Hmm, so it’s based on a book, huh? Never read it, so I can’t decide if I’m excited or not. Hell, even after seeing the trailer a couple times now, I still can’t really decide. The story looks like it’s about this boy living with his single mom. He doesn’t know who his dad is, but happens upon some evidence that he might be an astronaut. His mom doesn’t give any information, but he acquires some more evidence that takes him on a journey through the city – New York? – he lives in, alone, happens upon a friend, and all the while, his journey is being mirrored by a flashback of, I think, his mother when she was a child and possibly all culminating in the boy learning the truth of his real father.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Oakes Fegley (PETE’S DRAGON [2016], 3 episodes of both PERSON OF INTEREST [2011 – 2016] and BOARDWALK EMPIRE [2010 – 2014]), introducing Millicent Simmonds (feature film debut; congrats, miss), Michelle Williams (CERTAIN WOMEN [2016], I’M NOT THERE. [2007], HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER [1998], and upcoming films THE GREATEST SHOWMAN [2017] and VENOM [2018]), and one of my biggest Hollywood crushes, Julianne Moore (SUBURBICON [2017], FREEDOMLAND [2006], and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK [1997]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Todd Haynes, known for CAROL (2015) and I’M NOT THERE. Penning the screenplay, as well as being the original novel’s author, we have Brian Selznick, known for HUGO (2011), as well as the novel for that movie. Composing the score is Carter Burwell, known for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017), A GOOFY MOVIE (1995), and RAISING ARIZONA (1987). Finally, the cinematographer is Edward Lachman, known for WIENER-DOG (2016), I’M NOT THERE., and SELENA (1997).

Overall, I think the trailer is a jumbled, incoherent mess, but I wager the movie itself is going to be alright. It’s got some good talent in the spotlight and behind the scenes, so I think it’ll be solid.

This is my honest opinion of: WONDERSTRUCK


Set in 1977. The story follows young Ben (Oakes Fegley). His mother Elaine (Michelle Williams) recently passed away from a car crash and he’s been living with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Happening upon some clues as to who is father might be, or rather where to find him. However, an accident happens, getting struck by lightning, and his hearing is destroyed. When he wakes up in the hospital, he sets out to New York from Minnesota to find his father. Simultaneously, we are shown a separate storyline set in 1927, following a young deaf girl named Rose (Millicent Simmonds) who sets off to look for Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), a silent-movie actress that she idolizes.


Correcting myself: Ben thinks his father was an astronomer, not an astronaut.

I’m a little conflicted. On the one hand, this movie is pretty boring and takes way too long to get to where it’s trying to go, but on the other it’s heart-warming, emotional, and even has a style to it that I got into.

Let’s talk about those negatives. If you read my summary, you noticed that this movie is basically two stories in one. Ben’s story in ’77, and Rose’s story in ’27. Here’s the thing, there is zero fluid transition into her story. The pop in so randomly that it’s almost painful to sit through. The moment something’s going on with Ben, the scene ends and then BAM!, we get more with Rose. There’s no rhyme or reason as why the movie cuts to her, it just chooses to and this is pretty consistent throughout the movie. Even when you get something of a breather from them, the story will immediately flash back to Rose and you’re reminded of your borderline frustrations. I can see someone getting legit upset with these choices.

Also, I can’t claim to know how deafness works, but I’m calling this movie out… if someone is holding a landline to their ear, and a lightning bolt strikes the telephone wire the landline is connected to, that person doesn’t get electrocuted and go deaf (at least, not in the way it’s portrayed here)! This movie isn’t some weird fantasy taking place in 1977, it’s a drama. No fantastical elements at all. And yet, this bizarre crap happens.






And let’s be honest here, Jamie (Jaden Michael) is a pointless character and serves only to pad out the runtime. Really think about it. Ben is on a journey to look for his father that he never met. Jamie can point him in the right direction. But because he’s a loser with no friends, he sabotages Ben’s plans so the two can hang out. In a way, it’s more creepy than anything and this takes up a good twenty or so minutes of the movie. So it’s really hard to feel for the Jamie when Ben explodes at him angrily. You’re 100 percent on Ben’s side and it’s kind of a wonder why they remain friends when they reunite later on.

On the flipside, just like Ben’s adventures in the museum being a pointless detour, Rose’s time in the museum isn’t any better. Eh, rather it feeds back into what I said about it taking its sweet time getting to where it wants to go. Like, she explores the museum, and for awhile, I thought this was going to end up being a tour of the museum and expand into New York as seen by a young deaf girl. But nope, this extended stay in the museum has one solitary purpose. The curator of the museum is, TWIST, her older brother Walter! That was, what, half an hour of build up that should have taken half that time at worse?






Having said all my complaints, which so hurt the film in the long run, there are some undeniably good things about this movie that I couldn’t help but get attached to.

Despite Fegley being a pretty solid actor for his age, it’s ironic that his story doesn’t pick up until after his adventures in the museum, and the majority of the film is held up by Rose’s story. Yeah, the character with the most random placement is actually the best part of the movie. Never mind that young Simmonds is a very good young actress who acts mostly through her expressions, but the style in which her story is told is the most compelling and clever, both visually and on a storytelling basis. It’s all in black and white, like an old-timey movie. More than anything, it’s a silent film. Zero dialog, just pure score and very minimal sound effects. You know how in old films, the dialog is through cutting to a quick single sentence quote? That’s cleverly done via the characters writing on notepads. While Ben has Jamie utilize it when they’re talking to each other, I feel like it stands out much better in Rose’s story, simply because of how infrequent they are. Not to mention, the her journey is chock-full of surprises, which I’ll tackle in the spoilers.

And as much as I think the scenes with Jamie are padding, it’s hard not to get sucked into their connection. I thought the scene with Jamie teaching Ben the alphabet in sign-language was a cute moment as he’s sharing half his sandwich with him.






Originally, you just think that Rose is living with her mean dad and that she wants to travel to New York to find the actress she really likes. Turns out, the actress is actually her mom, who quite possibly abandoned her to pursue a career in acting, as evidenced by her frustration in her being there at all without the least bit of love to show for her daughter. Hell, neither of her parents seem to care much about her, with the notable exception of her kind older brother, the curator, which, despite my complaints about the build-up to the surprise, was in fact, a good surprise.

Hell, circling back to the very first scene with her, you’re kind of lead to believe that the silent-film approach to Rose’s story is just a weird artistic direction the movie takes. But no, it’s not until the second-ish scene where you realize, “Oh! She’s deaf!” Even that was its own little twist.

And the best part of the film is definitely the climax when Ben meets older Rose, played by Moore in a dual performance. This got raw for me. After an hour and half of building up, we finally get why we’re seeing Rose’s story at all. She’s Ben’s grandmother! I mean, none of this ultimately becomes a huge surprise once they start piecing everything together, but when Ben learns that his dad died a long time ago, you feel every ounce of those emotions between Ben and Rose and their utterly sweet connection. Never mind that Moore is so incredible that I bought that she knew sign-language (maybe she actually does), but you see her thoughts racing across the screen through her eyes like subtitles, but not a single word is spoken from her and it truly incredible to watch these two actors work off of each other. To be honest, with the exception of Jamie popping in at the last minute, these series of moments are perfect. Perfect enough to choke me up, anyway.






I might have to admit bias toward the movie, especially at the end, but despite its glaring flaws, I like this movie. If the transitions between Ben’s story and Rose’s story were more imaginative and sensible, this might have been a pretty unique and stylized movie. The visuals for the 20s and 70s are fine in of themselves, but it could have gone above and beyond. And there’s probably way too much of this movie that could have been cut down to flow more nicely and suit the narrative better. But I can’t ignore the emotions I felt and I simply adore the young actors, Simmonds highway robbing the show like a champ. By the end of the day, I’d say despite my liking for the movie, it’s probably not going to be for everyone. I can see the more boring aspects of the movie either putting you to sleep, or enticing you to watch something else. But I really think that if you give the movie a fair shot all the way through, the payoff is worth it. I still recommend it as a strong rental, or at a discount theater. I don’t see myself owning this movie, and probably not remembering it months later. Having said that, I was struck with wonder… eventually.

My honest rating for WONDERSTRUCK: 4/5




Man, are my nerves on edge today.

The DC Extended Universe has been something of a hit and miss, hasn’t it? People were incredibly split about MAN OF STEEL (2013). Some loving it, some hating it. On a personal level, I loved it. I thought it was a good update to a character that the filmmakers were trying to make a little more realistic. Clark Kent isn’t a complete boy scout, but he constantly tries to do the right thing and restrains himself. I loved the action, I loved Michael Shannon, it was a really good time that I still enjoy to this day.

But then BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016) happened and it’s pretty widely accepted that the film isn’t good. On a personal level, I agree. It was a colossal disappointment. I thought Superman would have learned his lesson about not killing people, but the filmmakers betrayed both the character that fans of loved for decades, and even betrayed their own established character in MAN OF STEEL. The rivalry between Batman and Superman makes no sense, Lex Luthor makes no sense, coupled with an awkward performance out of Jesse Eisenberg, who is otherwise a terrific actor, it was an all around mess and one of the biggest let-downs to an epic team-up that should have been so much better than it was. But it wasn’t all bad. Wonder Woman’s appearance was awesome, as brief as it was. Batman in action was the coolest we’ve seen him outside of the animated shows. Alfred was awesome, reminding me a ton of Bruce Wayne from the TV series BATMAN BEYOND (1999 – 2001), watching the action from the batcave and feeding tactical information to Batman through an earpiece, and the visuals are pretty good.

Then came SUICIDE SQUAD (2016). Again, pretty divisive. I thought it was… okay. Not the best not the worst. I thought Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was solid, Will Smith reliably brings his cool with him, I liked Cara Delevingne’s design as Enchantress (first form only), the soundtrack was awesome and it was an overall fun flick. But Joker was botched by Jared Leto, most of the other characters get no screen time and we don’t learn anything about them, the action is sub-par, and the story largely makes no sense. Regardless, you can tell that this is where DC overhauled its inner workings and brought on new talent for its future endeavors, as SUICIDE SQUAD was intended to be a much darker film, but reshot a lot of the film to add in the comedy. Imagine this movie without it. I shudder to think about it.

But then enter WONDER WOMAN (2017). Yes. A thousand kinds of yeses. You can read my reviews of each of these movies, obviously, but this was the game changer. It was dark, it was light, and it brought forth a character we’ve never seen on the big screen and did fantastic justice. One of my favorite films this year and arguably one of my favorite superhero films of all time. I still watch it and can’t get enough.

Having said all that, we now have… this highly anticipated film. Now, when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean that people are claiming it to be amazing. We’re just anxious to know just how “mixed” this bag will be. Will it be more good than bad? Will it be another BATMAN V SUPERMAN? No one knows but the critics know, and they’re unanimously saying that it is indeed mixed, which is a shame. I love these superheroes. I grew up with the animated series JUSTICE LEAGUE (2001 – 2004) and JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED (2004 – 2006) and still occasionally revisit as an adult today. This is a movie I’ve wanted to see for years. But I don’t know why we’re getting it so soon. We’ve not seen The Flash have his own movie, or Aquaman. Neither Superman nor Batman are well-defined characters in this established universe. So what gives with jumping so many guns? Warner Brothers needs to stop trying to play catch-up with Marvel Studios and just focus on creating one good movie like they did with Wonder Woman.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have Gal Gadot (WONDER WOMAN, TRIPLE 9 [2016], FAST & FURIOUS [2009], and upcoming films WONDER WOMAN 2 [2019] and FLASHPOINT [2020]), Ben Affleck (LIVE BY NIGHT [2016], HOLLYWOODLAND [2006], MALLRATS [1995], and upcoming films THE BATMAN and the untitled The Accountant sequel, neither film has a release date announced), Jason Momoa (THE BAD BATCH [2017], BULLET TO THE HEAD [2012], TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing], and the upcoming AQUAMAN [2018]), Ezra Miller (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM [2016], TRAINWRECK [2015], WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN [2011], and upcoming films FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD [2018] and FLASHPOINT), and Ray Fisher (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, 1 episode of TV show THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB [2015], and upcoming films FLASHPOINT and CYBORG [2020]). In support, we have Ciarán Hinds (HITMAN: AGENT 47 [2015], THERE WILL BE BLOOD [2007], THE SUM OF ALL FEARS [2002], and the upcoming RED SPARROW [2018]), J.K. Simmons (THE SNOWMAN [2017], SPIDER-MAN 3 [2007], THE FIRST WIVES CLUB [1996], and the upcoming FATHER FIGURES [2017]), Amy Adams (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS [2016], CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR [2007], DROP DEAD GORGEOUS [1999], and the upcoming DISENCHANTED [2018]), Amber Heard (I DO… UNTIL I DON’T [2017], ALPHA DOG [2006], NORTH COUNTRY [2005], and upcoming films LONDON FIELDS [2017] and AQUAMAN), and Henry Cavill (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO [2002], TV show THE TUDORS [2007 – 2010], and the upcoming M:I 6 – MISSION IMPOSSIBLE [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Zack Snyder (BATMAN V SUPERMAN, LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE [2010], and DAWN OF THE DEAD [2004]) and guest-director Joss Whedon, who also co-wrote the script (AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON [2015], SERENITY [2005], BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER [1992], and the upcoming BATGIRL, no release date announced). Whedon’s partner-in-pen is Chris Terrio, known for BATMAN V SUPERMAN, ARGO (2012), and the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE IX (2019). Composing the score is Danny Elfman, known for TULIP FEVER (2017), THE KINGDOM (2007), MEN IN BLACK (1997), and upcoming films FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018) and DUMBO (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Fabian Wagner, known for VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (2015) and 6 episodes of TV show GAME OF THRONES (2011 – ongoing).

Overall, I want this to be good, but I doubt it. I think it’s going to have good things in it, but it comes down to the ratio of the good and bad stuff. I think… it’s going to be okay. I’m optimistic that I’ll like it enough, but it won’t be good and for the first ever Justice League film, it deserves better.

This is my honest opinion of: JUSTICE LEAGUE


With Superman gone, Batman (Ben Affleck) is encountering more and more otherworldly creatures that he believes are the first sign of an incoming invasion. Turns out, the invasion has already begun. On Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) island home of Themyscira, the netherworldly blood-thirsty conqueror of worlds known as Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) has returned and taken their mother box, one of three ancient devices of pure power, and is set on finding the other two. One protected by Atlantis, and the other hidden away where no one could find it. In order to prepare for the invasion, Batman and Wonder Woman set out to find other gifted individuals, the speedster Flash (Ezra Miller), Atlantis’ king, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and the formerly deceased young man now reborn as a machine made from the mother box’s technology, Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher).


I got my wish. It is, indeed, better than SUICIDE SQUAD. In fact… I don’t think I have too many problems with the movie in general. Or in all likelihood, I set the bar low enough that as long as it did enough right for me, then it was going to be enjoyable enough.

While the characters aren’t exactly the most complex, there is a wonderful likability to them. Each actor is charismatic enough to hold my interest and I like seeing them work off of each other. And you get to see them do their thing, which is probably the hallmark of any proper superhero film. Batman uses a criminal by dangling him over the ledge of a building to lure out a parademon and uses one of his nets to try and capture it. Wonder Woman bursts through doors and beats the crap out of bad guys, while defending innocent hostages from machinegun fire by deflecting the bullets with her bracers. Clearly she got more powerful since World War I because she definitely didn’t have super speed before. The Flash’s super speed looks different from what we’ve seen in both the CW’s THE FLASH (2014 – ongoing) and from Quicksilver from both AVENGERS: ULTRON (2015) and the more recent X-Men films, which I thought was impressive. Also, it looks like he’s a lot faster than those characters. Aquaman… eh, I think we’re going to need to wait until his solo movie comes out before we see him at his best, but his look is great, and Momoa is very personable. I’m looking forward to that solo film. I think Momoa will carry it well enough. I think the two best-written characters are Flash and Cyborg. Flash’s backstory seems pretty faithful to his source material, at least, from what I know of it. His father, Henry (Billy Crudup), is in prison for murdering his mother when he was a child, even though he didn’t do it. Barry’s emotions really come through. Some great drama, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to see, especially considering how fun and funny he is later on. Cyborg struggling with his new life as a someone who isn’t an organic human anymore. He’s clearly angry and depressed. It’s a shame that the story doesn’t lend to more of him, but that’s why he’s getting a solo movie as well. I guess that rumor of FLASHPOINT co-starring both Flash and Cyborg was just that; a rumor. I think that would have been fun.






Is is really worth going through the trouble of saying that it’s a spoiler that Superman is back? I mean… it’s the Justice League! Of course Superman’s going to be in it. Oh yeah, like DC is going to let their most iconic character stay dead.

In any case, there are some fun, albeit pointless, scenes with him. When he’s resurrected and briefly evil. Specifically, he’s beating the crap out of the team right away and when Flash tries to step in to help by running behind Supes, you see the most subtle of eye movement, clearly keeping up with the fastest man alive. The look on Flash’s face is utterly priceless; the most epic look of “@#$% my life” I’ve ever seen on an actor.

Also… while I am more than giddy that Cyborg says his signature line, “booyah,”  – I’m a big fan of the cartoon TEEN TITANS (2003 – 2007) – it could have been utilized much better. How about when the team is wailing on Steppenwolf, someone knocks him in the air, and Cyborg turns his arm into a cannon, and screams the line, and fires an epic blast at the bastard?! Why save it for a borderline whisper after the fight is over? This isn’t a legit complaint, obviously, but it’s not as fun as it should have been.






Well, I can’t avoid the negatives forever. It’s time to address them.

First and foremost, Steppenwolf is about as generic a bad guy as you can get. There’s no real character to him. Recently, someone tweeted that Steppenwolf is the worst character ever and Joss Whedon liked the tweet, putting him under fire from other fans. I’ll post a link below in a minute for more details, but if this movie is any indication… yeah, he kind of is. Sure, it’s probably not the most professional thing in the world to be agreeing that the villain of your movie is the worst, but… I don’t know, I think it’s just honesty. In any case, I think someone woke up with a sandy vagina if they’re going to be spouting, “You are a repulsive person,” or whatever the hell that person said. A bit of an overreaction there. I think our President is a slightly more repulsive person. Just saying. Whedon liked a comment – not made a comment, liked a comment – that a COMIC BOOK VILLAIN was not very good. Trump just lifted a ban from hunting elephants. Clearly these men are on the same repulsive playing field. In any case, I agree. Steppenwolf was not a good villain. As copy-paste as you can get.







Also, some of the re-writes, or original darker moments are a little too obvious sometimes. I hate to swing back around to this same topic, but Superman is supposed to be a twist, so… when he’s resurrected, he is insanely brutal, grabbing Batman by his jaw. Not even his neck, his @#$%ing jaw! And he spouts the same line Batman said to him in BATMAN V SUPERMAN, “Do you bleed.” Compared to how light he is in the rest of the film, this is ridiculously unfitting.

Oh, and we really are stuck with Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor. A part of me was hoping that he went a little cartoony insane because of Steppenwolf’s coming, but now that he’s dead, Lex would have some clarity  and act less… loony. NOPE!!! WE’RE @#$%ING STUCK WITH IT!!! Ugh… as interesting as it would be to see an Injustice League fight the Justice League… not with our current line-up. It’s just not compelling enough right now.






Before I wrap up, here’s what I want to see in future films. Some of it repeated, hopefully the rest will be new. From Aquaman, I want to see a better explanation of how Atlantis works. Here’s what I mean, are these aquatic people incapable of speaking under water? Do they seriously have to open a bubble of air in order to speak to one another? Because that under water fight scene, as great as it looked, no one’s even so much as grunting. So… are they just holding their breath for an insanely long amount of time, or… how does this work?! Thank Christ this movie is coming out next year, so I hope to see this place get explained better. And dude, more of Mera (Amber Heard). She looked awesome and bad-ass. I want to see an army of deepsea creatures laying waste to his enemies. I want to see a Megalodon named fluffy. I want to see a ten story tall squid. NO! OH MY GOD, A REAL LOCH NESS MONSTER!!! Or surprise me with a creature that doesn’t exist at all. Get creative, DC! From Wonder Woman, I think it’s best we don’t venture into the past. It’s already been somewhat explained that she sort of shut down for a century after losing Steve Trevor, so let’s not try and make a movie to justify it. World War II, Auschwitz, Vietnam, Korea, there’s too many conflicts to try and explain away. Keep it in the here and now. Eh, I’m pretty sure Patty Jenkins will be back to helm the project, so I have faith that I won’t be disappointed no matter what the creative direction goes. FLASHPOINT, man, don’t make it hard to watch. I’ve seen FLASHPOINT PARADOX (2013) and I’m still disturbed by that. Wonder Woman straight up murders children! Just… no! I’ll take the ending though, taking a note written by his father to his son in Flash’s time, causing Bruce Wayne to cry. That’d be awesome. Cyborg… maybe a nod to the Teen Titans? Or… I guess, considering Parker’s age, maybe just the “Titans?” I know there’s already a TV show in the pipe, TITANS (2018), but hey, they’re separate universes. Who cares about confusing anyone at this point? And Batman… man, I hope Affleck doesn’t retire from the character. He’s solid and you really buy it. I’d like to see Batfleck versus Deathstroke. That would be awesome!

Overall, I think it’s worth checking out. I don’t think I cared too much about the problems, but if you’re going in to look for some, I wager you’ll find them. It’s a pretty basic comic book movie and I can see that statement alone pissing fans off. The Justice League shouldn’t be a “basic” story, especially for a first outing. It should have been bigger and better. Since DC has been trying to copy Marvel and their crossover universes, how about learning from them first. Don’t play catch-up, go at your own pace. But if you’re going in to have a good time and just see these characters work together and off each other, then I think it’ll do it for ya. Don’t expect anything huge or amazing, because it really isn’t, but it’s still a good enough time in my book. Uniting the League was underwhelming, but not too disappointing.

My honest rating for JUSTICE LEAGUE: 4/5



Ugh… WHYYYYY?????? No, seriously, I need to know. Who the @#$% asked for this?! Was the first movie such a modern classic that people were rioting in the streets for a sequel?! Were the producers held at gunpoint by ISIS, threatening their families if they didn’t get another team up of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as dads?! No! No, I refuse to believe that this… thing… it’s not a movie, it’s an unidentifiable piece of filth disguised as a motion picture, hence giving it a generalized name, “thing.” I refuse to believe this thing made such a profit that it warranted a sequel. No! I’m not going online to see if it grossed a profit, I refuse to acknowledge the truth!

*sigh* Okay, here’s the thing. For those of you that don’t know, I am not a Will Ferrell fan. In fact, as an actor, I detest him. All he does is play the same role over and over again. He always plays the socially awkward, fowl-mouthed man-child who somehow scored a woman that is leagues beyond his… league. I am, however, a slight fan of Mark Wahlberg. He’s been a reliable bad-ass and funnyman throughout his acting career.

But, again, for those of you that don’t know, I HATED the first film. It failed to understand that concept of a “joke.” You have to have a set-up, and then a punchline. As any real comedian will tell you, those are the basic building blocks of comedy. DADDY’S HOME (2015) failed to understand a single element of that fact. All that movie was, was punchlines with predictable outcomes that even a toddler could see coming. Hell, only a toddler would find it funny.

Well, fast-forward a couple years later and now we have… this…

The story looks like it’s about Brad and Dusty having found the perfect balance of raising the kids together. Christmas is fast-approaching, which can only mean one thing: visiting parents, specifically Brad and Dusty’s respective dads. Dusty’s dad is a man’s man, tough as nails and cynical, whereas Brad’s dad is just as bubbly and childishly happy, causing lots of heads to butt.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Will Ferrell (THE HOUSE [2017], BLADES OF GLORY [2007], AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY [1997], and upcoming films ZEROVILLE [2018] and HOLMES AND WATSON [2018]), Mark Wahlberg (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017], WE OWN THE NIGHT [2007], and BOOGIE NIGHTS [1997]), Mel Gibson (BLOOD FATHER [2016], SIGNS [2002], and LETHAL WEAPON [1987]), and John Lithgow (BEATRIZ AT DINNER [2017], DREAMGIRLS [2006], HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS [1987], and the upcoming PITCH PERFECT 3 [2017]). In support, we have Linda Cardellini (THE FOUNDER [2017], BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN [2005], and GOOD BURGER [1997]), John Cena (THE WALL [2017], FRED 3: CAMP FRED [2012], THE MARINE [2006], and upcoming films FERDINAND [2017] and BUMBLEBEE [2018]), and kids Owen Vaccaro (MOTHER’S DAY [2016] and DADDY’S HOME [2015]), Scarlett Estevez (DADDY’S HOME and TV show LUCIFER [2015 – ongoing]), and Didi Costine (THE HOLLARS [2016]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have Sean Anders, known for DADDY’S HOME, HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (2014), and SEX DRIVE (2008). Anders’ partner-in-pen is John Morris, known for DADDY’S HOME, MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (2011), and SEX DRIVE. Composing the score is Michael Andrews, known for THE BIG SICK (2017), WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY (2007), and DONNIE DARKO (2001). Finally, the cinematographer is Julio Macat, known for MIDDLE SCHOOL (2016), BECAUSE I SAID SO (2007), and HOME ALONE 3 (1997).

Overall… no. Just… no.

This is my honest opinion of: DADDY’S HOME TWO

image from: SPIDER-MAN 2 (2004)


Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) do a decent job of being parents to their shared kids. But there is plenty of room for improvement, and the perfect time to do it is during the holidays and keeping the entire family together. But the family is getting a lot bigger when Brad’s dad Don (John Lithgow) and Dusty’s dad Kurt (Mel Gibson) come to visit for the holidays. Needing to get out of town, they head for a ski resort for some quality family bonding. The bliss doesn’t last long before family secrets unravel and tension between all of them comes to a boiling point.


*bashing my head against the wall* It’s even worse than I thought! ARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!

I don’t even know where to start with this schlock. Best to just swing away at anything and I’m sure I’ll start rambling like nuts.

As per usual, Ferrell is annoying as ever. What more can I say? How many times can I possibly complain and say that he plays a man-child and he’s not funny? How many times can I say how unrealistic it is that he scored such an attractive woman to marry when there’s nothing appealing or charming about his character?

*sigh* Perhaps in hindsight, it’s not entirely his fault. In retrospect, he doesn’t write most of his movies. Some he has, such as the Anchorman movies, TALLADEGA NIGHTS (2006), and STEP BROTHERS (2008). Granted, I’m not a fan of any of those movies, but it’s still not fair to hate the man’s work because of someone else’s writing. IE, they’re not his jokes. After all, when an actor does a great job in a movie, we credit the actor, not the writer, and that’s not always fair either. But see, here’s the thing for me. The films that Ferrell is a part of have a reputation of being open with improv, so unless his scripts are open to the public for reading, there’s no way to know which jokes were from the writers and which were from the actors. In any case, it’d be more appropriate to keep my hatred for the characters that he plays directed at the characters themselves, not him.

With that said, Brad is not a funny character and he is countless kinds of annoying. Why does it matter if Dusty wants to go to the bakery and pick up treats, as opposed to having them homemade? It’s one things if you would rather serve healthier and more nutritious treats, but when the intention is that they’re not on the healthy and nutritious side, kids won’t care or notice any difference! And when you’re bowling, who the hell throws the ball in the air?! Maybe a kid would do that, but that bowling ball is going to cause serious damage to the bowling lanes. But because this movie is desperate to be more like a live-action cartoon and logic and realism be damned, there’s no consequences, which I will be bitching and moaning about in great detail later.

And to make matters worse, there’s two of Brad in this and I can’t decide who’s more annoying, him or Don. At least Ferrell has never really portrayed himself as a dignified actor with a broad range of emotion, so I expect him to play annoying characters. But Lithgow? Dude! Lithgow is essentially doing his best Will Ferrell impression and it’s painful and Don isn’t a more likable character. There’s a running gag throughout the film with the two kissing on the lips. Oh yeah, if you’ve seen the trailers, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe for some, that could be a funny one-off joke, but as per usual with movies of this caliber, they thing the image is so hilarious that have to do it again. Not just one more time, not even two more times, but as far as I was paying attention to, there is a grand total of five @#$%ing dad-son mouth kissing in this movie! Once was enough! Holy shit!

And if there was any other set of characters outside of the adults that I seriously had no idea what the writers were going for, it was the kid characters, who range from being ass-annoying, inconsistently written, and so disrespectful that it’s a wonder how this kid hasn’t been violently spanked with a belt.

The least annoying of the kids is Dylan (Owen Vaccaro). But make no mistake, “least annoying” doesn’t mean the kid is likable or the least bit interesting. The first gag with him is when the family arrives at the resort and almost as soon as he jumps out of the car, he spots a cute girl his age, Casey (Yamilah Saravong), and it’s immediately implied that it’s love at first sight. And as if he’s only ever been surrounded by ugly witches his entire life and having never seen a cute girl before, he has this near-zombified look, mouth agape and everything, with the most awkward wave that he could muster to her. Also, he is such a crybaby. There’s a bowling scene where Kurt urges Dylan to bowl without the bumpers. Thing is, he sucks big time and gets the ball in the gutter every throw. First off, it’s obvious that the actor is aiming for the gutter. It’s not like he’s twisting his wrist, causing the ball to roll to the side, no, he’s straight up aiming for it. To make matters worse, literally none of the parents step in to help. Neither taking pity on the kid’s self-esteem and just putting up the bumpers for him, or trying to coach him on correcting his technique. They just merrily let him bowl nine sets of zero, resulting in him literally flopping to the ground like a toddler, kicking and slapping the floor, crying. When the hell was I supposed to care about anyone in this scene?




And where the hell did this ending come from?! Throughout the entire movie, Dylan’s been crushing on Casey, but in a bizarre and kind of gross twist at the end, Dylan completely walks by Casey to kiss Adriana on the mouth and spanks in triumph, a move that Kurt encouraged early on in the movie. Yes, you’re reading this correctly. This kissing of Adriana, someone who has only ever been cruel and mean to him, suddenly gets the center of his affection from literally out of nowhere. AND SHE’S HIS SISTER!!! Fine! Step-sister, half-sister, who gives a shit?! There’s an icky factor to it and it’s not funny in the slightest.




The worst offenders are Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Adriana (Didi Costine) and it’s hard to decide who’s more of an obnoxious brat because Megan gets more screen time, but any time Adriana’s on screen, you just want to punch her right in her bratty face. When Megan meets Adriana for the first time in the flick, she notices her midriff showing and immediately tries to tie her shirt to show off her own midriff. This girl can’t be any older than nine years old, so why the hell is she trying to be like Adriana? There’s no reason to like what she likes. And that she nonchalantly doesn’t listen to her mom when she tells her to wear her clothes properly, and shows off her midriff on a stage in front of dozens upon dozens of people. Where were the teachers in that scene?! She leaps at the opportunity to drink spiked egg nog, again, not condoned by her mother, joins Adriana in teasing Dylan rather relentlessly, and hell, you have to watch Casey get forced under mistletoe so Dyan can have his opportunity to kiss her. Sure, it’s implied that Casey is having fun, but I don’t think any real girl of that age would be having fun being forced to kiss a boy, whether she liked him or not. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure Megan is a sociopath. Somehow, she goes hunting for a wild turkey. I say “somehow” because I literally have no idea when she was given a rifle. She’s being coached on killing the turkey, but the turkey charges as her, scaring her, and accidentally shoots Kurt in the arm. With nearly zero remorse for her actions, she then kills the turkey. The very next scene, we’re in the hospital and I shit you not, this is what Megan says with the biggest psycho smile on her face:

I shot a turkey and a man. Guess which one’s dead.

I’m pretty sure any kid who just family with a loaded firearm would be traumatized. And this is one of the biggest problems that I have with Megan. In theory, this could work, but here’s the changes that would have to be made to make it work. THIS MOVIE NEEDS TO BE DARKER!!! This is not the proper tone to be introducing psychotic possible-murdering children into a movie that’s supposed to be celebrating family-togetherness during the holidays.

Come to think of it now, I’d say Megan is worse than Adriana because of this “personality trait.” But Adriana is just as unbearable to deal with. She’s always on her phone, ignoring everyone. When she’s not, she’s either being a huge bitch to both Dylan and Dusty. Another running gag in this movie is that, at night, she raises the thermostat to something like eighty-seven degrees, or some such shit. Despite three sets of adults telling her not to do that, she refuses to listen. She waits for all of them to leave and she’ll raise it back up, just because “she likes to sleep with her window open.”

And this is my biggest problem with this movie. There are no consequences for any of the kids’ actions. The parents, despite being in every scene that they’re in, are completely nonexistent in their punishments. When Megan shows off her midriff, Sara (Linda Cardinelli) does nothing. When she’s brutally teasing Dylan about his crush, Sara does nothing. When she drinks the spiked egg nog, despite being told no the first time, SARA DOES NOTHING!!! So when she’s in that hospital after Kurt gets shot by Megan, and she’s sitting in the waiting room with Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio) and blurts out that she’s the worst mom in the world, I am having a legit hard time arguing this point. Yes, Sara, you are the worst mother in the world. You have no concept on how to discipline your kids, which is why they’re running around being both crybabies or mentally unstable psychotics.

And seriously, I don’t think Seth MacFarlane could write a movie this misogynistic. No joke, the mothers are completely absent from any decision-making that the men do in the movie. They have no say in what is said to the children, or how to deal with their problems. And before you “defenders of Will Ferrell” come out to say that it’s all in good fun and it’s not supposed to be taken seriously, um… first off, misogyny is always something to take seriously, and second, IT’S ADDRESSED IN THE MOVIE!!! Oh yeah, once or twice, Sara remarks that she had no say in the decision-making. And that’s as far as the addressing goes. Once it’s mentioned, the men ignore her. This is never resolved, this is never rectified, it’s completely pushed to the wayside because “the sensitive men just want to be loved by their daddies.” Fuck you, movie! Fuck you!

There are maybe things that made me giggle. The first, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the famed pilot who saved the passengers of his place that crashed in the Hudson river in 2009, has a cameo at the end of the film, which was pretty funny. Also, there’s a gag in the beginning of the film where Kurt comes into Brad’s house and meets the kids. He opens his arms for a hug, but the kids are super uncomfortable with it. What had me rolling in the isles was less about the context of the joke, which wasn’t funny to begin with, but rather in the real-world context of seeing a couple of young kids being horribly uncomfortable with hugging Mel Gibson.

Twice, this movie shows me something I’d rather watch: SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS (1999 – ongoing) and a fictional movie about Liam Neeson saving Christmas in an over-the-top action movie. And the fact that I wasn’t watching these made watching this all the more painful. Between sexualizing children who haven’t reached their teens, telling little girls that they’re responsible for their parents divorcing, possible blowjob jokes with their kids, this movie is quite possibly one of the worst comedies I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through. Just like the last movie, I really wanted to walk out, but I just can’t. I’m a glutton for punishment and if I’m going to properly hate something, I need to see it in its entirety to know the many different levels of hate I will have for it. You fans of Ferrell have likely already decided you’re going to see it, and honestly… I don’t know what the appeal is. I really don’t. As for everyone else, DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE!!! AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE!!! Don’t rent it, don’t borrow it, don’t watch it online, don’t waste your gas, don’t waste your money, don’t waste your time. The tagline should tell you everything you need to know. “More daddies. More problems.” No shit, you stupid-ass movie!

My honest rating for DADDY’S HOME TWO: 1/5


LADY BIRD review

There’s not much to say about how I found this film. Saw a trailer, it looked charming, it’s starring Saoirse Ronan, and it’s got some major critical praise. What can a guy like me do, but be interested? I know, brief as hell, but it’s all I got.

The story looks like it’s about this young woman and her single mother, both have strong personalities and are moving to a new home in California, and the girl is just not having it. She’s basically just trying to prove that she’s smart and knows what she’s doing, but probably faces obstacles that prove that she’s got a ways to go.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Saoirse Ronan (LOVING VINCENT [2017], THE HOST [2013], THE LOVELY BONES [2009], and the upcoming MARY QUEEN OF THE SCOTS [2018]), Laurie Metcalf (TOY STORY 3 [2010], TREASURE PLANET [2002], TV show ROSANNE [1988 – 1997], and upcoming TV revival ROSANNE [2018] and film TOY STORY 4 [2019]), Tracy Letts (THE LOVERS [2017], INDIGNATION [2016], THE BIG SHORT [2015], and the upcoming THE POST [2018]), and Beanie Feldstein (NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY ROW [2016]). In support, we have Lucas Hedges (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA [2016], LABOR DAY [2013], MOONRISE KINGDOM [2012], and the upcoming THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI [2017]), Lois Smith (THE COMEDIAN [2017], MINORITY REPORT [2002], TWISTER [1996], and the upcoming THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS [2018]), Odeya Rush (GOOSEBUMPS [2015], THE GIVER [2014], and THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN [2012]), and Kathryn Newton (PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 [2012], BAD TEACHER [2011], TV show LITTLE BIG LIES [2017], and the upcoming THREE BILLBOARDS).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is actress Greta Gerwig, known for directing NIGHTS AND WEEKENDS (2008), but has been in films 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) and JACKIE (2016). Composing the score is Jon Brion, known for WILSON (2017), ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004), and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (2002). Finally, the cinematographer is Sam Levy, known for WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2014) and a bunch of documentaries.

Overall, I’m sure I’ll like this movie fine. It looks good, interesting cast, I’m on board.

This is my honest opinion of: LADY BIRD


Set in 2002. The story follows the young pretentious, yet well-meaning Christine, or as she prefers to be called, “Lady Bird” (Soarise Ronan). She and her family just moved to California, somewhere she doesn’t want to be. It follows her life of trying to live like a normal teenager, dating boys, going to school, as well as trying to be the person that she wants to be, mostly just not being anchored down by her loving, but strict mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf).


I’m actually not too sure how I feel about this movie. On the one hand, I don’t have any particular problems with it. In fact, it says a lot about a movie where I can’t take notes on it and just lose myself in the story. On the other hand, I don’t think this is a movie that I haven’t seen before.

Well, let’s take a look at the positives. First off, Ronan knocks it out of the park. Holy hell is she amazing. One of her finest performances of her career. She brings such power to her performance, from the softer, more vulnerable scenes, to the teen angst, she continues to prove that she’s a heavyweight of her generation. It’s also one of her more distinguished looks of her career, which is saying something as she does a great job being memorable in most of her projects. The winter-wear bad-ass assassin in HANNA (2011), the 1930’s style in BROOKLYN (2015), now we have the catholic schoolgirl with red hair who gave herself the name “Lady Bird.”

Metcalf is also incredible as the mother who feels unappreciated in her efforts to provide a decent life for her family. She works her ass off as a nurse, comes home to a rebellious teen daughter that she butts heads with, it’s almost a wonder why the movie doesn’t split the focus of its story with the two ladies. Though… maybe in a brilliant sort of way, even though this is Lady Bird’s story, they still work in just how integral she is to the story. I mean, no duh, it’s about a daughter and her mother, so of course the mother would be integral, but Marion feels a little more humanized here. She works her ass off, gets almost zero credit from her daughter, her husband goes behind her back to do Lady Bird favors, which betrays her trust, and all these other things that make her feel small and useless.




Although I do have to ask the question, did I miss the part where it was a bad thing that Lady Bird got into a college and one of her more preferred ones at that? Maybe it’s because I was hopped up on two long island iced teas, but aren’t parents generally happy when their kids get into colleges, no matter how far away it’d be. And hell, I don’t even remember if distance was the issue with Marion. I think I remember the two arguing about other colleges she can get into, but you’d think Lady Bird’s happiness would be paramount in that department.




The comedy also really shines through. There’s a bit where you see Lady Bird and Julie (Beanie Feldstein) snacking on Sacramental bread (they go to a Catholic school), which I found hilarious. There’s also the acting exercises for their school’s play and one of the games was “first to cry.” I won’t give away the punchline, but… I was howling. And even some other dramatic moments stand out. Like, Lady Bird was dating this cute boy Danny (Lucas Hedges), and they really had a nice relationship, but then finds him making out with another boy. Quite a shock in of itself, which naturally sent Lady Bird’s emotions through the proverbial woodchipper. But in a later scene, we see him trying to talk to her about the incident and he comes out to her, fully admitting it. That was really heartbreaking to watch, as you can imagine being a closet homosexual in a Catholic school has got to be a frightening thing to live with. But Lady Bird accepts it, they hug, and the emotions just speak for itself. That was a great scene that felt real.

Now it’s time to talk about why I felt a little underwhelmed by the movie.

While I’m not sure if this necessarily a fault in the movie, it feels a little too similar to other projects in the recent past, one of them Gerwig was actually a part of. Specifically, I mean 20TH CENTURY WOMEN and CERTAIN WOMEN (2016), both in writing style for the characters and even the aesthetic of the film itself. Each movie is overly realistic in its portrayal of mothers (referring to the Michelle Williams portion of CERTAIN WOMEN) and their troubled family relationships, specifically their children. I also feel like both films also utilize a soft focus, or soft lighter colors. The younger characters are somehow deeply philosophical beyond their years, the mothers are disconnected from their children, it just all feels a little too… repeated. To be fair, these are different movies. The Michelle Williams portion of CERTAIN WOMEN focused more on how undermined she was treated in her marriage and how much her daughter didn’t listen to her when she asked her to participate in the construction of their home. 20TH CENTURY WOMEN focused more on the mother and her growing understanding that the times are changing and her son’s personal life will always be a mystery to her, no matter how much she tries to be a part of it. Here, the focus is on the child and her trying to break free of her mother’s influence and guilt trips, but still wishing they had something in common to better connect with each other. Different films, but extremely similar in feel and themes. Undermined authority of the mother and disconnection between the mother and child. Perhaps I would like this movie as much as everyone else does if I hadn’t seen these previous films, which feel like they really influenced this.

Also, now that I’ve foolishly looked up this film online, it looks like Gerwig wanted this to be a female equivalent to BOYHOOD (2014), or similar films to that. Basically a film about growing up, but in the perspective of a female. Um… yeah, while I think the movie’s are on par with each other as far as quality in storytelling and characters, BOYHOOD is in a different class of its filmmaking, in the sense that it took eighteen some-odd years, off and on, to make. Gerwig’s been trying to get this off the ground for two years. Don’t get me wrong, making a film is not easy, and getting one financed by a production company and released to the public is probably even harder. But eighteen years? Same cast of adults and kids, and still keeping them interested? Literally watching the kids grow up? over the course of this three hour movie? That’s… something else and I don’t think LADY BIRD is quite like that. This isn’t a negative toward the movie, but it’s a comment that I needed to… well, comment on.

Again, to be fair, between the two aformentioned films, CERTAIN WOMEN and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, and this film, LADY BIRD is the superior film. It’s funnier, it’s more interesting, it’s better written, and it’s got more memorable and powerful performances that I think will leave a bigger impact on me. Do I see this movie as great as everyone else? Not really, but I won’t argue those that do. It’s brilliant and for Gerwig, who’s not the most experienced director, this is impressively done and I hope to see her write and direct more in the near future. Whatever she chooses, I’ll be interested. High recommendation from me. It’s likely got a limited release, so it might take a little effort to find it at you local cinemas, but it’s well worth that effort, time, and money. This spunky bird’s flight home is quite the trip.

My honest rating for LADY BIRD: a strong 4/5



Please be good… That’s pretty much all I can say to this movie.

A little background on the film, as there’s a bit of history. In 1934, famed novelist Dame Agatha Christie wrote the novel, Murder on the Orient Express, known in America as Murder in the Calais Coach. It followed the exploits of Christie’s first published character and arguably her most famous, Detective Hercule Poirot, appearing in thirty-three novels and many more other forms. Specifically, Orient Express was Poirot’s eighth outing in Christie’s books. The book would eventually be adapted into the movie, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS in 1974, which included a pretty star-studded cast, like Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Michael York, and Jacqueline Bisset, just to name a few. Hell, I might check this movie out in the future if I have the time. It would be adapted two more times in the future. In 2001, it was adapted into a TV movie movie starring Alfred Molina. Ha! Even Japan adapted it into a TV mini-series in 2015, which… I believe it still going. IMDb doesn’t credit it having an end-year. Hmm.

Fast-forward to 2017 and we have, yet another, remake. So what does this movie look like it’s about? It looks like it’s about this luxury train, holding a colorful cast of characters. Someone is murdered, but everyone is a suspect, and it’s up to the “world’s greatest detective” Hercule Poirot, to figure out who did it. Seems pretty standard, but neither this book, nor this character, would be so popular if it wasn’t better than “standard.”

Here’s the star-studded cast. Starring, we have Kenneth Branagh (DUNKIRK [2017], VALKYRIE [2008], and WILD WILD WEST [1999]), Daisy Ridley (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015] and upcoming films STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PETER RABBIT [2018]), Lucy Boynton (REBEL IN THE RYE [2017], SING STREET [2016], MISS POTTER [2006], and the upcoming BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY [2018]), Josh Gad (MARSHALL [2017], LOVE & OTHER DRUGS [2010], 21 [2008], and the upcoming FROZEN 2 [2019]), and Michelle Pfeiffer (MOTHER! [2017], HAIRSPRAY [2007], SCARFACE [1983], and the upcoming ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [2018]). In addition, we also have Judi Dench (VICTORIA & ABDUL [2017], PRIDE & PREJUDICE [2005], and TOMORROW NEVER DIES [1997]), Penelope Cruz (THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY [2016], BANDIDAS [2006], and VANILLA SKY [2001]), Johnny Depp (PIRATES: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES [2017], SWEENEY TODD [2007], DONNIE BRASCO [1997], and upcoming films SHERLOCK GNOMES [2018] and FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD [2018]), Derek Jacobi (CINDERELLA [2015], THE GOLDEN COMPASS [2007], and THE SECRET OF NIMH [1982]), and Willem Dafoe (THE FLORIDA PROJECT [2017], MR. BEAN’S HOLIDAY [2007], BASQUIAT [1996], and the upcoming AQUAMAN [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing is… *double take* seriously, dude?! Kenneth Branagh?! No complaints now. Anyway, he’s known for directing CINDERELLA (2015), SLEUTH (2007), HAMLET (1996), and the upcoming ARTEMIS FOWL (2019). Penning the screenplay is Michael Green, known for BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), LOGAN (2017), and GREEN LANTERN (2011). Composing the score is Patrick Doyle, known for THE EMOJI MOVIE (2017), IGOR (2008), HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE (2005), and the upcoming ARTEMIS FOWL. Finally, the cinematographer is Haris Zambarloukos, known for DENIAL (2016), THOR (2011), SLEUTH (2007), and the upcoming ARTEMIS FOWL.

Overall, I’m pretty excited for this. Can’t wait.

This is my honest opinion of: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)


Famed detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has just wrapped up a case and is making an attempt to go home and rest, hoping aboard the luxury train a friend of his owns, where Hercule meets a colorful group of people, one of them being a shady fellow named Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), who mentions that he has enemies and they’re coming after him and wants to employ Hercule to protect him. Hercule refuses and as a result, Ratchett is murdered that night, repeatedly stabbed to death. Hercule, unable to turn away from these events, attempts to figure out who did it.


I liked it. It’s got some style, which Branagh always has up his sleeves, and some great performances and talent. It’s not perfect, in fact there are some awkward moments that are a little too obvious for me to ignore, but it’s still a fun time.

Actually, I’m going to get the awkward notes out of the way and they mostly revolve around Branagh’s performance. There’s these really odd sequences in his private time when he’s reading a book and laughing. Thing is, his laugh is, well, awkward. It’s the laugh of a cartoon character; really high-pitched and child-like. I know Hercule isn’t supposed to be Batman-serious when he’s working, but these lighter moments may be a little too light. But there’s a flipside to this coin. Early on, we learned that Hercule has no interest in seeking romance as there’s already someone special in his life, Katherine. We don’t know what happened to her, but Hercule makes a huge deal about it. How so, you may ask? He hold a small picture frame of her in both hands and constantly says, “My Katherine,” in Belgian. This happens at least three times during the movie and it always starts with that line. But more than that, he talks out loud to the picture. Not in a reminiscent tone, or a therapeutic conversation way, but in a crazy stalker kind of way. Yeah, it’s pretty weird and a little uncomfortable. To make things even stranger, this subplot of “his Katherine” amounts to nothing in the story. It doesn’t really play a part in any decisions he makes. I suppose someone could argue, “No! It’s the one time he shows vulnerability and it’s through Katherine that he learns to think with his heart, not his head.” Well that’s certainly a cop out and a little too convenient and vague. We don’t know Katherine, so we can’t intimately know the impact she had on his way of thinking.

Thankfully, the rest of the movie is pretty solid.

The first thing I noticed was how great the cinematography was, and if you know me, I only notice it when it’s the best of movies, and here is no exception. This film feels huge. Wide shots of cities that look gorgeous. That’s another thing about this movie, there’s not a single frame that isn’t stunning. With the exception of one bit with Poirot walking through the train with Caroline (Michelle Pfeiffer) where every second a window frame blocks the audience’s view of the actors and would induce a headache if it lasted any longer, this is a very pretty movie to look at. If nothing else, you could put it on and have it in the background on your TV and class up your living room.






The cast of characters is way too big for me to go through, and honestly, most don’t get much screen time, so I wouldn’t be able to comment anyway, but I’ll mention the standouts.

Pfeiffer is… well, what do you think? She shines radiantly in this flick and is probably the best character. Her granddaughter was killed, her daughter died not long after, and her son-in-law killed himself in grief, and she wants revenge. So she managed to recruit every single person that was related to her family and the failed case that didn’t bring in John Cassetti. She organized everything and made everyone play a part and everyone affected by Cassetti’s actions got a turn in stabbing him to death. That was some powerful shit. And she rips your heart out when she confesses. You really see that fire in her eyes, wanting to take responsibility and let these people live real lives and not let Cassetti ruin them, as justice failed.

Surprise second favorite goes to Gad as MacQueen. Usually, I associate this man with playing annoying and not-funny comedy roles. I can’t name more than two films where he played drama. But lo and behold, like most funny people, he does drama pretty well as the son of the disgraced lawyer who didn’t pin the crimes on Cassetti in time before the long-standing wrongfully-accused woman committed suicide. I believed that he was angry at his father’s fall from grace and it would have been a pretty easy sell to get him to play a part in Cassetti’s organization, right by his side no less.

Hell, even Depp wasn’t too bad. That’s pretty rare for the man, especially these days. The moment he comes on screen as Ratchett, you don’t like him. You know this man is a slimy dick-weed who needs that pretentious mustache slapped right off his face. But you also understand that subtle urgency in his tone that he knows his enemies are close by and knows that he has no extensive means of protecting himself outside of his single handgun. He’s clearly a weasel, but he is a man asking for help and afraid for his life. It’s not until later on when his true identity is revealed that we might actually be on the murderer’s side. Despite how brief Depp’s role is, it’s probably for the best as it’s a solid reminder that the man is a good actor when given something good to work with.

I also give some major props to the writing in that, despite most of the characters not getting much screen time, I find it bizarre that I can still identify most their connections to the child that was murdered prior to the story. Caroline was the mother, MacQueen was the son of the disgraced lawyer, Dragomiroff (Judi Dench) was the godmother, Hardman (Dafoe) was the lover of the accused woman who committed suicide, Pilar (Penelope Cruz) was the girl’s nanny, Elena (Boynton) was the older sister, and Doctoqr Arbuthnot (Odom Jr.) was a war friend of her father’s. The only characters whose connections I didn’t remember were Mary (Daisy Ridley), Edward (Derek Jacobi), Count Rudolf (Sergei Polunin), and Hildegarde (Olivia Colman). I know there were others, but I don’t even remember their character names, let alone much else. But I’m surprised I remembered that much about them. Usually, movies like these, the details go over my head faster than a bullet leaves the barrel of a gun, so I was impressed enough.






While this isn’t necessarily a complaint toward the movie, I do think you should go in with a certain mind-set. What I mean is, if you’re anything like me, and you like “whodunnit” stories and you actually like to sit with the detective and figure out who did it as they do, then you might be a tad disappointed. While the movie as a narrative flows swimmingly enough, if you wanted the movie to take a breather and let you try and figure out who did it with Poirot, then the movie is a little too fast-paced for that. When he finds a clue, he knows exactly what questions to ask and knows exactly where to find answers. In that sense, the fun is a little stale and you have to go in knowing that this movie is self-contained and won’t engage audiences that effectively.

Overall, I can’t say that I’d see this movie too many more times in future, or certainly not owning it on Blu-Ray, but I had a fun time with my one view, so I am going to recommend it as a matinee screening, or a very strong rental. It’s visually appealing to look at, the sets are gorgeous, the cinematography incredible, the performances solid, and the characters largely memorable. But because I couldn’t engage in the story and figure out the mystery with the Poirot, the fun is hampered, and being the reason why repeat viewings would be vastly limited. Still, I enjoyed myself and think it’s worth a watch.

My honest rating for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017): 4/5



Back to back roles of playing servicemen of some kind, eh, Miles Teller?

Based on true events, it follows a group of men in the military who return home from Iraq and struggle with PTSD, readjusting to their home lives. It sounds pretty standard as this isn’t an idea that hasn’t been tackled before. Having said that, it’s probably going to be decently acted.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Miles Teller (ONLY THE BRAVE [2017], DIVERGENT [2014], and 21 & OVER [2013]), Haley Bennett (RULES DON’T APPLY [2016], THE EQUALIZER [2014], and MUSIC AND LYRICS [2007]), and Beulah Koale (6 episodes of TV show HAWAII FIVE-0 [2010 – ongoing]). In support, we have Amy Schumer (SNATCHED [2017], TRAINWRECK [2015], and SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD [2012]), Brad Beyer (42 [2013], THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER [1999], and TV show JERICHO [2006 – 2008]), Joe Cole (WOODSHOCK [2017], GREEN ROOM [2016], and SECRET IN THEIR EYES [2015]), Keisha Castle-Hughes (STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH [2005] and WHALE RIDER [2002]), and Kerry Cahill (FREE STATE OF JONES [2016], TERMINATOR: GENISYS [2015], and SNITCH [2013]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Jason Hall, making his directorial debut as a director, but he’s previously written AMERICAN SNIPER (2014) and PARANOIA (2013). Composing the score is Thomas Newman, known for VICTORIA & ABDUL (2017), JARHEAD (2005), and PHENOMENON (1996). Finally, the cinematographer is Roman Vasyanov, known for THE WALL (2017), FURY (2014), and END OF WATCH (2012).

Overall, this is probably going to be pretty good, so I remain optimistic.

This is my honest opinion of: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE


Set in 2008. Adam Schumann (Miles Teller), Solo (Beulah Koale), and Billy Waller (Joe Cole) are army veterans who just came back from Iraq. Adam pretends that he’s okay coming home to his wife Saskia (Haley Bennett), his daughter, and their infant son, but he’s struggling with what he’s experienced overseas. Solo’s girlfriend is pregnant with their first kid and he struggles with hallucinations and reverting back to his past drug addiction. Billy’s girlfriend took all their furniture, leaving him with nothing, and shoots himself in the head right in front of her at her work. Adam and Solo continue to seek help for their trauma, but things are never that easy, and their reactions aren’t always the best choices.


I think I’m still processing it for the most part. I think my true feelings about the film will be spewed out in the review as I write it. As it stands though, it’s a very interesting take on a topic that’s been done before and I learned a thing or two, which is probably one of the more important aspects this movie gets right: education for the uninformed.

So as per usual, Teller delivers a solid performance. He’s engaging, nuanced, delivers a likability to Adam Schumann, he’s pretty good. Adam comes home and at first, you think he’s adjusting well enough, doing the typical thing. Spending time with his family, going to the bar with his boys and blowing off steam, making laughable asses of themselves. But the more the movie unravels, you see that it’s all an act. He has suicidal thoughts, wishing he was dead, but you would never really get his feelings as you see him playing with his daughter. And if there’s anyone that delivers an equally solid performance is Koale for his role as Solo (apologies for not knowing the man’s full name). If Adam suffers from more subtle PTSD, then Solo suffers worse. Whereas Adam just has dreams reliving the worst of his experiences, Solo has hallucinations, mood swings, even violent outbursts. And because we learned that he was a former drug addict prior to his service in the military, it doesn’t become a shock when he starts to relapse. And it’s not as simple as just having that urge either. He tries seeking help, but it’s constantly not granted, so in spite of how heartbreaking it is, you get why.

That’s another thing that I really appreciated about this film. Very little is sugar-coated. This isn’t a story about soldiers coming home and denying that they’re traumatized with rage outbursts, screaming that they’re okay and they don’t need help until the very end of the movie. No, this is the story of soldiers who know they’re messed up in the head and actively seek and want help, especially after their friend and comrade, Billy, commits suicide. Thing is, the help is denied to them. Not because they system is being run by sick assholes who don’t give a shit about them, but rather this film acknowledges that the system is just overbooked. Thousands upon thousands of war veterans seek help every day from all over the country and the system just can’t help them all.

Oh, and bar none, even though she’s only in a support role, this is Schumer’s best performance in her entire career. How she got to be a part of this project, I’m positive I don’t know, but that she’s here and does a solid job is not an unwelcomed sight.




If I had a complaint about the film, and I genuinely do, it’s how Adam’s trauma is presented. We know half of it is because Michael Emory (Scott Haze) was shot in head, the bullet taking two inches off his brain, and as Adam tries to carry him down a flight of stairs, he accidentally drops him and nearly kills him. The other half is when James Doster (Brad Beyer) tells Adam to stay behind and he take his place on his rounds to Adam can talk to his wife, Doster is instead killed in action from an explosive and Solo unknowingly blamed Adam out loud to him. I Neither reason is bad or doesn’t make sense, but what doesn’t make sense is this: why are they particular shocks to us?

Here, let me explain. The opening sequence of the film is the aforementioned Adam accidentally dropping Emory. We largely assume for the entire story that this is the reason why he’s traumatized. But we don’t learn about the circumstances of Doster’s death and its effect on Adam until the end of the film. Why? I simply do not believe that the causes of PTSD should be treated like some big dramatic twist. Neither explanation is any more or less dramatic for Adam’s trauma, so why treat one reason that way over the other?

If I were to change anything, I would say that in order to maximize the shock or empathetic value of Adam’s trauma, either explain it by revealing both reasons in the beginning, or save them for the third act. If the movie wants us to understand what Adam is going through and why he’s reacting the way he does, then put all the cards on the table in the beginning and let the events unfold as they may. Or the movie can have the audience be like Saskia and keep us in the dark as to why he’s traumatized until later on for the big reveal, showing us the events themselves. As it stands, it feels odd and I didn’t agree with the choice.




Overall, this movie is good. It’s an eye-opener and even a little hard to sit through knowing certain facts about the realities of war vets with PTSD. But it’s effective and provides a level of understanding that many may not have. It’s a respectable film and it’s very much worth watching. I question the placement of certain events in the story, but I do recommend the film. It’s an important one, in my opinion.

My honest rating for THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE: it’s a must-see



Alright, so a little back story. And since it was best explained on its Wikipedia page, I’ll just copy the information provided there.

“The Yarnell Hill Fire was a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona, ignited by lightning on June 28, 2013. On June 30, it overran and killed 19 City of Prescott firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. It was the third deadliest U.S. wildfire since the 1991 East Bay Hills fire, which killed 25 people; and the 2017 Northern California wildfires, which killed over 40, the deadliest wildland fire for U.S. firefighters since the 1933 Griffith Park Fire, which killed 29; and the deadliest incident of any kind for U.S. firefighters since the September 11, 2001, attacks, which killed 343. It is the sixth-deadliest American firefighter disaster overall and the deadliest wildfire ever in Arizona.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarnell_Hill_Fire

As I understand it, of the twenty firefighters that were involved, there was only one survivor. This film is essentially dedicated to those men who gave their lives.

On a personal level, I’ve never heard of this event. What can I say? I don’t watch the news. And weirdly enough, I’ve actually not seen a trailer for the film. I have no idea how I managed that. I guess weeks of not seeing as many films, I’ll end up missing a few trailers. All I know is that it’s got some great reviews and ratings, so it’s probably a safe bet to assume it’s good.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Miles Teller (BLEED FOR THIS [2016], WHIPLASH [2014], and FOOTLOOSE [2011]), Josh Brolin (HAIL, CAESAR! [2016], NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN [2007], MIMIC [1997], and upcoming films SOLDAD [2018] and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]), Jeff Bridges (KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE [2017], SEABISCUIT [2003], and TRON [1982]), Taylor Kitsch (AMERICAN ASSASSIN [2017], SAVAGES [2012], and THE COVENANT [2006]), and Geoff Stults (UNFORGETTABLE [2017], and TV shows ENLISTED [2014] and THE FINDER [2012]). In support, we have Jennifer Connelly (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017], RESERVATION ROAD [2007], THE ROCKETEER [1991], and upcoming film ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL [2018] and TV show SNOWPIERCER [2018]) and Andie MacDowell (MAGIC MIKE XXL [2015], BARNYARD [2006], and GROUNDHOG DAY [1993]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Joseph Kosinski, known for OBLIVION (2013) and TRON: LEGACY (2010). Penning the screenplay are Ken Nolan (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT [2017] and BLACK HAWK DOWN [2001]) and Eric Warren Singer (AMERICAN HUSTLE [2013] and THE INTERNATIONAL [2009]). Composing the score is Joseph Trapanese, known for ALLEGIANT (2016), EARTH TO ECHO (2014), and THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011). Finally, the cinematographer is Claudio Miranda, known for TOMORROWLAND (2015), LIFE OF PI (2012), FAILURE TO LAUNCH (2006), and the upcoming 100 YEARS (2115).

Overall, I’m actually very interested in seeing this.

This is my honest opinion of: ONLY THE BRAVE


Set in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 2013. The story follows firefighters, specifically rookie Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), and veteran Eric “Supes” Marsh (Josh Brolin). Brendan was once a loser drug user who eventually had himself a daughter and decided to get his life in order and become a firefighter. Eric is a no nonsense kind of leader who wants his crew to be hotshots, the firefighters that fight the fires head-on, rather than play support, which his men have been primarily relegated to for four years. But pulling some strings, he and his crew are given the chance they’ve been wanting and pull it off. Traveling the country, making a name for themselves as local heroes, the day comes when Yarnell Hill Fire shows up.


This is a powerful movie, probably one of the better ones this year. Powerful enough to make me cry. Yup, it’s that good.

For those of you that don’t know, I think crying during a movie is the most incredible experience anyone can have. It means you found something to emotionally invest in. The characters were so well-written to your taste that when something tragic or triumphant happens, you respectively cried in sadness or happiness. The rawest and most honest of emotions. That’s how you know you aren’t just watching a movie. You’re watching something real. Something that made you feel or think. In the end, isn’t that was great art is?

But enough sap. This is probably one of the best performances I’ve seen out of Teller. Brendan is clearly a well-meaning young man who’s made some awful decisions and is trying to turn it all around for the sake of his daughter. He’s clearly out of his element in just about every sense of the word, being pushed so far as to vomit because of how much he’s pushed himself physically. But for as many stumbles and mistakes as he makes, he does eventually make his way to being an equal in the group. He makes friends, earns respect, and becomes a vital and integral member of the team and really puts forth the effort in being a supporting father to his daughter. Effort that isn’t ignored and his baby mama Natalie (Natalie Hall) and his own mother (Rachel Singer) see the changes he’s made. What I find refreshing is that there’s no scene where either Natalie or Brendan’s mother take a beat to say, “I’m so proud of how much you’ve changed,” or anything like that. It’s almost like the movie knows that cliché would happen, but decides to skip it and let the reality sink in and show that side of Brendan’s life as a unified front. The simple visual alone is enough to know that they had that talk anyway. No use wasting everyone’s time by actually filming it. And it is just me, or does Teller look skinnier than usual? I mean, it’s not like he’s had a career playing beefcakes, and I sure don’t want to make it sound like he looks anorexic or anything, but he looks pretty skinny in this movie. This is by no means a flaw. In fact, it adds a real level of realism to the role. Brendan was a drug user, and a slacker with no motivation in his life, so I can imagine that he wouldn’t look very toned, muscle-wise. It also makes almost a haunting kind of sense when he’s out for that jog when he’s recruited and he’s keeling over vomiting his guts out. It’s an interesting detail that I noticed.

But of course, none of that goodwill and hard work would have been possible for Brendan if he wasn’t given that chance, and that’s all thanks to Supes. He’s a loving husband to the impossibly gorgeous Amanda. Or am I referring to Jennifer Connolly? It’s hard to tell. Anyway, they are very in love, but like any married couple when both parties have wills stronger than graphene, they butt heads. Hard. When he makes a decision that she disagrees with, she’s not subtle, or calm about it. She’s not afraid to raise her voice, or full on scream at him. And he doesn’t try to diffuse the situation. Nope, she raises her voice, he matches it with equal ferocity. Also like any other couple, they are quick to acknowledge what they did wrong and try to correct it, know when they say something stupid and want to make up for it, and ultimately remain a functioning, supportive couple. But then again, you can totally make the argument that he’s only this way because of his own past, which he is deeply ashamed of, making for some surprisingly vulnerable scenes despite Supes’ gruff and authoritative demeanor.

But honestly, as great as the core cast is, my absolute favorite performance has to go to Connolly. Perhaps it’s simply because she hasn’t had this good of a performance in years. Hell, the last great and memorable performance that comes to my mind is BLOOD DIAMOND (2006). Which is a shame because she is such a terrific actress, but few movies under her belt truly do her justice. I mean, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008)? HULK (2003)? Come on, Hollywood, don’t do that to her. She’s way too good for that shit. But enough gushing, there is a serious fire and passion in her performance. Amanda is a naturally loving and supportive wife, but that’s not to say that she doesn’t wish for something a little easier. She’s practically a single woman while her husband is off around the country fighting fires. It’s a very complex set of emotions going through her and she knows she can’t full-on tell him to quit his job because that wouldn’t be fair, plus, she knows that this job means the world to him. Still, she’s a married woman with a husband who’s barely around, so you can still get an idea as to why she feels this way and it’s hard to argue with her. But more than anything, acting or not, Connelly is scary when she’s mad, so… note to self. Don’t make her mad.

The rest of the support does pretty well too. You do feel a genuine sense of comradery within the hotshots. They joke around, give each other shit, get maybe a little misogynistic, but you know that they’re good men at heart who know their jobs and do it well, making it a legitimate heartbreak when the inevitable happens. As I said, I did cry a little.

But I guess with a movie based on a true story, it’s probably best to question how accurate the movie is to the real thing. I’ll post a link to the best article I could find regarding the film, but I’ll try to sum it up as best I can.


The short answer would be, where it counts. For much of the film’s runtime, it’s more about the creation of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and their certification, and a lot of that was fabricated. But as for the day of the Yarnell Hill Fire itself, it sticks to the facts. As for the before and after, it gets a little loosey goosey. For example, there’s a scene where Brendan wants to step away from the Granite Mountain Hotshots and be in a safer environment to be closer to his daughter and give her the attention he wants to give. However, when he confronts Supes with the notion, the movie portrays him as hostile, reacting negatively. In real life, to my understanding, the real man was supportive right out of the gate. Even for dramatic purposes, that seems a little odd to throw in that level of unlikability for the man. Even if it is explained why in the next scene, it’s not true to the man himself, which doesn’t feel very respectful. But then again, the movie is accurate enough to shed light on Supes’ dark past as a substance abuser, same with Brendan’s. Even down to little details, like Christopher MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) being the guy who took the pictures for the crew. As previously mentioned, it seems odd why details like that were faithfully enacted for the film, but character traits and personalities, the cornerstone for any portrayal of someone on screen, is messed around with. There’s also a lot about how the families of the hotshots who financially struggled after the event, but I think that’s another story altogether and this movie wanted to keeps its focus on the men, rather than the backlash. Though, now that I’m thinking about it, that does seem particularly questionable why the filmmakers would leave that out. I think even a post-movie text would have been fine enough. After all, these men didn’t exist just to die doing their jobs. They had families, wives, and children, and it’s kind of a shame that the movie only focuses on two men in depth. But I guess that’s what documentaries are for. In any case, the article I posted above goes into a little more detail about the facts and fiction. I recommend giving it a glance. It’s pretty interesting.

While it’s a shame that the movie wasn’t all-encompassing with the men of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, giving each of them more time in the sun, the movie could have shown a greater lack of respect had they completely fabricated the Yarnell Hill Fire itself. And in the end, especially for anyone who’s like myself and not always aware of current events, this is probably one of the most powerful ways to be made aware. And ultimately, it shows respect for the men themselves and that can arguably be the most important aspect to get right. Equally important, the film is a fascinating look into the lives of firefighters, their specific jobs, the numerous ways in which they deal with fires, it’s pretty damn interesting. But on the dramatic side, it’s intense, engaging, and almost portrays wildfires into horror monsters. I can definitely see someone losing sleep over this, but I mean that in the best way. This movie will renew your respect for the brave men and women that do this every day. I highly recommend this film to everyone. It has fantastic performances, intense and horrific imagery, but it’s a fantastic film that will make you feel. The Granite Mountain Hotshots will never be forgotten.

My honest opinion for ONLY THE BRAVE: It’s a must see.