Onward and all the images you see in this review are owned by Pixar and Walt Disney Studio Motion PIctures
Directed by Dan Scanlon
It’s no secret that I’ve been pretty down on Pixar this past decade. On the one hand, we DID get Coco and I guess Inside Out was just fine, but this was also the decade that brought us redundant sequels that I just failed to connect with; particularly Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 which everyone else seemed to enjoy a heck of a lot more than I did. Because of this and the somewhat underwhelming trailers we got (It’s fantasy AND modern AT THE SAME TIME!?), I’m not exactly looking forward to seeing this kid friendly version of Bright, but that’s just the pessimistic side of me talking and maybe this really will be another return to form for the venerable studio. Is this a road trip for the ages and the sequel to Brütal Legend we’ve all been secretly hoping for, or is this a mythical folly more disastrous than that Warcraft movie you’ve already forgotten about? Let’s find out!!
Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is your typical Elf teenager; aspiring to be Legolas but more like The Elf on a Shelf. He’s gangly, really quiet, and to some people he might come off as a bit creepy considering his lack of social skills. VERY different from his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) who is basically the unholy offspring (in the cool Rock N Roll sort of way) of Andy Dwyer and Jack Black; spending most of his times talking theatrically, creating cool-tastic stories for his knock off D&D campaigns, and decidedly not getting a job or moving out. Some of his arrested development issues as well as Ian’s social anxieties can be traced back to their father who died of an illness right before Ian was born, and there’s a lot of unhandled baggage there despite the efforts of their mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus ) to make a happy home and the stern if bumbling guidance of their mom’s new boyfriend Officer Bronco (Mel Rodriguez). On Ian’s sixteenth birthday however, that all changes when their mother gives him a gift from his late father that she was instructed to hold off on until this day, and it turns out that their dad was a wizard who came up with a spell to bring him BACK FROM THE DEAD for one day so that he can see how great his sons turned out. Sure! Just ask the Elric brothers how well this worked out for them! Well it KIND of works out as Ian is only able to bring back the bottom half of their dad and they now need to go on an EPIC QUEST TO FIND A NEW GEM FOR MAGIC STAFF, and cast the REST of the spell before the 24 hours are up. Can Ian and Barley find the mythical Phoenix Gem and see their father one last time? Who exactly WAS their father and how far does Ian want to go with these new magic gifts that he’s discovered? Will Barley put him through the Rocky Training Montage of his life!? He certainly has the right music for it!
Dolittle and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures
Directed by Stephen Gaghan
My GOODNESS have studios been putting out some high priced nonsense recently! We are definitely stuck in the Billion Dollar Blockbuster Bubble where every studio wants nothing but the most expensive movies to maximize their profits, but as is the nature with bubbles all the money Is usually dried up by the time everyone else tries to get in on it which is why Disney is still sitting pretty on their mountain of gold and everyone else is making stuff like Cats and that awful Tarzan movie. With this being the current trend, someone making an overpriced adventure film about Dr. Doolittle feels almost inevitable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be bad! I LOVE me some overpriced entertainment like Jupiter Ascending and Final Fantasy XIII, so maybe Dr. Doolittle being played by Iron Man and co-starring a wrestler as a CGI polar bear is just what I need to cleanse the palate and finally kick off the GOOD parts of 2020 which so far has been pretty plodding at the multiplex! Is this retelling of the classic story the start of another beloved blockbuster franchise, or are we in for a disaster to rival even that of Cats!? Let’s find out!!
Taking place AFTER what I presume is the actual Dr. Dolittle story, we find that the intrepid physician who can talk to animals (Robert Downey Jr) has gone fully Will Wonka and is holed up inside his giant wildlife preserve; refusing to see any visitors, human or otherwise. That all changes when one day, out of PURE LUCK, he gets TWO visitors who insist on seeing him! The first is Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) who is on assignment from the Queen despite being all of twelve years old, and Tommy (Harry Collett) who shot a squirrel and has brought the wounded creature to Dolittle because he feels bad. Lady Rose is there to inform him that the Queen is dying and requires his help which he reluctantly agrees to, and determines that she’s dying of McGuffin’s Disease which can only be cured by a fabled fruit on an uncharted island, so he takes some of his animals friends (Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, and Octavia Spencer just to name a few) on a boat to get the fruit and save the Queen; hoping that once this is finished he can go back to brooding in his house all day. Oh, and Tommy is coming along too because… he loves animals too I guess? Will the Dolittle Crew get to the magic fruit in time to save the Queen? What challenges will they face along the way, and will some of it be intentional sabotage? If one of the cats from Cats was in this movie, would Dolittle be the only one who could talk to it!?
Ma and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions
Directed by Tate Taylor
The only reason this movie has gotten on anyone’s radar is because of Octavia Spencer, and frankly it did its job quite well. Sure, sometimes a horror film will pick up some serious talent like the new IT movie coming up or when Helen Mirren was in that crappy Winchester movie, but somehow this feels even MORE of a surprise and a genuine selling point. IT’s gonna sell itself no matter what, but by having one of the most popular actors of the moment (and in the prime of their career) showing up and starring in your crappy horror movie is a coup that very few films can boast, and yet somehow there she is; on all the posters, in all the trailers, and even having an Executive Producer credit to boot! What was it about this movie that convinced such a great actor to whole heartedly come on board, and was worth her immense talent and valuable time to do so? Let’s find out!!
Sue Ann Ellington (Octavia Spencer) is just your typical small town citizen. She works as a vet, she walks her dog, and on occasion it seems that she can be convinced to buy alcohol for the local high school kids. At least that’s what Maggie (Diana Silvers) finds out when she asks her to do it as she walks by the liquor store, and being the new kid in town she needs to deliver on the goods if she wants to get in with the popular kids. One of the popular kids is Andy (Corey Fogelmanis) who Sue Ann seems to recognize, and after a moment’s consideration decides to get them the booze they need. Not only that, she ends up opening her basement to them and other kids in the neighborhood as a safe and secluded area to drink where they won’t have to worry about cops and where Sue Ann will make sure no one gets their keys back if they can’t drive. In fact, everyone seems to be so enamored with her that they start to call her Ma and everyone wants to hang out at her house! However, things are not as rosy as they seem which Maggie picks up on after a while and she seems to have a dark side to her that’s just barely hidden beneath the surface. Perhaps it has to do with Andy’s dad (Luke Evans) who she knows from years ago? Maybe even Maggie’s mom (Juliette Lewis) who used to live here but moved away many years ago before returning? Well they’re all gonna find out eventually because Ma’s house seems to slowly turned from party central to a house of horrors! Will these kids learn of the terrible secrets lurking in Ma’s house as well as her tragic backstory? What is Ma planning now that she has the children of this town wrapped around her finger, and can she somehow realize what she’s doing is wrong before it’s too late? Okay, seriously. Did Octavia Spencer lose a bet or something to be in this movie?
The Shape of Water and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Did it REALLY have to take this long for the darn film to show up in a theater remotely close to me!? While EVERY OTHER film critic in the world got to check this out a few weeks ago, I’ve been sitting here on pins and needles; waiting for the studio to begrudgingly bring this film to the wider masses. There have been a few movies that I’ve been looking forward to quite a bit as we were heading into Award Season, and at the top of the list was this freaky looking cross between Beauty and the Beast and The Creature from the Black Lagoon from one of the best genre filmmakers out there. With only slightly waned excitement due to its slow rollout to general audiences, does this manage to live up to the high expectations set up not only by the wonderful looking trailers but by the ceaseless buzz from every other film critic on the planet BESIDES me, or was this a huge misstep that we’re all gonna look back on with less than favorable feelings once the hype has settled down? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who’s one of many janitors in a SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY that’s somewhere in Baltimore which presumably has REALLY specific NDA agreements as the place has been known to house strange and unusual specimens. The latest of said specimens turns out to be some sort of Freaky Fish Guy (Doug Jones) who was captured and dragged out of the Amazon Forest by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Said Colonel is now head of security in the SUPER SECRET SCIENCE FACILITY, at least until the government can figure out what to do with the Freaky Fish Guy, and both Eliza and her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are stuck cleaning the room that the creature is housed in. Eliza immediately takes a liking to said creature and the two of them begin an unlikely friendship as Eliza’s mastery of American Sign Language (which she learned due to her being mute) as well as her awesome record collection give the two of them a way to communicate and something to bond over. Colonel Strickland on the other hand is less inclined to get friendly with the Freaky Fish Guy, preferring to use a cattle prod to get the creature in line, and eventually is dead set on dissecting it before it gets any funny ideas. Eliza, along with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) hatch a plan to try and save him as does the mysterious Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who has his own reasons for wanting the creature to be kept alive. Will Elisa be able to protect the Freaky Fish Guy from having his internal organs removed and put into labeled jars? What is Dr Hoffstetler REALLY up to, and how will Colonel Strickland react once he finds out that his own staff is working against him? Seriously, who can look at that Freaky Fish Guy and NOT immediately fall in love with him!?
Gifted and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Marc Webb
Has anyone else notice that Marc Webb now has four movies in a row with Superheroes in them? Sure the Amazing Spider-Man movie are obvious, but 500 Days of Summer had Joseph Gordon-Levitt (AKA Robin) and now he’s directing Captain America in a movie about a girl genius! Hell, if he can get back on track now that he isn’t weighed down by Sony’s super petty pet projects, maybe he’ll be the one to finally get Hugh Jackman that Oscar in some heartfelt indie drama or something! Speaking of which, the indie vibe is certainly strong with this one which I don’t particularly begrudge the guy for considering he spent the last five years on terrible films. If he needs a film to rediscover his roots and remind us all why he was such a promising up and coming director, I’m more than fine with it! Does this manage to be the movie that resuscitate his fledgling directorial career, or will this prove once and for that he’s not that strong of a director even when he doesn’t have a giant studio breathing down his neck? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins on the first day of school for Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) who’s been home schooled by her uncle Frank (Chris Evans) up until now, but he’s determined for her to have a normal childhood which includes interacting with other children instead of just grownups like him and their helpful neighbor Roberta (Octavia Spencer). Of course, Mary isn’t exactly a normal girl as she has SUPER impressive math skills which doesn’t go unnoticed by her teacher Miss Stevenson (Jenny Slate) or anyone else in the school which unfortunately leads to Mary’s grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) finally tracking the two of them down. So why is this bad thing? Well since Mary isn’t technically Frank’s daughter (her mother is his sister and Evelyn’s daughter who died some time ago), she feels she can get a court to give her full custody of Mary and make sure that her brain is put to good use; mainly studying advanced calculus every day with college professors instead of going to grade school. Fair enough I guess. I mean, it’s not like she’s getting THAT much out of the first grade curriculum. Then again, as we learn more about Evelyn and ESPECIALLY her relationship to Mary’s mother, things get a bit less clear cut and Frank is certainly not about to back down on trying to give Mary a normal life. Will Frank get to keep Mary from a sheltered academic life, or is he simply holding her back from reaching her true potential. What exactly happened that led to Frank having Mary in the first place? Does anything from this movie look familiar to anyone else?
The Shack and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Stuart Hazeldine
Geez, first we had Jennifer Gardner do one of these last year, and now ACADEMY AWARD WINNER OCTAVIA SPENCER? And the thing is, I had no idea what this was about until I walked into the movie! I thought it was Nick Sparks fluff piece or something like that, but no! Alright, so I didn’t have the best attitude once they movie let me know what it was about within the first five minutes, but it’s not like there aren’t ANY religious films I like! Certainly Noah counts, right? Anyway, does The Shack manage to rise above its contemporaries and be a thoughtful examination on religion and spirituality’s role in working through grief, or is it just like every other mediocre or downright offensive Christian film we’ve gotten since Pure Flix managed to make a few bucks at the box office? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the wholesome Phillips family led by the father Mack (Sam Worthington) who one day decides to take the kids on a camping trip which couldn’t POSSIBLY go awry! Oh wait. The youngest of the group Missy (Amelie Eve) goes missing and presumed dead. I THINK the body is found in the titular shack in the mountains, but the movie is a bit coy on that detail; presumably so they can avoid showing a dead body in this wholesome family film. Anyway, the tragedy shatters the whole family including their son Josh (Gage Munroe) and their other daughter Kate (Megan Charpentier), but Mack is taking the brunt of the guilt; leaving the mother Nan (Radha Mitchell) to pick up the slack while he’s moping around the house. One day however, he gets a mysterious letter telling him to meet God in the shack where Missy’s body was found which sounds suspiciously like the opening to Silent Hill 2, but unfortunately we’re not in for that kind of movie. Instead, he steals his best friend’s truck (played by Tim McGraw) and drives up there thinking that he’ll find the killer waiting for him. No such luck so Mack has a near suicidal fit of rage and fury but is saved from blowing his brains out by some dude who JUST SO HAPPENED to be walking by at just that moment. Not only that, but the dude seems to know Mack and invites him to join his family in another nearby cabin. What’s odd though is that the weather instantly changes from the dead of winter to a bright spring day, and on top of that, the dude’s father is played by Octavia Spencer. So why would this guy played by Aviv Alush call this woman The Father? And who is this mysterious third person there played by Sumire Matsubara? Wait a minute… meet God in the cabin… there are three of them… oh. Okay, so we’ve got The Father (Spencer), The Son (Alush), and the Holy Spirit (Matsubara) basically pulling a Christmas Carol on this dude to get him over the death of his daughter by… sort of answering his very obvious and leading questions about the nature of God in a world that isn’t perfect. Uh huh. So then… does Mack manage to find a reason to live after spending a few days with these three charming fellows? What insights do they have that can apply to YOUR lives as well as his? Is there a book you can buy to go along with the movie that will shed ADDITIONAL insights and unlock the secret to true happiness!?
Hidden Figures and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Theodore Melfi
FINALLY! How long did we get trailers for this movie before they finally settled on a release date in January of all months!? Well better late than never I suppose, and there’s been some seriously strong buzz prior to its nationwide release, so maybe the months of this trailer popping up in front of EVERY MOVIE will be worth it unlike other heavily promoted movies like The Secret Life of Pets. Remember how many times they showed THAT trailer? Almost ruined Downtown for me. ANYWAY!! Will this be a great way to start off this already rough year, or will this end up being a bigger let down than the Constellation program? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins in 1961 with three human computers (those were a thing apparently) who work at NASA but don’t quite get the credit they deserve for their work due almost entirely to them being women of color. Our intrepid heroes are Katherine Goble (Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and they all get their chances to prove themselves once the government is gung ho about escalating the Space Race to beat the Russians to the moon! Well… sort of. Katherine gets assigned as a temp for the SUPER math department working with Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) who is an amalgam of three real NASA directors from that period of time, and Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) who is completely made up and pretty much just symbolic of crappy people that Katherine had to deal with. Of course, she gets the grunt work, has to run to the colored restrooms (that was still a thing at the time) and was even given a separate coffee pot to use, despite the fact that she can number crunch circles around her coworkers. Meanwhile, Dorothy is trying to get in on the ground floor of computing as the new IBMs are gonna make the human computers irrelevant at some point, and Mary is trying to be a full time engineer at NASA but is constantly hit with discriminatory roadblocks that make it that much harder for her to achieve her dreams. None of that’s gonna stop ANY of these women though, as they’re smarter than everyone else and are out there to prove it! Will they be able to get a proper seat at the table as everyone is working towards the launch of Freindship 7 and in doing so ensure that John Glenn makes it back to Earth safely!? Well… okay, we KNOW that part considering he was still around as recently as a month ago, but that doesn’t make the journey any less compelling to watch!
Bad Santa 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Broad Green Pictures
Directed by Mark Waters
Well this certainly seems necessary, right? I mean, who WASN’T clamoring for Billy Bob Thornton to don the red suit once again and try to catch lightening in a bottle twice!? Comedy sequels are already a bad idea to start with, but when we get one that’s not only this many years after the fact but also for a movie that’s REALLY freaking good? What the hell is the point!? Is there really much more that we need to learn about Willie that wasn’t already covered in the first film? I mean, we DO get his mother this time around so maybe it will fill in some of the gaps of how he ended up as a drunken piece of trash, but it’s hardly necessary considering how well the role was fleshed out the first time around! Still, maybe there’s some hope for this one! After all, at least they didn’t completely recast the damn thing like Kindergarten Cop 2 or The Tooth Fairy 2 (ugh…), so maybe that’s a sign that they actually care about this one! Yeah… the bar is still really low and I’m not expecting too much from this. Will this at least be funny enough to justify its existence even if it can’t match up to the original, or was this just a cash-in for everyone who could be bothered to come back? Let’s find out!!
The story follows the exploits of Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) who it turns out DID NOT have a happy ending as he ended up going back to the bottle and pissing away whatever goodwill he built up with the last movie. Well… ALMOST all the goodwill as Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) still thinks he’s the bee’s knees and brings him sandwiches whenever he can. Unfortunately ham and cheese on wheat don’t seem to lift Willie’s spirits as much as you’d expect they would, but after a series of suicide attempts he’s given a chance to sort of get his life back on track. It turns out that Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox) just got out of jail and needs someone to help him with a heist in Chicago that’s being set up by a third party associate. With nothing else to do other than drink another bottle and suck on a shotgun, Willie decides he might as well put his safe cracking skills to use and agrees to join him… but it turns out the mysterious associate is actually his mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) and they have a… complicated history. With only a few days before they have to steal a shit ton of money from a local charity, will they get their act together long enough to not get caught? What about Thurman who wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his favorite Santa and is still unaware of just how awful of a human being Willie is? IS he finally gonna get his heart broken by the one person on Earth he’s somehow idolized all these years? Just what kind of charitable organization was dumb enough to hire these three scumbags!?
Zootopia and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore
With Pixar not really living up to its namesake in the last couple of years (not the biggest fan of Inside Out), it’s interesting to see their decline coincide with Disney Animation Studio’s recent output steadily increase in quality. I didn’t see Big Hero Six, but Tangled, Frozen, and Wreck-It Ralph are all very strong features from a studio that had been relying on Pixar for some time to keep Disney’s theatrical output relevant and groundbreaking. Not only that, but they’ve done a good job of keeping their ideas interesting and relevant, from Frozen’s LGBT undertones, to Wreck-It Ralph’s use of new(ish) media to tell a classic Disney fable about a lost princess. Now they’re giving something that ALL internet users are at least passingly familiar with; FURRIES! Does this anthropomorphic animal tale manage to continue Disney Animation Studio’s valiant escape from the shadow of Pixar, or are we in for another bland kid’s movie that’ll only succeed due to the brand name recognition? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the trials and tribulations of one Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin); the first rabbit police in… the country? I don’t know the exact geography here, but her becoming a police officer (valedictorian at the academy) is such a big deal that she gets assigned to Zootopia; the most vibrant, diverse, and technologically advanced cities on Earth… or Animal Planet. Whatever. Unfortunately for our friend here, she’s relegated to menial tasks as the chief of police Bongo (Idris Elba) has no confidence in her abilities to perform in a job that is typically handled by much larger animals. When a case involving a series of missing animals (predators specifically) gets out of hand though, she has an opportunity to prove herself by tracking down an otter who was among those missing. However, because of the necessities of screenwriting conventions, Bongo somehow manages to turn this into an ego contest and has officer Hopps agree to quit the force if she doesn’t solve this case in forty-eight hours (I sense a reference there!) which you would think wouldn’t be something he can force her to do, but I guess she’s got something to prove and agrees to the wager. The only lead she has is a local fox who’s already been giving her grief named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) who may have seen the otter and knows where he might have gone. After some underhanded tricks of her own (hey, the fox started it!) she finally convinces him to assist her in finding this otter and find out what it is that has caused these animals to go missing. Will they be able to solve the case within the arbitrary time limit? What secrets are there to uncover in the dark underbelly of this supposed utopian city? Wait, is this gonna be the most socially conscious movie about race relations this year!?