the work for you), it’s inherently bound to resonate with African-American audiences just a little bit more than others because of how dynamically it nails down various parts of what being black in America is like today as much as it did when its source material was first published in 1974.

There’s the fragile look of heartbreak and envy Henry gives as his character watches the interplay between Tish and Fonny and knowing he will likely never enjoy it … There’s the #metoo creepiness of watching Tish be subtly sexually assaulted by a white male customer under the guise of shopping … Beale Street delivers more nuanced facets of the struggles many African-Americans face in a country where they are often reminded they are and that there will always be some that view them second-class citizens. The police scenes are why I made the “infuriating” comment above, especially in lieu of the continued incidents like this and this and this and this and … Thus, anyone still wanting to have a conversation to determine their level of “woke” may find Beale Street to be either the perfect conversation starter … or ender.

On a positive note, there are the happy moments that prove the human experience, however has no color and can be enjoyed by everyone. This includes watching Dave Franco’s character bond with Fonny over a potential living space, Domingo and King’s coming to Tish’s aid and the love and chemistry between James and Layne as Fonny and Tish. Forget the earlier commentary made about how the film will strike an extra accord with African-Americans; the way in which screenwriter/director Barry Jenkins (the guy who made 2017’s Academy Awards Best Picture winner Moonlight) shoots their scenes will possibly inspire plenty of Match.com/eHarmony accounts in hopes of finding a love like theirs. Layne and James are the heart of the movie, its driving force and its beacon of hope not only for each other, but also the audience watching it.

If Beale Street Can Talk has plenty to say – which is why the words “must see” are the only two you really need in regards to whether or not you should.

 

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

 

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Our movie critic chats with Kiki Layne about her breakout role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Watch for the intriguing interview.

Our movie critic chats with Kiki Layne about her breakout role in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Watch for the intriguing interview.

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Jason Momoa brings credibility and fun to D.C. Comics longstanding fish-out-of-water hero. But is it worth seeing in the theaters? Our movie critic shares his thoughts.

 

“My Crossfit instructor is going to be so proud!” Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) makes his way through a sea (pun intended) of would-be submarine pirates in a scene from director James Wan’s take on the D.C. Comics iconic character best known to fans as AQUAMAN. Credit: Jasin Boland/ ™ & © DC Comics.  © 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment. All rights reserved.


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Temuera Morrison, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Dolph Lundgren with Nicole Kidman, Graham McTavish, Michael Beach and Randall Park

DIRECTOR(S): James Wan

THE BACK STORY: Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) was born of parents never meant to meet. For his mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) escaped the underwater kingdom of Atlantis to forgo an arranged marriage, which is why she fell in love with Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) and gave birth to a young son. But since she knew the only way to keep him safe was to eventually return, she left young Arthur in Tom’s care, her young child never getting to know the mother he so desperately wished to be able to do. That’s why she made sure to charge Vulko (Willem Dafoe) with raising him in her place, teaching young Arthur the ways of Atlantis to make sure he knows part of where he came from.

Problem is, while Arthur may never meet his mother, he will meet Prince turned King Orm (Patrick Wilson), his vengeful half-brother who is tired of all the pollution and attacks from the “surface world.” That’s why, with the aid of King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren) and his daughter/soon to be Orm’s wife Mera (Amber Heard), he plans to take the war to the surface world and let mankind know their time is up. But since only a true king can stop Orm and his evil ways, Mera seeks out Arthur to stop him before it is too late for both of their worlds. 

Then again, since the pirate who will become known as Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is after Arthur for what he did – or should that be didn’t do for – his father (Michael Beach), it seems like our hero is going to have his hands full.

THE REVIEW: Of all the members of the D.C. Comics world (Marvel kind of has that Universe thing on lockdown), none have been more ridiculed, scrutinized and generally made fun of more than Aquaman. I mean, he was the long-running source of material on the show Entourage (link language NSFW), Robot Chicken has skewered him for years and even the god-awful abomination that was the Justice League movie even poked fun at one of his most well-known abilities. Like Wonder Woman before him (language NSFW), there was no shortage of jokes about his costume, his skills and, in general, the very idea that someone would want to watch a full-length movie about him.

Then came 2017’s Wonder Woman film – and all the jokes stopped. Now, just in time to round out 2018, Aquaman finds itself in a similar boat (pun intended) … And just like his female predecessor,  Arthur Curry is going to get the last laugh since D.C. Comics’ latest solo superhero cinematic adventure is non-stop fun from start to finish.

Momoa, possibly the ultimate bro among leading men right now, brings all the swag Aquaman has never had as a character to life and then some as the film’s lead. Confident and cool, he proves to be more than brooding brawn and massive muscle as he flexes his thespian talents throughout the film. Of course, being a hulking human being certainly doesn’t hurt as every time he thrashes, bashes and/or generally mashes an enemy, it’s never not believable. 

Of course, having a pretty solid cast doesn’t hurt matters, which is why Heard does her best to not just to be a pretty (and extremely) redheaded face throughout the film as Mera. In line with Natalie Portman as Thor’s former love interest Jane Watson in the Marvel Universe, Heard displays a nice Harrison Ford/Kate Capshaw Raiders of the Lost Ark-like chemistry with Momoa, a niche that definitely helps the movie move forward with a balance of antagonistic humor and heart. Wilson is likewise solid as the villainous King Orm; Abdul-Mateen II does seem to be channeling his best Michael B. Jordan/Erik Killmonger rage as secondary villain Black Manta, although one would hope (should the inevitable sequel come to light) he will get to do much more than just huff and buff and try to blown Aquaman’s sea house in. 

Throw in Dafoe and Lundgren as the solid veteran male support with Kidman getting throw in a nice bit of physicality to go with the standard long-lost mother role and you get what most comic book movies should be: fun and energetic with just enough heart to make them last for more than one bucket of popcorn. That’s not even including director James Wan’s work with the rest of his team to create this most fascinating and visually-appealing world in a superhero movie this side of Wakanda and the film brings it in nearly every scene.

Now, as long as Warner Bros./D.C. can get that whole two-Joker movies thing together by the time 2019 starts, maybe D.C. can keep things going in swimming fashion – Aquaman has already done its part to get them there.

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

 

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