Hell Fest and all the images you see in this review are owned by CBS Films and Lionsgate
Directed by Gregory Plotkin
Did anyone know about this movie more than a week ago? I certainly never got a trailer for it despite being a horror movie being released right around October, but then again I guess Halloween is gonna keep soaking up all the attention this year which is even leaving stuff like the Suspiria remake out of the spotlight. I remember back when Blockbuster was a thing (BACK WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH!) I would rent a bunch of horror movies, and I have very vague memories of one taking place at a circus. It MIGHT have been Funhouse I guess? I honestly don’t remember, but a horror movie set at a spooky amusement park sounds like a match made in heaven and may even twinge a bit of nostalgia or the days when I would rent basically anything in the horror section with an R-rating. Does this manage to be a fun throwback to the carnival horror movies of yore, or is this just another by the numbers horror film made on the cheap to try and recoup its budget in a single weekend? Let’s find out!!
It’s that time of year again where the college kids take a break from their arduous studies to enjoy the spookiest month of the year! Yes, its Halloween time and Natalie (Amy Forsyth) finally has a chance to take a break and reconnect with her friend Brooke (Reign Edwards) and maybe even hook up with the hot stud Quinn (Christian James) who’s been asking about her! Along with Brooke’s roommate Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus), her boyfriend Gavin (Roby Attal), and Taylor’s boyfriend Asher (Matt Mercurio), they head off to the most awesome amusement park of all time, HELL FEST! Imagine if the bad guys in all the pre-Nolan Batman movies went into Performing Arts instead of a life of crime and you basically have an idea of just how rad this amusement park is, but something is amiss! You see, among the merriment and fog machines, there’s an ACTUAL serial killer lurking around in a silly mask who decides that Natalie and her friends are gonna be his next targets. Will the group be able to escape from the park with their lives and not just because they’re risking their health with that extremely greasy carnival food? How will they even be able to protect themselves when everything in the park looks spooky and murderous already? How is it that the last noticeable thing about this movie is the guy who’s ACTUALLY cutting people up!? Seriously, buddy! It’s called showmanship, and you’re being outclassed by strobe lights and a scary sound effects CD!
A Simple Favor and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Paul Feig
I only got the trailer for this movie once and I was honestly not sure if it was a joke. Not in the sense that I thought the trailer was FAKE, but more that I wasn’t sure if there was supposed to be some kind of ‘gotcha’ in this; like with A Deadly Adoption explicitly being an April Fool’s joke despite the film itself being rather straight faced about the whole thing. To me it looked like a Tyler Perry thriller along the lines of Temptation or Acrimony, and the fact that it was directed by noted comedy director Paul Feig seemed like an indication that this was in some way a satire of that kind of movie, but it never really clued me on the punchline. I guess that’s as good a way as any to go into a movie as I know it exists but have absolutely no clear sense of expectations for it which gives it a chance to truly surprise me. Will it surprise me in the right way and turn out to be either a fun metatextual examination of the genre or just another great entry in it? Alternatively, it could be an utterly confused mess of a movie with no clear idea of what it wants to be, but in any case, let’s find out!!
The movie follows Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick); a single mom who has more energy every single day than I could muster in a lifetime as she constantly finds something to do for her son or for his school despite it making all the other parents look bad. One such parent is Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), though she has the advantage of not actually caring what other people think of her and actually finds something endearing about Stephanie after the two are forced to spend some time together as both of their sons are best friends. She’s a bit caustic, maybe likes to use people a bit too much, and certainly has no problem deflecting all of her problems onto everyone else, but there’s something that Stephanie finds fascinating about her and they become best (if slightly unhealthy) friends! That is until Emily calls Stephanie one day asking her to watch her son as she’s got an emergency at work and then just disappears. No one knows where she went, not even her husband Sean (Henry Golding), and it seems that the authorities aren’t taking the case all that seriously. I guess it’s up to Stephanie The Fixer to not only try to find Emily but to keep her family together in her absence which starts to make things a bit awkward between her and Sean and ESPECIALLY between her and Emily’s son. Twists and turns are the name of the game here as more and more information is uncovered about Emily as well as Sean, which points to possible foul play or something equally sinister! Will Stephanie uncover the truth of just who Emily is and will she like what she ends up finding out? How much is she willing to put her neck out for this woman, and will she have to pay some serious consequences for her incessant snooping? Most importantly, WHAT WILL THIS MEAN FOR HER COOKING BLOG!?
KIN and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker
Oh goody! Another film I literally knew nothing about before I went to go see it! It doesn’t necessarily bode well that I had never even seen a poster for it, let alone a trailer, before heading to the theater to see it, but I like being surprised by something that I have no expectations for going in. It doesn’t ALWAYS work out as the recent Alpha and A.X.L have proven, but a kid with a space gun sounds like a great place to start; especially if this is gonna be anything like Laser Blast from 1978! Admittedly there’s not much chance that a movie like THAT would be made nowadays (especially starring a kid) or given a wide release, but I can dream, right!? Does this manage to be an excellent gem that no one bothered to give the time of day, or was this ultimately buried in late August for a darn good reason? Let’s find out!!
Elijah Solinski (Myles Truitt) is your average fourteen year old boy stuck in a crappy situation. His mom’s dead, his brother’s in jail, and he lives in Detroit with no Robocop in sight to make things better. Well at least one of those things is about to change (no, not Robocop) as his brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) has been released from prison and is gonna stay with him and their dad (Dennis Quaid) until he can find a stable job and get his life back on track. This is proving to be a very difficult thing however as he apparently owes sixty thousand dollars to a local gangster (James Franco) for protecting him while in jail and he wants the money back NOW. He doesn’t wait until Jimmy can get a decent job to garnish his salary, he doesn’t even have some dangerous job for him to do as a way of paying down the debt. He expects Jimmy to pull 60K out of his behind right away, which I guess makes James Franco “quirky” instead of “very bad at his job”. Despite how foolish his business model is, Jimmy DOES actually pull through for the guy as the two of them along with Franco’s brother (no, not Dave) rob the safe at his father’s construction site. As fate would have it though, dear old dad walks in on the crime and gets killed by Franco which means that Jimmy in turn kills his brother and runs to find Elijah alone in the car. Thinking fast, Jimmy spins a tale about a road trip where their dad will meet them later and the two of them rush off with whatever money Jimmy could scrounge up and not much more than the clothes on their backs. Needless to say that Franco is a bit peeved about the whole “you murdered my brother” thing, and so he follows in hot pursuit looking for Jimmy and the one thing left in his life that he cares about. Oh! I almost forgot! Apparently Elijah found a space rife or something and is carrying it around in secret while aliens in Space Marine armor are trying to find it. For some reason the SPACE GUN managed to get kind of lost in the shuffle here. ANYWAY, will Jimmy and Elijah be able to start a new life together and escape the wrath of James Franco? How long can Jimmy keep up this ruse and what’s his plan once they DO find a place to settle down? Seriously, HOW DO YOU MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT A SPACE GUN THAT’S ABOUT ALMOST EVERYTHING ELSE EXCEPT THE SPACE GUN!?
The Spy Who Dumped Me and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Susanna Fogel
Another Spy Comedy, huh? Well I guess there are genres with even worse track records than that, but there’s clearly an uphill battle to be fought considering how bad a lot of these movies turn out; not to mention the fact that the trailer was kind of meh despite the film starring two of my favorite actors working today. I’d rather they be doing OTHER stuff like say a Ghostbusters sequel, but until everyone realizes just how wrong they were about that movie, I guess this will do just fine. Hopefully! Does this movie manage to be a shining example of a genre that is notorious for underwhelming films, or will this succumb to whatever curse has made it so hard to make good Spy Comedies? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) who are two best friends living their normal early thirties lives without a whole lot going for them; particularly Audrey who just got dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux). BY TEXT! What a jerk! I sure hope something bad happens to him! Well… just wait fifteen minutes. It turns out that he’s an INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY which comes as news to Audrey and left some Spy MacGuffin in her apartment which he tries to get but is… indisposed in the process, and it’s up to her delver whatever the heck it is to someone somewhere at a specific time! Easy enough, especially with her best friend by her side! Unfortunately, there are a lot of other people looking for whatever this is, including Sebastian and Duffer (Sam Heughan and Hasan Minhaj) who are working for at some sort of spy agency, a Super Assassin named Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno) who’s been hired by someone MYSTERIOUS to take them out, and a bunch of motorcycle henchmen who are more than willing to fire live ammunition in busy streets to try and take out these two nobodies when a less blunt approach would PROBABLY work on these two. They’re not the best when it comes to detecting threats, nor should they considering neither one of them have even used a gun, let alone protected very important MacGuffins! Can Audrey and Morgan deliver this package before getting themselves murdered? Will they be able to save the world by taking this where it needs to go and will there a few double crosses along the way? Will this mission be even more impossible than making a good spy comedy!? Even Tom Cruise isn’t necessarily gonna get THAT right all the time!
Blindspotting and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Carlos López Estrada
I get the feeling that as long as THE SCROTUS is in power along with his horrible lackeys doing his bidding, we’ll be getting more movies like this that take social issues head on; not that these stories weren’t worth telling in the first place, rather that studios seem to have realized that capitalizing on the political zeitgeist is potentially profitable and may even earn some prestige awards as well. Capitalism in effect I guess, and while there’s no real excuse for films like this NOT being prominent despite the problems it deals with being real and prescient for so many people, I guess it’s better that we’re NOW getting these movies in much wider releases than not getting them at all. This by the way can easily swing in the other direction if we don’t turn things around soon and the powers that be try that much harder to silence dissent (#RehireJamesGun), so don’t give me that SUFFERING AND SOCIETAL ILLS MAKES GOOD ART crap; especially when said is often more accessible to those who aren’t suffering. Anyway, with this movie and Sorry to Bother You coming out so close to each other, will this turn out to be the best time of the year to see thoughtful and brilliant movies about the world around us, or will this turn out to be a far less thoughtful and engaging alternative? Let’s find out!!
Colin (Daveed Diggs) is just three days away from probation retirement and managed to get through most of it without much complication. Sure his friend Miles (Rafael Casal) likes to indulge every once in a while with illegal gun sales and fist fights every once in a while, but Colin has managed to keep him from getting TOO out of hand and both of them out of trouble. Now that we’re down to the wire though, things are starting to get tense with Colin having to figure out where he stands with the people in his life as soon as he’s free, and how much Oakland is changing due to gentrification and an influx of white hipsters; something that’s been setting Miles more and more off as time has gone by. To top things off, while driving back to the halfway house to make curfew, Colin sees a cop (Ethan Embry) shoot an unarmed black man (Travis Parker) in the back. Naturally the cop is hailed as a hero in the media, but Colin knows the truth and the world seems to have shifted just a little bit after such a blatant act of unwarranted violence has struck his community. Can Colin make it to the end of his probation without rocking the boat, or will he be forced to do something and risk his freedom in the process? Will Miles learn to live with a changing world; especially since he has a wife and kid (Jasmine Cephas Jones and Ziggy Baitinger) who depend on him? You’d think that if you’re three days away from ANYTHING ending that you’d just lock yourself in your room until it’s over; just to be on the safe side!
Uncle Drew and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Charles Stone III
Has anyone been looking forward to this movie? I’m not the only one who thought this was going to be a very mediocre cash grab from that awful trailer with the bobble heads and the Sugarhill Gang song, right? Then again, I’m one of those darn Millennials who thinks that Space Jam is the height of basketball comedies, so maybe the lack of Warner Bros characters was throwing me off here but I still got a real bad feeling from this as it checks off a lot of bad comedy tropes. Old age makeup, retro soundtrack, goofy sports premise (“There’s no rule that says a dog can’t play basketball!”), all the favorites from movies that you may have liked as a kid but really doesn’t hold up now… except for Space Jam. Will this be a nostalgic throwback to the era of silly sports movies, or will this be more painful than if Tyler Perry did a Madea basketball movie? Well I’m pretty sure NOTHING would be worse than seeing Tyler Perry’s A Medea March Madness, but let’s find out!!
Down on his luck Dax (Lil Rel Howery) has been training his whole life to be a basketball player but decided to go into coaching after… the incident, and has a team that might just win a basketball tournament in Harlem known as the Rucker Classic and win a boat load of money which he’ll use to… I don’t know; pay his rent I guess. It all depends on his star player Casper (Aaron Gordon) who is PHENOMENAL on the court but kind of a douche in real life, and he’s been making eyes at fellow douche Mookie (Nick Kroll) who’s Dax’s big rival (especially after… the incident) and coached the last five teams to win the Rucker Classic. Sure enough, after draining Dax of all his money, Casper goes to join Mookie and the rest of the team just kind of goes away as well. Not only that but his girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish) kicks him out of the house because she was banking on that prize money and has no use for the shmuck now that he doesn’t have a chance to win it. Left with absolutely nothing but the clothes on his back and a spot in the tournament, Dax starts scouring the area for unaffiliated ball players but has no luck and is about to give up when he sees an old man school one of the young dudes in basketball; showing him the value of fundamentals over being able to show off. The old man turns out to be Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) who was a legendary basketball player in Harlem that disappeared forty years ago under dubious circumstances, and he might just be the man Dax needs to avoid living on a park bench! Uncle Drew agrees to play for him, but only if they find the rest of his old team (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, and Nate Robinson) to play as well. And so they’re off on a road trip to find Uncle Drew’s old friends, mend some bridges, learn some lessons, and play basketball against dudes a quarter their age! Will Uncle Drew be able to show these youngsters what it means to be a TRUE player of the game while also making up for the mistakes he made all those years ago? What chances do these older gentlemen have against Mookie’s team, and will Dax be able to get past… the incident? Did you know there’s a new Shaq Fu game? I wonder if this is some sort of crossover…
Acrimony and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Tyler Perry
Oh great! We’re back here again! It wasn’t bad enough that we got a new Pure Flix movie, but we have to get another Tyler Perry one too!? At least that’s what I’d NORMALLY be saying, but there are a few things surrounding this particular feature that have slightly altered my expectations; including the fact that God’s Not Dead 3 is actually not all that terrible (even if it is still woefully problematic). Tyler Perry isn’t the MOST incompetent filmmaker out there, but his middling skills are not helped by the very low expectations he puts on himself and on what he expects the audience to lap up, hence why Boo 2 was shot a mere five months before it was released and is an utter retread of the previous film. This one though? It could be just wishful thinking, but the darker tone along with the R rating and the casting of Taraji P Henson as the lead… well it could mean something. Maybe not much as this is STILL a rather unimpressive director (as well as writer and producer), but if Pure Flix can manage to vastly improve their output every once in a blue moon, then why not Perry? Does this film rise above the low expectations of yet another Tyler Perry production, or are we in for another obnoxiously moralizing tale in lieu of a well-made movie? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Melinda (Taraji P Henson and Ajiona Alexus) being sent to a court mandated therapy session to deal with her anger issues which presumably landed her in a courtroom in the first place, but she’s not just angry! She has a pitch black white hot fury more powerful than that of a collapsing star! What could POSSIBLY have happened to make her so unbelievably pissed!? Well her therapist would certainly like to know, so Melinda proceeds to regale us with her life story; starting with the day she met… HIM! Who is HIM!? Just some dude named Robert (Lyriq Bent and Antonio Madison) she met in college. Okay, he’s a BIT more important than that because it seems that his charisma was SO magnetic that the two ended up marrying and living a rather unspectacular life together for the last twenty years, and she is NOT happy about him wasting all those years of her life being a lazy and irresponsible man child that tinkered away in his workshop on a new-fangled battery that’s never gonna freaking work; all the while supporting this obsession with unfulfilling jobs and assuming massive amounts of debt. Now there’s more going on here than just a crappy marriage, especially what happens after she works up the nerve to leave his sorry ass, but to go much further would venture into spoilers and it’s better that you hear it from Melinda in her own words rather than through the grape vine. What unspeakable crimes could have happened that justifies her ceaseless rage and thirst for vengeance? Just how far will she go to get to the man who did her wrong? Hey, um… is Tyler Perry alright? He seems like he’s working through some things here…
Winchester and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate and CBS Films
Directed by Peter Spierig and Michael Spierig
SERIOUSLY!? We managed to go through ALL of January without a single notable horror movie!? Okay, I mean there was that INSIDIOUS movie but that one doesn’t count because… I didn’t see the other films. MY POINT IS that it’s been PRETTY light so far for a month known almost EXCLUSIVELY for terrible horror films, and for me this is the first one of the new year so I’m STILL gonna consider it a January horror film! Besides, that’s not even a particularly hard rule of thumb considering last year’s worst horror abomination Rings didn’t make it out the gate until the first week of February either. Will this be another entry in the never ending list of terrible first of the year horror movies, or are the people behind this just too darn talented to make the same mistakes that everyone else did? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the story of Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) who is the widow of William Winchester; the man who started the Winchester Repeating Arms company and got SUPER rich doing so. Now she has all this money, but she’s been using it to build and rebuild and rebuild and add on and then do some MORE rebuilding on here house. Why is she doing this? Well she believes that the ghosts of the victims of Winchester rifles, instead of haunting say… their murderers, are haunting her house and I guess the multiple rooms and weird architecture confuses them or something. Anyway, Dr. Price (Jason Clarke) has been sent by the Winchester Repeating Arms company to assess the mental fitness of Sarah in an attempt to oust her from the company, but he’s not interested in being their lap dog and seems to genuinely want to help her; not like he’d get away with being so duplicitous what with her niece Marion (Sarah Snook) watching his every move. Of course, things start to get strange almost immediately as Eric starts to see creepy things of his own and Marian’s son Henry (Finn Scicluna-O’Prey) is “sleepwalking” all over the place. Is Miss Winchester correct in believing that there are ghosts in her house and that they’re after her for what her company’s weapons did to them? Does Dr. Price have a much deeper connection to this place than either he or Sarah initially thought? Why does it matter if the house is a confusing maze of dead ends and random staircases!? GHOSTS ARE NON-CORPOREAL!!
Sometimes you see a movie that will just not leave your brain as questions keep running through your head about what it all meant and what it was trying to say. I guess this is TECHNICALLY one of those movies, but certainly not for the reasons the filmmakers hoped for because I have nothing but contempt for the asinine questions that I’m left with after watching the damn thing which is made even worse because there ARE no answers. This was just a super sloppy movie PRETENDING it knew what the hell it was doing and it utterly failed to convince me otherwise. Since keeping things bottled up is not a particularly healthy way to deal with something, I decided to let YOU all know what questions I was pondering while watching this silly film and how the movie fails to address them in any adequate or satisfying way! Before that though, let’s have a full rundown of the plot so that you all have a better idea of where I’m coming from if you haven’t seen the movie. Trust me, I’d rather spend my time recounting it here than make ANYONE feel like they’d have to sit through this drivel just to understand what the heck I’m talking about! FULL SPOILERS AHEAD!!
The Commuter and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Now that the end of year hold overs are finishing up their rounds at the box office, it’s time for the TRUE January releases to show themselves which are becoming less associated with absolutely dreadful movies with each successive year, but can still be considered a dumping ground for stuff the studios felt couldn’t hack it in more competitive months. I guess a Liam Neeson action flick isn’t the WORST way to herald in the New Year, but then I’m pretty sure there are people who still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about Taken 3 and the infamous fourteen cut fence jump. Will this movie be another strike against the increasingly fragile belief that January films tend to be terrible, or will this only reinforce those notions for yet another year? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with exceedingly average older white dude Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) going about his daily routine and living the exceedingly average older white dude life. That is until he gets fired from his exceedingly average older white dude job for lousy capitalist reasons, and is now facing the prospect of financial ruin; right before his son heads off to college too! Things seem rather for the guy as he boards the train with nothing to look forward to other than telling his family the devastating news, but fortune seems to be in his favor as a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) offers him twenty-five grand now and seventy-five grand later if he can just do one small insignificant thing. Find a person on this train that has something of value in their bag, is traveling to Cold Spring, and goes by the name “Prynne”. The woman gets off at the next stop and while Michael is more than happy to hold onto that twenty-five grand she gave him up front, he feels a bit hesitant about finding this person to claim the other seventy-five. Fortunately for THE BAD GUYSTM that the mysterious woman is forking for, as well as the audience I guess, they kidnapped his family anyway so he has no choice but to find the passenger known as “Prynne” before anything happens to them! Will Michael not only find “Prynne” but figure out what THE BAD GUYSTM are planning to do once they find them? What can Michael do when every move he makes is being watched by THE BAD GUYSTM… somehow? How many non-Taken Taken movies is Liam Neeson gonna have to make before they give him one that doesn’t suck!?