King Richard and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green
Well Concussion didn’t get him an Oscar, so now it’s time for Will Smith to get back on that horse and work his butt off in a drama to try and get the Academy’s attention! To me though, his movies where he went chasing that Oscar gold are some of his least interesting. I still need to see Ali at some point so perhaps that’s the exception that proves the rule, but for my money, his best work in recent years have been in his more action-heavy features like Gemini Man and Bad Boys For Life which on the surface seem like run of the mill popcorn flicks but have quite a bit of depth to them that allow Smith to really stretch those acting muscles. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be one of those as I’m pretty sure Serena and Venus didn’t moonlight as secret agents, but the trailers look promising and Smith is definitely putting his all into the role. Is this the film to finally get Will the award he’s been seeking, or is this just another piece of Oscar Bait Pablum that we’ll all forget about by next year? Let’s find out!!
Richard Williams (Will Smith) is the proud patriarch of the Williams family in Compton California. He has a loving wife (Aunjanue Ellis) as well as five daughters; two of whom are Venus and Serena (Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton) who will become two of the greatest tennis players of all time. That’s not just me saying that because I know the history, that’s Richard’s plan from the day they were born; to teach them to be strong, smart, and well-rounded women, while also training them relentlessly to become tennis superstars. He has to knock on a lot of doors, ruffle a few feathers, and take on many jobs to keep this plan on track, but come hell or high water they WILL succeed and become the best there ever was! Of course, with such a narrowly focused vision, he’s bound to miss some things along the way; not just the people showing him the path to success, but his own family who are certainly behind this dream but are the last people to hear about what the next step in the plan is. Is this strong-willed approach from Richard just covering up his own insecurities about himself, or is the system so corrupt that he has to forge his own path for his girls? What will the tennis world do in response to these two out of nowhere prodigies showing up on the scene, and can Venus and Serena live up to the lofty expectations of their family? Are we sure this movie was written by Richard Williams himself? It just seems like something the character in this movie would end up writing.
Bad Boys for Life and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah
As I’m sure is true for many film fans out there, Michael Bay and I have a complicated relationship. On the one hand, being upset at the Michael Bay Aesthetic and the crappy Transformers movies has become kind of passé and is better left to the Cinema Sins and Razzie hacks of the world. Not only that, he’s more than capable of making REALLY great movies that are unique to his sensibilities; particularly Pain and Gain which is clearly his best film by a wide margin. Then again, he’s also the guy who indulges in racist and sexist caricatures in the service of crass humor, and his disdain for the audience and basically all of humanity may be an asset in some films but is also reflected in just how shoddily some of them are put together; incoherent plotting, choppy editing, and an oblivious tone on top of being unfunny and tasteless. I had never seen the Bad Boys movies until very recently and solely in preparation for this new one, and sure enough they contain everything I don’t like about the guy even if they are somewhat more tolerable than some of his later work; presumably due to Bruckheimer being the bigger name at the time which meant he could reign in some of Bay’s worst tendencies. Now all that said, we are going Bayless for this one as he doesn’t even have a producing credit on here, so at least there’s hope that these filmmakers with a fresh perspective can take what elements DID work in the originals while taking out some of their more pernicious aspects to send this franchise off right. Can we close this trilogy on a high note instead of get more of the same nonsense? Let’s find out!!
Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) are still Miami cops doing their Bad Boys shtick, and while it’s been a fun ride for both of them, Marcus is starting to look towards the back half of his life and doesn’t want it to be filled with more violence, rough schedules, and close calls. Mike on the other hand isn’t even SEEING this as the back half of his life and is trying harder than ever to stay fit, stay alert, and stay young despite the gray hairs showing in his beard. One fateful night while partying with the other cops including good ol’ Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano, a.k.a. JOEY PANTS!) Mike gets the biggest reality check of his life as some masked assassin tries to shoot him to death and almost succeeds. Marcus takes this as a sign to finally retire while Mike can only think of vengeance and wants his help in finding the person who did this to him, but perhaps Mike will have to go it alone. Even worse, he may have to try and find this person with the help of the youngsters at the station who are in some sort of advanced CSI crew named AMMO led up by Mike’s ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Núñez) who isn’t thrilled about working with the guy either given his history of blowing things up and how personal this case is to him. Will Mike’s quest for vengeance end in him triumphing once again like he did so many times in the old days? Will Marcus stay true to his retirement and be there for his family, or is his bond with his best friend enough to get him on board for one last ride? Is it just me or is this like ten times more interesting than whatever was going on in the other films?
Gemini Man and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Ang Lee
So the Will Smith Renaissance hasn’t quite gone as well as say the McConaissance, but his uptick in roles in the last few years has been pretty enjoyable for the most part with him being one of the best parts of the trashy fun Suicide Squad, and as bad as Bright was he did have pretty good chemistry with Joel Edgerton. Now he’s working with either his best or his worst co-star of all time… HIMSELF! Does this action spectacular with Will Smith fighting Will Smith turn out to be one of the best movies of the year, or did the good parts of this movie begin and end with its sill premise? Let’s find out!!
Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is just like every other aged government assassin who wants to retire and live the rest of his life in leisure, but of course something happens where the government decides that the one thing they should try to do to the unkillable solider is try to kill him. The reason given here is that he stumbles upon some information that could eventually lead to him finding out about a mysterious project known as GEMINI, and the director of the project Clay (Clive Owen) doesn’t want him finding out more. After barely escaping with his life and the life of the government agent tasked to keep an eye on him Dani (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he starts searching for clues and calling in favors from all his contacts to get to the bottom of what it is that Clay is so desperate to hide from him. Well at least part of the answer comes a lot sooner than he expected as he starts getting chased by another assassin called Junior (Will Smith) who bears a striking resemblance to Henry circa 1991. Can Henry survive long enough to find out just what Clay was up to and maybe even spare Junior in the process? What will Junior do now that he’s starting to learn the truth? Will he stay loyal to Clay and GEMINI or are these revelations enough for him to question everything he knows and the people he has trusted his whole life? If they could just clone people in this world, why haven’t they ACTUALLY cloned Will Smith and tried to make a GOOD version of Wild Wild West? At least make a version of the Matrix with him!
Men in Black: International and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing
Directed by F Gary Gray
As tacky as it may seem, I kind of want to see MORE studios blatantly try to pick at the MCU’s carcass by snatching up its major talent and putting them in new scenarios with similar dynamics. It’s kind of like the cinematic equivalent of an Elseworld’s tale or maybe even one of those bizarre crossover comics where the X-Men are on the Enterprise or Doctor Who has to fight the Cenobites or whatever. Picking up both Chris Hemsworth in full on Thor Swagger mode and Tessa Thompson at the height of her popularity is probably the best thing this film has going for it because it certainly isn’t the name brand recognition. The first Men in Black movie was good but is older than the target audience of this film, the sequel was utter dreck despite having my beloved Johnny Knoxville in a fun supporting role, and I never even bothered with the third movie that this thankfully doesn’t seem to be a direct sequel to. Still, the concept is at least unique enough that you could still salvage it given the right talent which looks to be the case with its cast as well as being directed by F Gary Gray. Can the MIB be brought back from the dead to be the next big cinematic franchise, or are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of the late nineties and early 2000s over and over again
Molly (Tessa Thompson) has spent the last twenty years looking for the mysterious Men in Black organization which tried to capture an alien in her childhood home but failed to do so and also failed to neuralyse her like they did her parents. It was a pretty serendipitous event as well because Molly is a bit of a loner and cares more about unlocking the mysteries of the universe than having friends or forming genuine human relationships; a trait prided in members of the MIB! Because of this as well as her ability to eventually find them, the current head of the New York branch Agent O (Emma Thompson) gives her a shot with the new moniker Agent M and sends her to London for training where she runs into Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) who is a big shot hero from a few years ago but seems to be in a bit of a slump. He and the head of the London branch High T (Liam Neeson) once stopped an alien invasion with nothing but a couple of weapons and their wits, but when a protection operation H takes M along on goes completely awry, it could spell the end of not just their careers but the Earth itself. They must solve the mystery of who wanted to kill H’s alien buddy Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak) and whether or not there’s some greater conspiracy happening with the MIB that this is just a small part of. Oh yeah, and there’s a comic relief alien (Kumail Nanjiani) that does cute things and spouts sarcasm. Can M and H learn to work together and solve the mystery before MIB or something more dangerous catches up to them? Will the organization that prides itself on being secretive collapse into ruin due to the duplicitous nature of one of its own? Is it just me, or is it becoming increasingly hard to believe that THIS many people and THIS much equipment are STILL a complete mystery to the undiscerning masses; all of whom have smart phones and social media accounts?
Aladdin and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Guy Ritchie
The Disney money train just keeps on rolling, doesn’t it!? With nowhere else to go but back to the well, they’ve been pumping out remakes, reboots, and even sequels for some time now with… let’s say MIXED results. In fact, Dumbo might have been the last straw to finally knocking these into MOSTLY BAD territory; and I’m not liking the way that Lion King movie is shaping up despite its solid casting! Still, Aladdin is probably the film BEST suited for the big budgeted live action retelling considering how cinematic and adventurous it is, and the fact that the story’s already been done in live action in the past! Can Disney pull off another remake of a beloved nineties property, or are we gonna have to wait for Maleficent 2 for things to get back on track? Let’s find out!!
In the wondrous city of Agrabah, there once lived a thief known as Aladdin (Mena Massoud) who spent most of his days stealing apples and talking to his monkey Abu; presumably because he gave up on forming attachments to other humans and find that monkeys are less likely to stab you in the back. I mean they COULD what with apposable thumbs, but that’s beside the point! What’s important is that one day he meets a woman in the local bazar who doesn’t seem to understand how money works which you’d think she WOULD considering she’s Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the one and only daughter to the Sultan (Navid Negahban), but I guess when you’re THAT rich possessions and currency don’t hold much value. Thankfully Aladdin is there to smooth things over, and by smooth things over I mean help her run away, and the two hit it off almost immediately which would normally be good news if it weren’t for the fact that she can only marry a prince. That’s where the Sultan’s Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) comes in who sees something in this street rat and wants to use him to get his hands on the Magic Lamp for clearly nefarious purposes, and so spins him a tall tale of how doing this one job for him will get him all the riches he could dream of and become a prince in his own right! Well Aladdin at least holds his end of the bargain up, but things inevitably go wrong and he’s stuck there with nothing but his monkey, a magic carpet and oh yeah THE MAGIC LAMP which houses a TERRIFYING Genie (Will Smith) that promises him three wishes for finding his lamp! What will Aladdin wish for, and will it be enough to win the heart of the Princess? How long can he keep up the ruse he concocts, and will he be able to fool the sharp witted Vizier; even WITH the Genie’s magic? More importantly, who needs a Genie when you can capitalize on people’s nostalgia? That ALREADY gets you all the riches in the world!!
Alright everyone! Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through. You know what though? Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer! WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright
Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks. That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways. As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film. There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT. Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death. Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process. Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too. That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them. If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.
Collateral Beauty and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by David Frankel
Is it that time again for Will Smith to try and win that Oscar he’s been so desperately seeking for some time now!? Hey, since DiCaprio got his we need another underdog to root for, and Will Smith is as good a candidate as any. Well… except that HIS Oscar bait films tend to be stuff like Concussion where he’s a boring scientist while Leo jumped off mountains and did massive amounts of drugs trying to get his. This movie, just from the awkward title, doesn’t inspire much hope that The Fresh Prince is ready to put himself out there in something fun and risky to win his Academy Award, but then maybe this movie doesn’t need any of that and is a truly moving film in its own right. We can only hope…
The movie begins with Howard (Will Smith) and Whit (Edward Norton) as two best buddies as the heads of some advertising company that seems to get motivational Howard Speeches on a daily basis. That is… until the tragedy. We jump straight to three years later where Howard has gone from The Fresh to Hancock (well… Hancock without the fun) and is now spending his days building up elaborate domino sets instead of working. Not only that, but he’s so preoccupied with the grief of what happened (it doesn’t take long before we find out his daughter died) that he’s letting the company gone down the tubes financially and can’t even be bothered to sign the company over to Whit as well as Simon (Michael Peña) and Claire (Kate Winslet) who could save the company if Howard would just give them the authority to do so, though I’m not sure what the law is about letting someone literally sit on his ass all day while all his employees are left to watch things crumble. Eventually, our trio of good buddies decide that Howard needs to either lose his fucking mind or get better (it’s never quite clear which one they’re going for) and decide to Christmas Carol his ass using actors (Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, and Helen Mirren) who will play Love, Time, and Death; all three of which are concepts that Howard has been writing letters to as a way of expressing his internal frustration and rage. Will this strange plan to convince Howard he’s seeing his delusions come to life make him deal with his problems, or drive him further into his unhealthy state of mind? Will he eventually seek help from a local support group led by Madeleine (Naomie Harris) which seems like a less risky way for him to deal with his daughter’s death? Seriously, isn’t there like a MILLION ways this plan could go horribly wrong!?
Suicide Squad and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by David Ayer
After Batman v Superman, I can’t imagine how everyone behind this movie wasn’t shaking in their boots now that the ENTIRE franchise is resting on their should to right the course and bring audiences back around before the Justice League and Wonder Woman movies have a chance to kick this cinematic universe into high gear. In fact, the heavily publicized reshoots of this movie were probably due almost entirely those expectations being thrust upon this after Batman v Superman fell flat on its face. Still, even when that movie was running its course, there was always the hope that this one would be the fun alternative to the somber and serious Snyder film and the marketing at least was leaning heavily on that idea to sell it to the masses. Does this succeed in distinguishing itself from the rest of the DCCU which includes a maybe a third of a good movie and a really awful one, or were DC and WB playing us all for fools by convincing us this one would be different? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the first undertaking of The Suicide Squad which is a group of SUPER criminals that the US government plans to use in order to fight meta-human or otherwise extremely dangerous threats. The project is being pushed forward by the tough as nails Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and is comprised of Deadshot (Will Smith) who is a perfect shot, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) who… I guess is good with a baseball bat, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) who’s actually doing this under duress as he’s given up his fire spewing ways, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnouye-Agabaje) who’s… half man half crocodile I think, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) who is pretty good at throwing boomerangs, and of course Slipknot (Adam Beach) who doesn’t do shit. Along with the squad is Col Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) who’s basically serving as their babysitter and also has the power to blow their heads off if they step out of line (NOTHING at all like Battle Royale) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara) who I think is supposed to be a good guy at least compared to the other members (as far as I can tell, she’s NOT actually in jail and volunteered for the mission) and she’s got a magic sword. Not what I’d call the best team to send out when a city gets very nearly leveled by an evil witch called The Enchantress that is inhabiting the body of Dr June Moone (Cara Delvingne) who JUST SO HAPPENS to be Flagg’s girlfriend, but at least the government won’t have to pay for their funeral expenses when they surely get obliterated by dark and unimaginable forces. Can the Suicide Squad manage to infiltrate the city that’s crawling with monsters summoned by the witch and save a highly valuable target inside? What about the Joker? Isn’t he supposed to be in this too? Does the fate of the world REALLY need to rest on the shoulders of Captain Boomerang!?
Concussion and all the images you see in this review are owned by Columbia Pictures
Directed by Peter Landesman
Mr. Fourth of July is back with his latest attempt to win that Oscar after Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness, and 7 Pounds didn’t do a damn thing for him. Well at least this one is a story that’s still fresh in people’s mind as it explores the events that led up to the NFL being in hot water over the dangers of head injuries and the consequences of not getting these issues treated in their former players. Does William Smith Jr finally have the movie that will get him an Academy Award that he can shove in Leonardo DiCaprio’s face, or does the search continue for Will to find something that will prove once and for all what a great actor he is? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) who happens to be on duty at a Pittsburg morgue the day that a former NFL player is found dead after long bouts of mental illness and medical problems. During the autopsy, Omalu discovers some irregularities that lead to him eventually discovering a hereto unknown disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) that is caused by repeated blows to the head which is something that happens quite frequently to NFL players. Clearly this needs to be explored further as it’s clear that other older players begin to exhibit extreme mental issues, but the NFL instead decides to bury the guys work and deny it incessantly. Omalu though continues to push for more research and for the NFL to acknowledge the diseases existence, but to little avail at least at first. Along his journey to get the truth out there, he starts to pursue a romantic relationship with a fellow churchgoer (Prema Mutiso played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and eventually meets a former NFL doctor (Julian Bailes played by Alec Bladwin) who knows first-hand what it’s like to see former players’ minds deteriorate. With support from the medical community and his girlfriend along with the insider knowledge of Dr. Bailes, will Dr. Omalu get his way and save hundreds of people in the process, or is this a task too herculean for any one man to accomplish?
Not long ago, we got trailers for the upcoming DC Comics films, namely Superman v Batman and Suicide Squad. Needless to say that both of them have been HUGE presences in entertainment media since they’ve come out with everyone giving their two cents about the trailers and what their movies will ultimately be about, and not one to avoid jumping on the bandwagon, I’ve decided to use my little platform to give you my thoughts on them as well. Do they inspire confidence in DC’s unique direction to take their superhero films, or are they the further indication that they have no idea what the hell they’re doing over there other than desperately try to scramble together a cinematic universe after Marvel did it so effortlessly? Let’s find out!!
Batman v Superman
The trailer begins with what appears to be some sort of senate hear4ing where Superman is being brought before them to explain his actions in the previous film. We also get to see that Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis at the time of Zod’s attack and saw the destruction that these super humans can dish out. From there we get to see as things escalate between the two with Batman coming out of retirement (I think) to get ready to fight Superman, while Clark Kent is still trying to figure out what his purpose on this planet is (I think). If you’re wondering why I’m so uncertain about those things, it’s because the trailer does a pretty poor job conveying where in Batman’s history we are and giving us ANY reason to even give even the TINIEST of shits about Superman or understand him in any way.