Writer/Director/Actor Jim Cummings is one of the more delightfully unique voices emerging in Hollywood. If you haven't seen or heard of his previous films, "Thunder Road" and "The Wolf of Snow Hollow," you're not alone, but do yourself a favor and seek them out.
In "The Beta Test" - co-written, co-directed and co-starring his real-life buddy PJ McCabe - his third independent film is his most biting...a delicious slice of entertainment and intrigue that satisfies as much as it unsettles.
Talk about a sight for sore eyes. "No Time to Die" - the 25th overall James Bond film and the fifth (and final) one starring Daniel Craig as 007, was originally slated for theatrical release nearly two years ago, back in November of 2019. It was delayed into February of 2020 and then into April...and on and on, finally landing in theaters this weekend.
The film was delayed for so long, that some of the in-movie product placements had to be updated...you can't have Bond traipsing along using outdated tech, can you? But now that it's finally here, we're reminded of the charm and the allure of this character, that has persevered for nearly 60 years on the big-screen. He's a timeless hero, tweaked for the times.
"No Time to Die" has an epic feel to it, with some stellar action sequences, gadgets and thrills like we've come to expect from the franchise. It has its shortcomings for sure, but by and large, this is a Bond film that was worth the wait.
Of the many Marvel properties that have been translated into movies, Venom has by far been the worst adaptation. His cool look jumps off of the page, but on screen - when added with his ridiculous voice - Venom has thus far been a mess. He's neither funny nor scary, and he's one of the least compelling comic book characters going.
Suffice it to say, "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is a catastrophe from head-to-toe...it's a tonal nightmare featuring characters with very little depth and given very little to do. The first "Venom" film was a success (the comic book character, created by Todd McFarlane and David Michelinie, is among the most popular of all the Marvel characters since first appearing in 1988), which means that this sequel was inevitable, but "Venom: Let There Be Carnage" is near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to "superhero" movies, let alone Marvel films.
Shea Whigham definitely has what it takes to be a leading man, despite making a career out of being an ensemble player. He deserves better than "The Gateway," a film that is squarely a B-movie, but not in a nostalgic or fun sort of way.
The DC Comics Cinematic Universe (DCCU) is always playing catch-up to its way cooler, much more interesting big brother, The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Thus far, it's been a dark and dreary go: Films from "Man of Steel" all the way through the ludicrously loud and over-saturated "Wonder Woman 1984" have experimented with different tones and angles, and none have really worked all that well in crafting a cohesive universe.
So instead of re-inventing the wheel, writer/director James Gunn takes a previous formula and shakes it up a bit, and it's a pretty delicious concoction. While the new "The Suicide Squad" shares a name with the 2016 "Suicide Squad" film, it is actually a closer spiritual cousin to "The Guardians of the Galaxy" films...films that Gunn knows all too well, since he wrote and directed both of them.
In making "The Suicide Squad," its inhabitants and the universe they exist in way less serious than most every other DCCU movie to date, he basically creates a bloodier, more comically violent anti-version of "The Guardians of the Galaxy" films, and in doing so, he brings something to the DCCU that it has yet to experience: A sense of FUN.
M. Night Shyamalan has built a career on horror-mystery movies that don't always work, and that all seem to be chasing the lightning-in-a-bottle he found with his 1999 mega-hit, "The Sixth Sense." After a long string of clunkers, his 2016 "Split" got his fans excited that he was finally "back," but the follow-up, 2019's "Glass" all but shattered those high expectations.
With "Old," he effectively makes a feature-length Twilight Zone episode that isn't among his worst films (this is no "The Happening" or "After Earth"), but it is far from his best. And if "The Sixth Sense" or "Unbreakable" is too high a bar to set, even on its own, "Old" doesn't exactly revel in anything that feels new.
The first "Escape Room" film dropped with little fanfare back in January of 2019. But the low-budget teen-friendly horror film - capitalizing on the growing popularity of "escape rooms" across the country - was a modest hit, grossing over 150 million worldwide, having been made for under 10 million.
It's star, Taylor Russell, was relatively unknown - and she still is - but Russell is an absolute A-list star in-the-making (mark my words). Her likability and talents raised that first film above other throw-away teen horror films, and her continued presence in this sequel has elevated "Escape Room" to one of the most unlikely, yet entertaining, original IP franchises-in-the-making in recent years.
Indie films, above all others, are ones that I root for to succeed. But sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. "The Birthday Cake" is one of the oddest little films you'll come across, and not in a good way. It contains a mix of what seems like flavorful ingredients that when blended together, leaves a terrible taste in your mouth.
This is one course worth passing on altogether.
"The Dry," based on the 2016 book of the same name by Jane Harper, is already one of the highest-grossing Australian films of all-time. Like many other films, it was set for release during the Summer of 2020, but didn't make its Melbourne premiere until last December.
Now arriving state-side, it's time for American audiences to discover what all the well-warranted hype is about.
"Wrath of Man" is a tough-guy action-film featuring characters with names like Bullet, Hollow Bob and Boy Sweat Dave, who all talk in witty sound-bites and phrases typically found in movies but not in real life. In other words, of course it's directed by Guy Ritchie, the director of other like movies such as "Snatch," "RocknRolla," "Revolver" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels."
But instead of simply existing as a stylized heist movie and finding comfort in that, the convoluted plot of "Wrath of Man" turns this into an over-long, shoot-em-up that devolves into mindlessness the further it goes along.
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