Starring: Owen Wilson (MASTERMINDS , MIDNIGHT IN PARIS , MARLEY & ME , and the upcoming SHANGHAI DAWN, due out… who knows when), Bonnie Hunt (ZOOTOPIA , THE GREEN MILE , JUMANJI , and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 ), and Larry the Cable Guy (A MADEA CHRISTMAS , WITLESS PROTECTION , and DELTA FARCE ). In support: Nathan Fillion (PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS , WONDER WOMAN , TV show CASTLE, and the upcoming video game DESTINY 2 ), Chris Cooper (LIVE BY NIGHT , THE MUPPETS , and THE BOURNE IDENTITY ), Armie Hammer (FREE FIRE , THE BIRTH OF A NATION , and THE LONE RANGER ), Kerry Washington (DJANGO UNCHAINED , LAKEVIEW TERRACE , and TV show SCANDAL), and Lea DeLaria (TV shows ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and ONE LIFE TO LIVE)
Directing: Brian Fee, making his directorial debut. Writing: Kiel Murray (CARS ), Bob Peterson (FINDING NEMO ), and Mike Rich (SECRETARIAT , RADIO , and THE ROOKIE ). Composing: Randy Newman (MONSTERS UNIVERSITY , SEABISCUIT , JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH , and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 ).
Lightning McQueen (Wilson) is still as popular as ever and still considered a champion after all these years. But then a harsh reality settles in when a rookie racer named Jackson Storm (Hammer) starts surpassing him in speed and starts winning the races. Sadly, he’s also a jerk to Lightning and eventually, Lightning’s inability to keep up causes him to spin out of control and he experiences a horrible crash. Though out of the game for a few months, Lightning is determined to decide for himself when he quits, not the voiced of those who think he should. After signing on to a new sponsor, headed by Sterling (Fillion), promising to train him to the point of being just as fast as Storm, with the help of the young and eager trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), whose training methods frustrate Lightning as a big race approaches that will determine his staying power in the sport of racing.
It’s surprisingly better than I thought, but… yeah, it’s still just okay. I admit that there is a certain level of poetry to see a career and proud racer learning to accept his age and growing increasingly aware that his time may be coming to an end, but wanting to end on his own terms, not because others are telling him too. It can be surprisingly brutal, so when McQueen is determined to prove his worth, it is pretty easy to get sucked in to his story. Sadly though, the movie is mired in predictability and a ton of lame and unfunny jokes. The moment a certain plot point crops up, you know exactly where the story is going to go. Even though it’s handled well, the rest of the movie getting to that point simply feels like filler. By no means bad, it’s still not consistently written well like Pixar’s previous work. While being the most memorable and poignant of the Cars films, it’s still not up there with Pixar’s greats.
My honest rating for CARS 3: 3/5
Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr. In support, we have Kat Graham (ADDICTED , DANCE FU , and TV show THE VAMPIRE DIARIES), Lauren Cohan (THE BOY , and TV shows THE WALKING DEAD and CHUCK), and Danai Gurira (TV show THE WALKING DEAD and upcoming films BLACK PANTHER  and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ).
Directing: Benny Boom (S.W.A.T.: FIREFIGHT ). Writing: Jeremy Haft (STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY  and GRIZZLY MOUNTAIN ), Eddie Gonzalez (STREET KINGS 2: MOTOR CITY), and Steven Bagatourian. Composing: John Paesano (ALMOST CHRISTMAS , video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA , animated film SUPERMAN/ BATMAN: APOCALYPSE , and upcoming films MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE  and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING . Cinematographer: Peter Menzies Jr. (GODS OF EGYPT , THE INCREDIBLE HULK , LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER , and the upcoming animated film PETER RABBIT ).
Tupac Shakur (Shipp Jr.) started off as a normal kid growing up with his lawyer mother Afeni (Gurira) and his younger sister. But when the kids are forced to live in California, Tupac quit school to earn money to take care of his sister. He started rapping and didn’t take long before he was signed on to his first studio. In just a couple years, he became one of the most controversial and popular rappers in the 90’s.
I wish I could say this movie got me into the life of one of the most popular rap artists of all time, but… it’s a movie I feel like I’ve seen a dozen times over, particularly in STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015), or in better films like MOONLIGHT (2016). While that acting is good, particularly Graham as a young Jada Pinkett Smith is the spitting image of the younger version of the real-world woman, and Shipp Jr. does bring a ton of energy to the role he’s been given, it just doesn’t do anything particularly new. Give COMPTON a little credit, you can argue that it came out around the time when police brutality was getting a ton more media attention in recent years, and could be interpreted as a call-to-arms against that kind of bullshit. This movie is just a standard biopic. Plus, I’m going to be on Jada Pinkett Smith’s side and say that it’s tasteless for the film-makers to throw in a poem that she never knew existed until years after Tupac’s death all in the name of a forced, directionless, and unimpactful romance subplot. It’s not the worst, I suppose, but I couldn’t get into it.
My honest rating for ALL EYEZ ON ME: a weak 3/5
Starring: Scarlett Johansson (GHOST IN THE SHELL , THE JUNGLE BOOK , HER , and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ), Jillian Bell (FIST FIGHT , OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY , and 22 JUMP STREET ), Zoë Kravitz (ALLEGIANT , MAD MAX: FURY ROAD , X-MEN: FIRST CLASS , and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 2 ), Ilana Glazer (THE NIGHT BEFORE  and TV show BROAD CITY), and Kate McKinnon (GHOSTBUSTERS , TV shows SNL and THE VENTURE BROS, and upcoming animated film FERDINAND  and animated TV series THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS RIDES AGAIN). In support: Demi Moore (WILD OATS , CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE , and G.I. JANE ), Ty Burrell (FINDING DORY , MUPPETS MOST WANTED , and TV show MODERN FAMILY), Colton Haynes (SAN ANDREAS , and TV shows ARROW and THE GATES), and Paul W. Downs (TV show BROAD CITY), who also co-wrote the script.
Directing and co-writing: Lucia Aniello. Composer: Dominic Lewis, known for FIST FIGHT, MONEY MONSTER (2016), and THE DUFF (2015). Cinematographer: Sean Porter, known for 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (2016) and GREEN ROOM (2016).
Jess (Scarlett Johannson) is a city counselor, and about to get married. Her best friend from college, Alice (Jillian Bell), has planned a fun weekend in Miami, Florida to celebrate, along with their other friends Blair (Zoë Kravitz), Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and Pippa (Kate McKinnon). After a wild night of drugs, drinking, and dancing, they return to their rented home and hire a stripper. Unfortunately, Alice accidentally kills the man and the ladies panic and try to figure out what to do next.
Yup, didn’t like it. Raunchy comedies and I rarely get along, and this is no real exception. Far too many jokes are sex or drug related and I just can’t laugh at this brand of shock humor when it’s been done countless times before with no real variation. Even if there is a joke done in a different way, that doesn’t automatically mean comedy. While I do admit that there are a couple legit surprises that I didn’t see coming, and some of the reaction shots can be humorous, making this arguably my favorite movie that McKinnon’s been in, none of this really prevents the movie from being bad. It’s by no means the worst – can’t be too mad at a movie that I knew wouldn’t be funny to me – but I don’t see myself seeing this movie again. Only see this if you do like raunchy meaningless comedy, but even then, I think there’s funnier and better comedies out there.
My honest rating for ROUGH NIGHT: a weak 3/5
Starring: Mandy Moore (TANGLED , A WALK TO REMEMBER , and THE PRINCESS DIARIES 2: THE ROYAL ENGAGEMENT ), and Claire Holt (TV show THE ORIGINALS, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and H20: JUST ADD WATER).
Directing and co-writing: Johannes Roberts (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR ) Co-writing: Ernest Riera (THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR). Composer: tomandandy (SINISTER 2 ), RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION , and THE HILLS HAVE EYES ). Cinematographer: Mark Silk.
Loving sisters Lisa (Moore) and Kate (Holt) are on vacation in Mexico, mostly because Lisa is getting over a bad break-up because she’s apparently too boring. In an effort to spice up her life and show her boyfriend up one, Kate drags Lisa in a cage dive to see sharks. However, not long after they get submerged and see three great white sharks, the cable to their cage snaps and the crane breaks off the boat and the three young women plummet to the ocean floor. With no communication to the surface, rapidly depleting oxygen, and bloody wounds attracting the sharks, it becomes a series of desperate gambles to stay alive.
I wanted to like this, I really did. But I do not. I honestly don’t know how this movie is feature-length. Leave the cage, get eaten by a shark. Stay in the cage, hang out, be safe, let search and rescue do its job. This movie shouldn’t be very long. But it’s one of those movies where you’d be justified in screaming at the screen, “Oh nah, girl, don’t do it!” “Bitch gonna get eaten!” This movie is so poorly written that I an curious if I could make a drinking game out of it: take a shot for every time Moore says, “Please be careful,” “I am so scared,” “No, please, don’t go.” Seriously, someone try this out for me when it comes out on Blu-Ray. There is great atmosphere, and some chilling visuals I give it that. But the story falls flat when it comes to characters that are annoying and an ending that feels like such a slap in the face of the viewers, I can’t recommend this movie to anyone. No, not the worst. I didn’t think I’d like it, but it’s not good.
My honest rating for 47 METERS DOWN: a weak 3/5
Starring: Sally Hawkins (PADDINGTON , BLUE JASMINE , JANE EYRE , and upcoming films PADDINGTON 2  and GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS ) and Ethan Hawke (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN , BOYHOOD , DEAD POETS SOCIETY , and the upcoming VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS ).
Directing: Aisling Walsh. Writer: Sherry White. Composer: Michael Timmins. Cinematographer: Guy Godfree
Set during the 1930s in Marshaltown, Nova Scotia. Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) is an arthritic woman with a talent for simple paintings. Unable to take care of herself, she sets out to look for a job to provide for herself. As fate would have it, a local impoverished fish peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawk) is looking for a woman to take care of his small house while he’s out on his rounds trying sell fish and wood. She takes the job and though their relationship is beyond rocky, the two eventually strike up a complex relationship, leading to an imperfect but loving marriage, all the while the local townsfolk flock to their home to buy her increasingly popular paintings.
It kills me to do a quick review on this movie, but I’m paralyzed on what to say about it other than… it’s one of the best romance films of the year. Both Hawkins and Hawke are phenomenal and flawlessly bring to life a relationship that is so unconventional, so complex and complicated, yet so tender, meaningful, and beautiful that I can’t help but gush. With gorgeous landscapes, cute, but memorable artwork, and unforgettable performances, this is one of those few reminders that a movie doesn’t need to have the biggest drama or greatest of stakes to be compelling, or to overly dramatize to make interesting. All it needs is to give you a raw and passionate look into the life of a woman who may not have changed the world, but definitely changed and warmed the hearts around her. And wiping away the tears in my eyes, I happily say that this brilliant films warmed mine.
My honest rating for MAUDIE: 5/5