It’s hard to believe that a sequel to Jumanji made over $950 million dollars just two years ago. With likable stars attached, including Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, and a new concept that worked, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle became a box office smash. With word of mouth that helped keep its legs at the box office through the holidays, it was inevitable that a sequel would be fast-tracked. Like a video game sequel (which is what Jumanji is nowadays), Jumanji: The Next Level is here with a concept of being bigger in terms of scope and characters – just like most sequels to video games. Does it work as another entertaining action adventure? Yes, it does. But does it reach or surpass the score level of its predecessor? Not exactly, but that’s fine.
Nothing brings family together like murder or fortune, right? Just in time for the holidays, Knives Out is exactly the type of after dinner affair you want to attend. An all-star cast featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis (just to name a few)? A murder mystery that’s not only clever, but also relevant? I mean, seriously. What’s not appealing about this original movie from writer and director Rian Johnson? From the start, Knives Out is endlessly entertaining, and by movie’s end, you’ll be asking yourself if you’ve had a more fun time at the movies this year.
There seem to be very few tasks more difficult in movie making than trying to make the next chapter in one of the most iconic horror movies (and books) made over 30 years ago, no? Not only is this a difficult task, but you’re also trying to adapt a follow-up to the story of The Shining that not only pleases fans of the movie adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, but also one that its author, Stephen King, approves of. (He publicly has stated that he hates the Kubrick film.) With King’s properties being a hot commodity in Hollywood right now, Doctor Sleep, even if not handled properly, still easily could have been a cash grab. But thankfully, director Mike Flanagan handles Doctor Sleep with confidence and impeccable attention to detail, with the final result being a wholly satisfying next chapter in Danny Torrance’s story.
Right after an all too familiar opening action sequence, it becomes quite clear what audiences are in for. Yes, you’re seeing a Will Smith action thriller, but it feels like an action movie straight out of the nineties (complete with the Jerry Bruckheimer production logo before the movie starts). That can be a good thing, and we’ve seen positive examples of that in recent years. But if you have a ho-hum story and laughable dialogue, then no amount of action sequences can save your mundane movie, Gemini Man. A combination of Will Smith and director Ang Lee not only makes for a decent chance for a winning formula, but also a comeback formula here given that both big Hollywood names are due for redemption given their recent track records. But alas, Gemini Man is not that comeback. Read more
Joker is without a doubt the most daring movie to come out with DC Comics associated with a property. While Joker features no superheroes who can talk to fish, or a failed team up of superheroes that will drive a group of rabid fans to demand to see some director’s cut they think exists locked away in a vault hundreds of feet below the Warner Brothers studio lot, there is plenty of risk with associated with this property. It’s a mid-size budgeted comic book movie that features no action sequences, spiffy visual effects, or Bat signal, and is also carries an R rating. It comes from director Todd Phillips, whose biggest titles are The Hangover movies and Old School. And finally, it’s another incarnation of the Clown Prince of Crime, whose previous iterations include a couple that are heralded as some of the best ever villain characters on film. But against all odds, Joker defies expectations and is one of the most memorable comic book adaptations in recent memory, thanks to a powerhouse performance from Joaquin Phoenix and confident direction from Phillips.
Forgettable horror sequels are a dime a dozen in Hollywood; they’re almost never anywhere near as good as their predecessors and fail to reach the caliber of the movie that helped lay the foundation (or make a profit for a studio). While It: Chapter 2 is based on Stephen King’s popular novel, the physical copy of which is as heavy as a bag of apples, it still has a lot to live up to thanks to its forerunner that was a smashing hit and a near-perfect horror movie. Based on the box office numbers and reception, Warner Brothers gave returning director Andy Muschietti more than just the keys to the sequel, but the whole garage, its tools, and anything else he wanted in order to make Chapter 2 live up to every bit of the first installment. As a result, It: Chapter 2 is more than just a horror movie. It’s a blockbuster with the mentality of “go big or go home.” Going all out to the very end It: Chapter 2 swings for the fences and hits a home run. At just a hair below its predecessor, it’s not only the year’s best horror movie, but also one of the best horror sequels ever made.
Director Jordan Peele took the world by storm with his directorial debut, Get Out, back in 2017. The picture amassed over $255 million dollars at the box office on a $4-million dollar budget, generated social commentary, and later nabbed Peele his first-ever Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Ever since then, moviegoers and entertainment writers alike wondered what Peele would tell audiences next. Surprisingly, Peele returned to the horror genre with another original idea, Us. With the bar being set very high thanks to his previous movie, the expectations for Us were somewhat unprecedented. But thanks to confident direction and another knockout script that presents new ideas, horrors, humor, and great character development, Peele has struck gold once again. Us is the year’s first memorable movie; it’s a horror movie that will require multiple viewings to appreciate its brilliance in showing us new horrors that won’t soon leave the minds of those that step into Peele’s new story.
Thanos better watch out in next month’s Avengers: Endgame because the Avengers’ secret weapon is coming: Captain Marvel.
That’s not a spoiler from Captain Marvel, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). For those who saw last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, audiences were teased at movie’s end via a pager that the “most cosmic superhero of all” is on her way. And ever since then, audiences eagerly have been awaiting the female heroine’s big screen debut. Surprisingly, and despite being formulaic, the first female superhero movie in the MCU (only took 11 long years); Captain Marvel is another bonafide entry in the ever-growing superhero movie universe thanks to a likeable lead heroine in Brie Larson, her supporting cast, and some fantastic action sequences and visual effects.
It’s hard to believe that a trilogy from M. Night Shyamalan has come full circle, and that it stemmed from his first movie, Unbreakable. Back then, fans did not view films about vigilantes and villains as the type of movies that would play a pivotal role in the future of Hollywood (unless you made a vigilante movie centered around Batman). But boy have things changed since Bruce Willis’ David Dunn put on the rain slicker and saved the day in Unbreakable. After connecting the universe of Unbreakable with 2017’s Split, Shyamalan is back to give us the conclusion to this story of heroes and villains set in the City of Brotherly Love. While Glass may be the weakest of the Unbreakable trilogy and is certain to create watercooler talk about its twists, it offers a unique spin on the perception of comic book stories. Either way, Glass will satisfy fans of the characters from this trilogy despite its cracked structure.
Sometimes, the best cinematic stories are the simplest ones. They don’t have to have a moment that defines the movie that will be remembered for years to come. And they don’t necessarily have to have a character that will be shown as cinema’s most memorable ever. Sometimes, cinematic stories are as ordinary as the lives most of us live. However, at the same time, they can be just as rich and extraordinary as our own. Director Alfonso Cuarón’s latest feature is a simplistic masterclass in storytelling. It’s a personal story about love, courage, hope, change, and home. This is Roma.
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man not only remains the most popular Marvel superhero to date, but also feels like the most present superhero we see on our screens. With six solo movies and a couple of appearances in a few Marvel Cinematic Universe movies over the past 16 years, he’s always present in a landscape full of so many on-screen superheroes. We know the origin story, the powers, the villains, and the man behind the mask. But finally, we get a new take on Spider-Man in the new animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which shows us that anyone can wear the mask. In Spider-Verse, the one who wears the mask is Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a teenager and comic book favorite, often seen as the successor to the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker. Sure, it’s another origin story about someone taking on the responsibilities of being a superhero and knowing there are consequences with every action they take. However, Spider-Verse spins a whole new web on the origin story, one that’s so fresh, kinetic, funny, self-aware and just so awesome. It’s arguably the best Spider-Man movie ever made.
When it comes to anthology films, they are usually more miss than hit. And when it comes to original films from Netflix, quite honestly, it’s a tossup. But bringing in the Coen Brothers, who are some of the best filmmakers in the industry over the past few decades, things are sure to look promising for both the anthology genre and Netflix’s original film catalogue. Originally conceived as a six-part miniseries, the Coen Brothers pieced together all the stories into one, two-plus hour film called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Playing out from one crazed, western story to the next like flipping through a book (literally), Buster Scruggs is easily the Coen Brothers’ best movie since True Grit. Featuring a collection of great off-the-wall characters, blended with the Coen Brothers’ signature dark humor inserted in dramatic events, it’s difficult not to enjoy the events that play out from one chapter to the next (no matter how dark or grim they may get).
In the opening sequence of First Man, we see Neil Armstrong test piloting in the Mojave Desert. As evident in this intense sequence that thrusts viewers right into the middle of the cockpit, viewers are in for a thrilling, yet bumpy ride about one of the greatest accomplishments in human history. Director Damien Chazelle immaculately balances First Man by keeping it as grounded on planet Earth as it is exhilarating in the movie’s climatic sequence on the moon. By showing the toll this dangerous mission took on Neil Armstrong and everyone else involved in this project over the years, it makes this biopic about the small step for man even more satisfying (and affecting) by the film’s conclusion.
Sony did the right thing by letting Marvel Studios help shape a new Spider-Man and allow it to breathe in its Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Sony is still hush-hush on whether Venom will exist in the same universe as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, it’s evident about half way into the movie that Sony should have let Marvel Studios help shape the alien symbiote and its host. If people thought the 2007 iteration of the Venom character seen in Spider-Man 3 was bad, then just wait until they get a load of this one. Not even A-list star Tom Hardy, playing the host of a liquid-like form, is enough to save this new version of the character. Lazy, tone deaf, and laughable on just about every front, Venom isn’t a bad movie because it’s so bad it’s good, or that it feels like a movie from the early 2000’s, or that it’s rated PG-13 instead of R. It’s a bad movie because it’s just bad in every way, shape, and form.