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The Bachelor meets The Civil War with a sexual-tension filled remake of The Beguiled. Read on to see what our film critic has to say about it.

 

“Now, if anyone can just work the microwave, we can eat!” (L to R): Emily (Emma Howard), Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), Alicia (Elle Fanning), Amy (Oona Laurence), Jane (Angourie Rice), Marie (Addison Riecke) and Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) star in a scene from writer/director Sofia Coppola’s updated take on the Civil War-era drama THE BEGUILED. Credit: Ben Rothstein / Focus Features. All rights reserved.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE: 





KEY CAST MEMBERS: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard 

WRITER(S): Sophia Coppola (screenplay); Thomas Cullinan (novel)

DIRECTOR(S): Sophia Coppola

WEB SITE: www.focusfeatures.com/thebeguiled/HERE’S THE STORY: Based on the Thomas Cullinan novel of the same name, The Beguiled stars Colin Farrell as John McBurney, a Irish transplant to America who has been injured fighting on behalf of the Union during the Civil War. Luckily for him, Amy (Oona Laurence) was out picking mushrooms to take back to the seminary belonging to Miss Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman). 

Helping John limp back to the seminary, Amy introduces him to Miss Martha, her schoolteacher assistant Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst) and her young classmates Emily (Emma Howard), Jane (Angourie Rice), Marie (Addison Riecke) and Alicia (Elle Fanning). But despite Amy’s excitement at having a new friend, Miss Martha, Edwina and the rest of the young ladies have a decision to make: Do they let their newfound enemy stranger stay and recuperate or do they turn him over to the passing Confederate soldiers at the first chance they get where he will be imprisoned or, more likely, killed. 

Deciding it to be good Christian charity, Miss Martha and the girls decide to nurse John back to health and then will let him go on his way. But John is no ordinary guest – he’s handsome, he’s charming and he’s more than happy to stay instead of returning to the battlefield.

Since he’s a Union soldier in a Confederate land in a house full of young ladies who haven’t been around a man in a long time, this is surely going to turn out to be ok, right? We’ll see …
WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? People who enjoy watching The Bachelor an love Civil War stories; Nicole Kidman fans; people who enjoy sexual tension thrillers

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who loved the original (possibly); those who will ridicule some of the characters actions; those who find the pacing of the film to be slower than necessary 

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that goes from feeling like an adult movie minus the actual sex to a bit of an overtly dramatic drama in its last 20 minutes with some characters making some very questionable choices, The Beguiled is an interesting film … Just how interested each individual watching it, however, remains to be seen.

The Beguiled‘s first hour is a great build of sexual tension; it’s almost like watching an adult film where none of the actors have sex, are actually acting and tease as if they are going to do it, but then they stop just before they do. Whereas Dunst delivers a nuanced performance as a shy, do-I-deserve-love-schoolteacher, Fanning’s overtly interested Alicia plays well against Kidman’s reserved, I shall pay no attention to this man despite him trying to break down the wall of personal space I have built around myself. Likewise, the performances of the film’s younger female cast members show a commendable amount of skill as being charmed by Farrell’s overtly-polite soldier, Laurence in particular as a young woman who clearly views him as a father figure. 

Where The Beguiled (the 2017 version, mind you – SPOILER ALERT: I have not seen the 1971 version) falters a bit, however, is in areas that are not the cast nor writer/director Sophia Coppola’s fault as the actions of certain characters well, just don’t make sense. I mean, you can see people doing the things certain characters do, but – like the average cast member on a reality show – you’ll simply be flabbergasted that they do them and think things are going to turn out well. Then again, the idea of playing off the film’s title (who is beguiling who, after all?) The Civil War is really just a bit of a backdrop for the story, for this is a story about deception, lust and people taking power in a situation when they feel like their hand has been forced to do so. The examination of rivalry among women over suitors doesn’t exist here at all, however, so that part of the 1971 take on Thomas Cullinan’s novel is skipped in favor of more of a tense thriller where you know something is going to go wrong; you’re just not sure of what and whom it will all affect. 

For a film with quality performances, a very subtle take on women’s empowerment and soap opera outrageousness at times, you could do a lot worse than letting someone beguile you into thinking this movie isn’t an interesting watch. 

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

 

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Johnny Depp returns to franchise (albeit very familiar) form with latest Pirates of the Caribbean film. See if our film critic is on board.

 

“C’mon boys – they’ve got parts for us at the theme park if we hurry! Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) leads his group of cursed sailors in an attack against Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, not pictured) in a scene from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. Credit: © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
 


 




KEY CAST MEMBERS: Johnny Depp, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya ScodelarioJavier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin R. McNally, David Wenham, Stephen Graham and Golshifteh Farahani

WRITER(S): Jeff Natahanson 

DIRECTOR(S): Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg 

WEB SITE: http://pirates.disney.com/pirates-of-the-caribbean-dead-men-tell-no-talesHERE’S THE STORY: Hey, you remember Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), right? He’s the charismatic swashbuckling pirate who always seems to find a way to weasel his way out of trouble, no matter how much trouble he gets in. What he doesn’t know, however, is why Henry (Brenton Thwaites) is looking for him. Well, Henry is the son of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), Sparrow’s former associate who is now cursed to life trapped aboard The Flying Dutchman. Looking to break his father’s curse, Henry learns that there is one man who might be able to help him? And who do you think that man is?

Meanwhile, there Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is getting ready to be tried for witchcraft – being an astronomer is apparently enough to be called a witch at this point in history – trying to find “the map that no man can read” in order to find the most mythical treasure in all the ocean: the trident of Poseidon. You see, Carina is also missing her father and thinks that the trident can help her. 

Unfortunately for all three of them, there is someone else looking for the trident: Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), the cursed anti-pirate ship crusader that Sparrow doomed to a life as a ghost years ago. Killing ships left and right, Captain Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) knows he is next, unless he can make a deal …

And this is where our story begins …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Johnny Depp fans; people who enjoyed the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies; people who like summer popcorn action fairy tales

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who have never cared about a Pirates of the Caribbean movie; those seeking something other than standard Disney-branded adventure fare

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? Here are two very simple questions you should ask yourself before deciding whether or not to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: [1] Did you like the first two movies and [2] Do you like Johnny Depp? If the answer to those questions is yes, you’ll enjoy this fifth – yes, FIFTH – installment of the franchise.

If you are on the fence otherwise, it might be best to stay on the docks – because while the film offers a return-to-form of sorts for the franchise, there is nothing essentially new going on that you haven’t seen before.

Don’t get me wrong – Dead Men Tell No Tales features some great visuals, a strong villainous performance from Bardem and a more-or-less not too convoluted story that ties up most of its loose ends well … But then again, knowing that MORE sequels are coming, you’ll need a Fast & Furious-level enthusiasm to get excited about Dead Men Tell No Tales because while the franchise shows it still has life in it, it rarely strays from its more-of-the-same nature. Thwaites and Scodelario are essentially Bloom and Kiera Knightley’s characters all over again, there’s still a “I have daddy issues” character (we get two for the price of one ticket here!) … And there are still far too many predictable moments (guess who falls in love???). On a positive note, the film is becoming a more self aware in at least addressing these things … But not enough).

Thus, as Hollywood continues its trend of sequel upon sequel or movies that have connections to other franchises, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales puts enough repair to fix what got very broken in its third and fourth installments … But doesn’t go very far to add anything new like the aforementioned Fast & Furious franchise to make it appeal to a wider/newer audience. In other words, it’s solid, but it’s very familiar. 

At least this time it doesn’t have that “cast overboard” feeling, though, so that’s a victory in and of itself. 

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

 
 

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See why our movie critic says this Zach Braff-helmed remake of 1979 senior citizen bank robbery comedy proves fresh for 2017.

 

“C’mon fellas – if we’re gonna go on tour, you all gotta be able to twerk! Now bend those hips!” Annie (Anne-Margret) helps adjust Albert Garner (Alan Arkin) as Joe Harding (Michael Caine, far left) and Willie Davis (Morgan Freeman) attempt to stretch in a scene from Zach Braff’s take on GOING IN STYLE. Credit: Atsushi Nishijima © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, LLC. 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:



KEY VOICE CAST MEMBERS: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Anne-Margret, John Ortiz, Keenan Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Joey King, Josh Pais, Peter Serafinowicz and Matt Dillon

WRITER(S): Theodore Melfi (screenplay); Edward Cannon (1979 original story on which the film is based)

DIRECTOR(S): Zack Braff

WEB SITE: http://goinginstylemovie.com/HERE’S THE STORY: Joe Harding (Michael Caine) is by all accounts a good man. He let his daughter (Maria Dizzia) and her young precocious 14 year-old Brooklyn (Joey King) move in with him, he’s been a loyal employee at the steel factory he’s worked at for 30 some years and he’s always gotten along with his two best friends there, Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin). Thus, once he gets a letter from his bank saying his house payment has tripled and has a meeting with the equally uncaring manager at his local branch, he’s understandable upset. Knowing that, it should likewise come at no surprise that he’s especially ticked once he discovers that his employer has been bought in a corporate merger, is moving all manufacturing operations to Vietnam and won’t be paying out his, Wilile’s or Alan’s pensions.

Then, he gets caught in the middle of a robbery at his bank and gets an idea: To get revenge on the people robbing them, why now rob the bank with his two best friends in tow for the ride? 

While it takes some convincing at first, Joe is eventually able to convince Willie and Alan to come along for the ride after getting some intel from his ex son-in-law (Peter Serafinowicz), who hooks him up with Jesus (John Ortiz), their bank robbing 101 master. So, what happens when three senior citizens – one of whom is making Annie (Anne-Margret) very hot to trot – get together and decide to pull off a million dollar robbery?
The answer awaits you at the local cineplex. 

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Fans of the lead cast members; people who enjoy self-aware comedies; anyone who’s never seen the 1979 original and thus won’t be comparing the two films nonstop; anyone who likes a film that has a bit of bounce and energy in playing to its strengths

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who wear weary of Alzheimer’s-related jokes; those who have senior family members they don’t communicate with; those who feel the film is restricted by its PG-13 rating

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that one could essentially describe as Grumpy Old Men meets Ocean’s 11 (minus about 7 key players in the mix), Going in Style is a solid comedy that delivers what you expect in effective and entertaining fashion.

Whereas Caine is great is the solid straight man who is trying to do the wrong thing for all the right reasons, Freeman and Arkin shine by taking all the best comedic lines throughout the film. Save for Keenan Thompson throwing out some admirable zingers as a grocery store manager, Arkin and Freeman land all their comedic punches with self-effacing humor that not only is fitting, but genuinely funny. 

In many circumstances, the octogenarian-fueled humor could wear extremely thin in the wrong hands (Christopher Lloyd’s character has both humorous highs and lows in terms of enjoyment), but Caine and co. excel quite well under the direction of Zach Braff, who likely did the best thing a director can do with them: Stay out of their capable hands, offer a few notes where necessary and waste no on-screen time with needless exposition of a fairly simple story. He lets things unfold with a snappy yet smart efficiency and the end result proves itself to be a success. 

A testament to the idea of there being no small parts in a film, the supporting players like Siobhan Fallon Hogan as an amorous waitress, Matt Dillon as a not-so-astute FBI agent and the aforementioned Thompson add comedic style to Going in Style. There’s something to be said, however, for the great rapport the three lead actors share, which makes their on-screen friendship and roles and the way everything fits together in terms of making the cast’s actions make plausible sense. You you understand these characters, you know these characters and most importantly, you like these characters. Those three factors help Going in Style enjoyable no matter how old you are.

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

 

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Is this sequel to “Fifty Shades of Grey” Red Room ready or is it a new form of torture? Read on for our movie critic’s steamy new review.

 
“If all else fails, I can get a jump on the sequel to Eyes Wide Shut: Eyes Wider!” Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) prepares to attend a ball with her paramour in a scene from FIFTY SHADES DARKER. Credit: Doane Gregory. © 2016 Universal Pictures. All rights reserved. 

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE: 

 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote, Max Martini, Victor Rasuk, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden and Kim Basinger 

WRITER(S): Niall Leonard (screenplay); E.L. James (novel on which the film is based)

DIRECTOR(S): James Foley

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

HERE’S THE STORY: The second installment of the trilogy based on novelist E.L. James Fifty Shades books, Fifty Shades Darker again stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Now broken up, Anastasia has moved on, enjoying her dream job at a Seattle-based publishing company learning the ropes under the tutelage of Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). But Christian hasn’t. He wants her back and will do whatever it takes, even “re-negotiating terms.” 

But as soon as Anastasia and Christian seemingly begin to work things out, shadowy figures from the past and present star to interfere in their lives in a way that threaten to break them up forever.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Women who love cheesy romance novels, abs and exposed male buttocks; women who want a safe entry point to explore their BDSM fantasies; men who want to have sex with their lady but don’t think they have to put in much work if she liked the first movie

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? Anyone not named in the previous section.

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? I could write a term-paper length dissertation on everything that makes Fifty Shades Darker an awful movie … But given how little effort apparently went into making the film, that would be more work than it’s worth. So, while I hate to say a movie is “awful,” but Fifty Shades Darker is damn close to as awful of a romantic film as you can release through a major Hollywood studio.

Look, since the target audience for this film is women, single women, married women, kinky women, young kinky single women, young kinky married women, older single kinky women and older married kinky women, let me save you a ton of time: Do not, I repeat, NOT drag your man along with you to Fifty Shades Darker. Simply go with your girlfriends out for the night, get some wine before or after the movie and enjoy the cheese that the film offers to compliment it for 2 hours. 

Johnson delivers the most, um, compelling performance of anyone in the film, which is best described as one part bad daytime soap opera (there’s a helicopter crash!) plus late-night Showtime/Cinemax soft core porn. (There’s a drink thrown in someone’s face, for goodness sake!) Dornan is fairly wooden in his emotions (and they are better than they were in the first movie, which is saying something), the s were in the first movie, which is saying something), the story is absolutely ridiculous (and, based on my limited exposure to people who consider themselves part of the BDSM community, not an accurate representation of the lifestyle) and the less said about Gay Harden and Basinger in this, the better. Johnson and Dornan’s “chemistry” is pitiful, the “villains” are comic book bad (don’t think modern Marvel; think ’80s Saturday morning cartoons), the dialogue is junior high first boyfriend/girlfriend insipid and James Foley (Glengarry Glenn Ross, House of Cards) should be ashamed for how terrible his overuse of foreshadowing and heavy-handed direction (here comes a dramatic moment) is. Then again, Niall Leonard didn’t give him much to work with script-wise; then again, he was working with original E.L. James novel, so …

If you really like the books or think that Pretty Woman or any of the Twilight films are good movies, you’ll like Fifty Shades Darker. If you just want to imagine the world has plenty of 27 year-old billionaires that are dark and mysterious because they have been abused but really have a heart of gold and need an – you know, I’m not going to talk about Johnson’s looks as there’s nothing wrong with them, but let’s just say I can’t think of a distinct quality about her or her character that stands out – a good woman to save him (oh yeah, AND he’s a freak in the bedroom, too!), go ahead!

If you don’t fall into the groups mentioned above, seeing Fifty Shades Darker is the equivalent of dragging a 25 year-old female who enjoys Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Migos music, ends all her texts with “lol” and clubbing to a Star Wars marathon. I’m not saying you can’t find a woman that fits that category who would enjoy Star Wars; I AM saying the effort to find that woman is not worth it just to prove a point.

And the only point one needs to prove about Fifty Shades Darker is that Fifty Shades Freed has nowhere to go but up from here – because this romance can’t get much worse. 

 

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

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Will Smith plays a grieving father whose business associates plot to break through his pain. But is it painful to watch? Read on for our film critic’s review.

 

“What – what do you mean your favorite song is ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand?!'” Howard (Will Smith, right) talks over things with the woman is being led to believe is the embodiment of Death, a.k.a. aspiring play actress Brigitte (Helen Mirren) in a scene from Warner Bros. drama COLLATERAL BEAUTY. Credit: Barry Wetcher © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Village Roadshow Films North America and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment, LLC.
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren, Kiera Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Ann Dowd and Naomie Harris

WRITER(S): Allan Loeb

DIRECTOR(S): David Frankel

WEB SITE: http://collateralbeauty-movie.com/HERE’S THE STORY: Howard (Will Smith) was once a brilliant, vibrant man who, along with his best friend Whit (Edward Norton) ran one of the most successful, hip ad agencies in New York City. He was great at his job because he knew that – or at least believed – everyone can be influenced to buy a product because of how it relates to the impact of love, time or death in their life.

Then his 6 year-old daughter died from cancer. And Howard checked out of the world as everyone around him knew it.

Now, with Howard spending most of his days building complex domino displays and sitting for hours at a dog park, the company he built is on the verge of falling apart unless a big deal is completed. But given that Howard has the major sway to sign off on the deal, Whit, Howard’s one-time mentee Claire (Kate Winslet) and the upstart Simon (Michael Peña) need to come up with a plan to save the company … And their friend in the process. So when they hire a private investigator (Ann Dowd) to follow him, they find out just who – or make that what – Howard spends most of his time doing when he’s at his apartment alone. 

This leads to the idea to hire three actors to play the embodiment of the three emotions that used to rule Howard’s work life – Time (Jacob Latimore), Love (Kiera Knightley) and Death (Helen Mirren). But will their actions pay off? Or perhaps Howard will finally get the breakthrough he needs if he ever decides to go to the grief counseling meetings he sees Madeline (Naomie Harris) leading each week.

Whatever it is, perhaps he will one day learn to see the collateral beauty in his existence …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? People who have experienced the loss of a child but been able to find a way to cope/overcome the pain; Will Smith fans; Helen Mirren fans; those in need of a film that will serve as the outlet for a good cry

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who have suffered the loss of a child but are not in a place where they can watch a film about the subject; those who hate films with a heavy-handed approach to delivering their messages; those who hate films with twist endings that feel unnatural/unnecessary; those will find the characters’ interconnections off-putting/hokey

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that some will love and others will likely despise despite very good intentions, Collateral Beauty is a film where its actors do their best to make up for its story’s misgivings – and usually, it works.

As always, Smith is dynamic as the incredibly grief-stricken Howard. While we only get a brief glimpse of him at his best in happier times, it is enough for us to be able to appreciate just how much he is devastated by his daughter’s passing. Confession: I actually went to the screening of Collateral Beauty with a friend who has actually lost a child; watching the film, she was overcome with impressed emotion at Smith’s depiction of Howard’s agony, marveling at how things only someone who has lost a child would understand coming through in his performance. Smith’s performance – save for that of is also by far the most believable of nearly anyone else in the cast, as Norton, Winslet and company sometimes border on the edge of being overtly melodramatic as opposed to naturally concerned. Seriously, you take Smith (and to a lesser degree, Harris) out of the picture and the film loses half its appeal (and half of this rating). 


Why is the film so dependent on Smith to save it? Well, you could credit that to the somewhat over the top performances of the rest of the cast, the presentation under director David Frankel and the Hallmark card-like dialogue. (Seriously, it’s either comedically ironic how Howard’s friends hire aspiring, Shakespeare-spewing insightful dialogue or sadly ironic writer Allan Loeb didn’t realize his attempts at often being deep feel terribly trite more often than not.) Add in the twist at the end and if you are irritated by anything mentioned here previously, the tear-jerking moment might simply be met with indifference. 


Still, Collateral Beauty works out as it is a classic audience pleaser with its message coupled with Smith’s and Harris’ respective performances, especially older audiences or anyone in need of a positive-out-of-a-negative experience. The cast as a whole is unoffensive in their performances, Smith is dynamic in his and the “you’re going to cry and this scene is determined to make you with its deep connections to other moments in the film is strong enough to make most appreciate what Frankel and company were trying to do.


It’s just too bad there was a lot of collateral damage along the way to get there. 
OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 
 
 

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See why our movie critic says this film is a coming of age tale that’s a winner for adolescents and adults alike.

 

“I’m telling you – I was a MUCH better basketball player than Wesley Snipes on the set of White Men Can’t Jump!” Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) talks her latest mistake over with her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) in a scene from writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s debut feature THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN. Credit: Murray Close © 2015 STX Productions, LLC. All rights reserved. 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Blake Jenner, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto and Alexander Calvert

WRITER(S): Kelly Fremon CraigDIRECTOR(S): Kelly Fremon Craig

WEB SITE: http://stxmovies.com/theedgeofseventeen/

HERE’S THE STORY: Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a teenage girl living in modern Oregon. And, to have her tell it, everything about her life well, sucks. Sure, her overworked mom Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) loves her to death, she has a best friend in the form of Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) and her brother Darian (Blake Jenner) is, well, by all accounts, living a perfect teenage life. But a tragic event a few years ago has really left Nadine a bit shaken, which – coupled with her general awkwardness – has has left her a bit neurotic and a general mess of an emotional teenage girl. 

Sure, she has some typical teenage desires like hooking up with Nick Mossman (Alexander Calvert), but dealing with her brother’s success and the general demands of high school life is so overwhelming Nadine often runs off to bother Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson) on his lunch break. At least Erwin (Hayden Szeto) likes her right? That’s got to count for something one would think …

But, as Nadine’s life takes several unexpected twists and turns, she finds herself doing what most teenagers do: Freaking out about everything in life and not sure what to expect next. 

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? People who miss 80s teenage movies that were John Hughes’ specialty but would like them with modern problems, language and realism; anyone who’s ever gone through an awkward phase with discovering who they are and dating in regards to the opposite sex; Woody Harrelson fans; parents not sure how to deal with modern teenagers; those who enjoy a coming of age story complete with heart, humor and honesty

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People not prepared to deal with modern teenagers in terms of the language or sexuality; teenagers who may forget there is a script to take care of moments that, if unscripted in the real world, might not turn out the same way they do in the film 

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that won’t win any awards but likely will a lot of hearts across many generations, The Edge of Seventeen is just one of those solidly entertaining, heartfelt and humorous coming of age tale.

Steinfeld pretty much nails everything you would expect in regards to playing an angst-filled (sometimes justifiably, sometimes as a result of her own avoidable neuroses) teenage girl, making Nadine equals parts wise beyond her years (or at least thinking she is) and at the same time completely naive to reality. A bundle of misplaced energy and raw emotions, Steinfeld makes Nadine at times the girl you completely understand in how she feels like the oddball at the party … And then moments later can break your heart as you watch a misguided girl do things that you know are not going to work out the way she hopes they will. Through it all, however, Steinfeld’s performance feels real from start to finish with no false, convoluted emotions or actions, even when they run the gamut from normal to manic. 

Likewise, Steinfeld’s surrounding cast each plays their roles exceptionally well, with Harrelson taking top honors as a cool, calm and collected teacher willing to call Steinfeld on her BS to alert her to when she is being melodramatic in an entertaining fashion she understands. At the same time, he knows what to say and when to say it, never coming off in a corny fashion. This plays well against Sedgwick’s performance as a very overworked mother trying to make sense of her own life as well as being a mother to her children, going back and forth between the two roles with an effort that will likely feel all too familiar to many stressed adults. It’s a performance that really shows the difficulty of being a single parent today, the resolution coming with a simple revelation that should resonate hard.

The same can be said for Richardson’s and Jenner’s respective performances, being realistic teenagers that are focused on more than their smart phones without ever coming off in a manner that doesn’t fit their characters. Szeto – despite the fact he obviously looks like he graduated high school at least 10 years ago – rounds out the affair as the proverbial nice guy with a heart of gold, doing things that in one instance make you root for him to get the girl of his dreams (even when she is treating him like a nightmare) … And cringe when he does things that are obvious to EVERYONE watching (except him) that they are not going to go the way he expects.

A coming of age film that comes of age on its own quite nicely thanks to writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s attention to detail, understanding of both teens and adults and mix of humor and self-revelation, The Edge of Seventeen is a fantastically fun movie for people of all ages. To miss it would be to deny yourself one of the great films of 2016 … And one that showcases the art of finding your place in the world in honest and entertaining fashion.

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

 

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Disney sticks to its formula for animated success with its newest film, Moana. Read on to see what our movie critic has to say about it.

 

“So … Tell me again about how this is not Frozen set to a Pacific Island twist?” The titular character (Auli’i Cravalho) gets up close and personal with the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) in a scene from Disney’s MOANA. Credit: © 2016 Disney. All rights reserved.

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

KEY CAST MEMBERS: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Auli’i Cravalho, Rachel House and Jermaine Clement

WRITER(S): Jared Bush (screenplay); Ron Clements, John Musker, Chris Williams, Don Hall, Pamela Ribon, Aaron and Jordan Kandell (story)

DIRECTOR(S): Ron Clements and John Musker

WEB SITE: http://movies.disney.com/moanaHERE’S THE STORY: The latest installment in Disney’s princesses of all flavors collection, Moana stars Auli’i Cravalho as the titular character, a princess from an island in the Pacific Ocean. And for Moana, her grandmother (voiced by Rachel House) and the rest of her people, life is good. Then the fisherman notice a complete depletion of their main food resource – leaving them all in a desperate need for help from a higher power.

Enter Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), the shape-shifting demigod of island legend that Moana is desperate to track down and have save her people. 

While he is a fun-loving would-be hero, Maui is also not exactly the easiest guy to track down, which is why Moana and her pet chicken Heihei (voiced by Alan Tudyk) set sail out across the ocean (and against the wishes of her tribal chief father) to find Maui. But once Moana finds Maui, she learns that he is also an egotistical, self-serving demigod who is also missing his magical hook and needs to go on a quest of his own to retrieve it. And thus, the island princess and the demigod come to an agreement: Maui will agree to come to her island and help if she will help him retrieve his magical hook.

So what happens when you put a princess on a boat with a seemingly suicidal chicken and a demigod who is a bit conceited on a quest to travel the ocean? The answer is straight out of Disney’s patented formula for family-friendly entertainment.  

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? People who love everything Disney, Dwayne Johnson fans; those who enjoy films with strong female lead characters; those who enjoy family-friendly films that don’t feel as formulaic as they actual are.

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who don’t enjoy Disney movies and/or have grown a bit tired of the Disney formula; those who won’t like the mythical elements of the film for either historical accuracy or religious reasons; those who would prefer a film with more depth/message than just one with a basic entertainment aspect 

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? The latest animated accomplishment in the company’s longstanding history, Moana delivers enough expected – and a few unexpected – moments to be worthy of your attention at the theater. 

As one might expect, Moana looks beautiful and – thanks to a soundtrack curated largely in part by Hamilton impresario Lin-Manuel Miranda – sounds upbeat and energetic as one might expect. There is plenty of sing-along material for youths to enjoy and recite and there are enough jokes to keep you chuckling along with the story. The thing that works best in Moana, is the telling of the story itself and commitment of Alui’i Cravalho to her character. 

Cravalho shows no signs of Moana being her first major role, let alone first role ever, throughout the film. Instead, she interjects her character full of trepidation and nervousness when appropriate to the situation and then conveys Moana’s growth with her vocal talents with skill and aplomb. While Johnson is obviously the biggest name in the cast and definitely nails down his part as Maui with skill, Cravalho’s performance prevents her character from becoming either a one-note, over-the-top “isn’t she great?” hero or an undeveloped character. Whereas the secondary characters drop in plenty of jokes, Cravalho’s individual performance plus chemistry with Johnson is the current that keeps Moana flowing like the ocean on which they travel.  You get a strong female character, a male character that is deferential without losing any of his masculinity or purpose and a story that has enough twists and turns that it creates a world with magic that is engaging at best and simply interesting at its worst.

Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker create a symphony of sounds and sights with Moana, their actors hitting their beats at just the right times to deliver the story that – while it doesn’t do anything spectacular in terms of new animated storytelling ground – is solid from start to finish.

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

 

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See what our movie critic has to say about DreamWorks’ new animated musical comedy, Trolls, starring Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake.

 

“Oh snap – my Axe body spray must have worn off!” Poppy (Anna Kendrick) tries to get under the rather prickly skin of Branch (Justin Timberlake) in a scene from TROLLS. Credit: © 2016 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved. 
 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 



KEY CAST MEMBERS: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Cleese, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Ron Funches, James Corden, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand and Gwen Stefani

WRITER(S): Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger (screenplay); Erica Rivinoja (story by) and Thomas Dam (creator of the book The Good Luck Trolls on which the film is inspired by)DIRECTOR(S): Walt Dorn and Mike Mitchell

WEB SITE: https://www.dreamworks.com/trolls/HERE’S THE STORY: An animated musical based on Thomas Dam’s The Good Luck Trolls, Trolls tells the tale of Poppy (Anna Kendrick), a happy-go-lucky individual who lives with her father (Jeffrey Tambor) and the rest of her fellow trolls. Singing and dancing at will, the trolls have a great life … Save for the constant threat of the Bergens, a miserable group of ogre-like creatures who can only find happiness by eating the trolls. And after the head Bergen chef (Christine Baranski) makes an error that denies young Prince Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) his first troll ever, the Bergens will stop at nothing to find them.

But while every other troll is dancing and reveling in their newfound paradise, Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) is the one holdout who not only fears a Bergen return, but is convinced it will happen. That’s why he doesn’t dance, abhors signing and generally keeps to himself. So when the Bergen chef returns to wreak havoc and take revenge, he is the only one smiling.

Well, at least he was smiling, until Poppy finds a way to force him into helping her go on what looks to be a suicide mission to save their fellow trolls before they all become a Bergen buffet … 

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Anna Kendrick fans; people who love movies where the animated characters are irrepressibly cute; those who enjoy family-friendly entertainment that doesn’t fall into the typical unfunny, overdone trappings of films billed as such; those who enjoy films where the characters are more self aware than not 

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who find musicals less than enjoyable; people who don’t like animation; people looking for a film with a harder edge

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that is as entertaining as it is undeniably cute and fun, Trolls is a throwback to the days of 1980s Saturday morning cartoons with a few good laughs but but plenty of heart and positivity to help it go a long way to making you smile. 

Perfectly opposed characters at the start, Kendrick’s Poppy and Timberlake’s Branch – much like the leads in this year’s also excellent animated adventure Zootopia – share a nice, enjoyable chemistry that plays well together. Likewise, Zooey Deschanel does some of her best work ever as Bridget, a Bergen in love with young Prince Gristle that proves critical in the trolls epic struggle. While you can see many of the plot points coming, they are done in such an enjoyable fashion that you not only don’t mind, but in some instances you actually look forward to them. Happy without being sappy, fun without being redundant, Trolls follows the formula of having side characters that are funny little creatures to enhance the tale being told with a climax that is earnest in its nature. In short, what you get is a nice, feel good story that you can actually feel good about watching. 

That makes singing the praises of Trolls fairly easy to do. 

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

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The best-selling book arrives in movie form this weekend in theaters, but is it worth getting a ticket or does the film go off the proverbial tracks? Click to see what our movie critic says.

 

“Man, I should have just taken an Uber to work … But then again, ‘The girl in the Uber’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it!” Rachel (Emily Blunt) peers out as she passes the home of the seemingly perfect couple … Only to discover something completely unexpected in a scene from director Tate Taylor’s take on the best-selling novel THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Credit: DreamWorks Pictures © 2016 Storyteller Distribution Co.

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:




KEY CAST MEMBERS: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Laura Prepon

WRITER(S): Erin Cressida Wilson (screenplay); Paula Hawkins (based on the novel by)DIRECTOR(S): Tate Taylor

WEB SITE: http://www.thegirlonthetrainmovie.com/HERE’S THE STORY: Based on the book of the same name, The Girl on the Train stars Emily Blunt as Rachel, a divorcee who still not over her ex Tom (Justin Theroux), who has since moved on to marry and have a child with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). A recovering alcoholic, Rachel has been staying with her friend Cathy (Laura Prepon) for the past 2 years trying to get back on her feet, which mostly consists of her riding the train from the suburbs into Manhattan Monday–Friday.

The most exciting part of Rachel’s existence, though, is the part of her train ride that passes by a seemingly perfect couple of Scott Hipwell (Luke Evans) and his wife Megan (Haley Bennett). Seeing Megan embrace Scott on weekly if not daily basis, Rachel is fascinated by the woman she sees as still having the life she lost in her divorce, a part of herself she can’t imagine ever getting back. Then, one day, she sees Megan kissing a different man who turns out to be Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), who also just so happens to be Megan’s therapist. Becoming more and more obsessed with Megan while trying to deal with losing her old relationship, Rachel finds herself in a precarious position once she sees Megan walking one day into a tunnel, determined to confront her about her apparent affair. 

But what Rachel doesn’t know is while she thinks the woman she has been obsessing over has such a perfect existence, the truth of Megan’s life is revealed one moment at a time … All of which comes to a head the moment Rachel decides to follow her into the tunnel …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? Fans of thrillers; Emily Blunt fans; those who enjoy watching films that delve into the lives of damaged characters and watching how to they try to piece together their existence; people who like stories with twists

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? Recovering alcoholics; women in abusive relationships; depressed people who obsesses over strangers; people who hate films that have slow pacing; anyone who can’t buy into the film’s story

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A film that could be best described in some way as a spiritual cousin to Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train is a thriller that delivers emotionally-strong performances to satisfy those looking for twisty “what’s going on here” tale … Even if there are times the film’s slow pace and twisty tale.

Blunt captures the essence of Rachel with skilled acumen, a necessity in a film of this type with so many slow reveals. Weaving between the present and the past, The Girl on the Train requires an actresses able to not only showcase the best and worst of times in Rachel’s life but also how she is unable to cope with her own life when she knows she’s being self-destructive. Blunt truly shows her skill as an actress in revealing and showing all of these various aspects of Rachel to bring out sympathy and empathy to her character as she tries to make sense of the world around her. 


Likewise, Bennett does an extraordinary job at stripping away the supposed perfect image that Blunt’s character constructs, bringing the “the grass is NOT always greener” cliché out to full blossom. While possessing all the physical attributes Rachel rambles about and wishes she still possessed, Bennett brings out a sadness in her character that shows how much in common the two women have. Of course, this helps act as fine balancing line between the two to keep the film’s emotional undercurrent steady. While Ferguson’s performance accomplishes what needs to be done to move the story forward, it isn’t exactly as memorable as Blunt or Bennett’s, which provide an emotionally necessary juxtaposition. The guys in the film fit in like jigsaw pieces to fill in the bigger picture, but they fit into the story well enough to hit all the necessary beats. 


The only problem is sometimes the beats take a bit too long to get to under director Tate Taylor (The Help, Winter’s Bone) as there are some scenes that feel a bit jumbled in terms of the timeline and fitting into the big reveal of the text. Other than that, the film hits more often than it misses and delivers tension, emotion and intrigue. If nothing else, The Girl on the Train will make you think twice about your daily commute, the people you see and the lives you believe they may or may not live.

It will also make a lot of dudes think twice about not protecting their passwords.
OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 

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What’s the scariest thing about the long-in-the-making “official” sequel to The Blair Witch Project? Click here to find out!

 

“Girl, we don’t mind carrying you … But the weight of rebooting a horror franchise on the other hand …” Ashley (Corbin Reid, center) gets some help from her boyfriend Peter (Brandon Scott, left) and good friend James (James Allen McCune) in a scene from BLAIR WITCH.

KEY CAST MEMBERS: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry

WRITER(S): Simon Barrett

DIRECTOR(S): Adam Wingard

WEB SITE: http://www.blairwitch.comHERE’S THE STORY: Set 20 years after the events of the original film, Blair Witch finds James Donahue (James Allen McCune) investigating something that many people have since moved on from: The disappearance of his sister Heather, one of three college students who went into the woods in Burkittsville, Maryland to make a documentary about the infamous Blair Witch, only to never be heard from again.

Still seeking closure despite numerous organized search efforts, James finds his interest in the Blair Witch renewed when he discover a 2-minute clip on YouTube in which he swears to see his sister’s visage. Meeting up with the clip’s uploader, Lane (Wes Robinson) – who claims to have found the footage while exploring the area in the daytime his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry) – James sets out to find his sister once and for all. He won’t be alone, however, as his would be crush and videography expert Lisa (Callie Hernandez) and family friends/couple Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid), are joining his journey.

But once they arrive in the woods, James and company discover that some legends are much more real than one might ever imagine …

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? College kids who have never seen the original; people who still wax nostalgically about the original; anyone seeking a simple cheap cinematic diversion

WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? Anyone who finds most horror movie sequels unnecessary; Those who hate sequels that feel cheap with weak storylines; people who hate movies filled with clichés and characters with extremely questionable decision making skills; anyone who hates a film with a predictable and lackluster ending.

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? If you were young person in 1999, life was exciting. The Internet, still developing, was an amazing piece of technology that would serve as a precursor to smartphones, HD and 4K TV, Netflix and social media. It was also the year the original Blair Witch film, The Blair Witch Project, was released in theaters to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, thanks to one of the – at the time – most innovative and clever marketing campaigns in Hollywood history. (There were also plenty of negative consequences that came from it, too.) But no matter how you ended up feeling about the actual film, there was no denying that it was a hit, inspiring countless numbers of people to be scared out of camping in the woods, more to visit the actual town of Burkittsville and spawning a horde of “found footage” film imitators, many with nowhere near the creativity or success of Blair Witch

That last sentence is relevant to the Blair Witch franchise itself, for after the undeniable success of the original film, a sequel – the awful and universally panned Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 which is now not considered Blair Witch canon – came and went with a whimper. Thus, given that the college audience that helped make the original a hit has moved on and started having families, one might wonder why, after 17 years have passed, Hollywood has decided now is the time to make a sequel.

Having now seen the film, I can tell you this: I can’t think of a good reason they should have one, either.
Let me be brief: If you never saw the original film, or really – like, REALLY – love the original film, you’ll be okay with Blair Witch. Problem is, however, if you have a functioning cerebral cortex, you’ll likely notice just how weak everything about the production is and lose interest in it quicker than the characters in the film lose any chance of making it out alive.
Let’s start with the plot. Think about this: In age where Snopes.com can sniff out every fake thing online in a moment, after numerous searches have been conducted (in the story of the film) and NO ONE has heard from her in 20 years, you are honestly supposed to believe that James would not only head out into a supposedly haunted wooded area to find the sister he thinks still could be out there?! This movie had a more believable premise. Tell the police, call Inside Edition, hit up Ken Burns … But let’s head out in the woods after meeting a YouTube freak and his girlfriend AFTER your sister goes missing and has never been heard from again?! Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, there could be a serial killer in those woods! This is the only reaction that makes sense.

Now, I’m not going to spew too much venom on the actors … Then again, why would I? You get some classic horror movie clichés in the black guy, the “ain’t nothing gonna happen guy” (who is also the black guy), the hot girl who you know something bad will happen to, the hipsters, the weird guy you just know has something wrong with him from the moment you see him and the useless, just here to get hurt character who doesn’t do or add anything to the story other than, well, I guess I already explained that role.

Also hindering the film is that in addition to a silly story and lackluster characters, the fact the film (1) does nothing to make you care about its characters – they are just here to serve as fodder for you to have someone to watch go through the experience – and (2) there are just too many predictable, “we all know that move ain’t gonna end well” moments. Whereas the first film had a sense of intrigue about it where the audience didn’t know if the film was real and what would happen, Blair Witch suffers as you can never suspend your disbelief and there’s too many rehashes from the first film that are just now, well, lame. The one development that could have been cool with one of the characters never goes anywhere – seriously, it’s like the screenwriter and the director said ‘Let’s have this happen to character X …’ and then no one reminded them they needed to do something with that plot point. Throw in an ending that is just, well, confusing and unoriginal and all your left with is 98 minutes of ‘Well, that was disappointing.’

Those are the reasons Blair Witch proves that the scariest thing about making a sequel to a successful, original piece of horror is when that sequel’s filmmakers fail to understand the difference between paying homage to its inspiration and simply existing as a poor carbon copy of it. 
OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 
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