Movie of the Week: War For the Planet of the Apes

The epic conclusion to the legend that is Caesar is coming to a close this weekend. The first of the super-apes has inherited the sins of the wicked Koba and now what is left of mankind has dispatched a military force to quell the threat the apes possess. Caesar led his species to freedom in Rise, he did all that he could to maintain that peace in Dawn, but now that seems so long ago. For his home, his family, his future, Caesar has finally embraced the fact that now is the time to fight for his future and this is War. This is the war that will determine who is the superior species on Earth. This is the war that will shape the course of the future going forward. The War For the Planet of the Apes has begun!

Director: Matt Reeves

Screenwriters: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Terry Notary, Max Lloyd-Jones, Gabriel Chavarria, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite and Devyn Dalton.

What am I expecting to see?: I have enjoyed this rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise thus far and from what I’ve heard regarding this film in the past few weeks, is that War For the Planet of the Apes is the best one yet and could be the best film to come out this summer! I expect this movie to do what every final installment in a trilogy should do: tie everything together and turn up the intensity another notch. I expect Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson to command the screen and this movie to be technically elite in every aspect. I’ve been looking forward to War for the Planet of the Apes for a long time.

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

I went into Spider-Man: Homecoming similar to how I approached Guardians of the Galaxy years ago. With this character getting a third cinematic reboot, with another actor portraying him, I felt that this was getting exhausting; Spidey needed a break from movies and I felt that audiences needed a break from Spider-Man movies but when Kevin Feige seized a chance to integrate the character into the highly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe-the Avengers Initiative-I thought “what the hell?”

And so, Tom Holland made his web-slinging debut in Captain America: Civil War and did a great job I might add, which led him to Homecoming, a film by Jon Watts chronicling Peter Parker’s efforts to prove himself to his mentor/benefactor Tony Stark that he is hero enough to stand with Earth Mightiest. This teenager, takes it upon himself to thwart a string of robberies orchestrated by a disgruntled and disillusioned superhero-mess cleaner named Adrian Toomes, armed with advanced weaponry derived from the Battle of New York from so many years ago.

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Image by Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures

For the weeks leading up to this, I tempered my expectations for this movie because every live-action Spider-Man movie from the woefully executed Spider-Man 3 to the underwhelming failure that was The Amazing Spider-Man franchise highlighted that the wall-crawler has indeed hit a wall when it comes to movies. Coming out of the theater, I acknowledged that I truly underestimated this movie and the players involved in shaping it; Tom Holland, Jon Watts and the screenwriting team including Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers won me over; this movie made Spider-Man great again!

The approach to actually have a teenager portray a teenage superhero paid off; the influence of classic 1980s cinema like Ferris Bueler’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club was felt; the fact that this film knew its place within the grand scheme of the Avengers Initiative was very playful and overall, the writing and execution of Spider-Man: Homecoming was authentic, fresh, relatable and fun!

Tom Holland made a believer of me when he swung into Captain America: Civil War in the red and blue suit and when the spotlight shined on him, he didn’t shrink away; he embraced this role and delivered as Peter Parker. The supporting cast of Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Marissa Tomei, Abraham Attah, Laura Harrier, Donald Glover, Hannibal Burress, Michael Churness, Logan Marshall-Green, Bokeem Woodbine and familiar faces such as Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, Chris Evans and Gwyneth Paltrow all got in on the fun in this movie.

Michael Giacchino’s score was thrilling, Salvatore Totino’s cinematography was crisp and savvy, Debbie Berman and Dan Lebental’s editing was very good, Oliver Scholl’s production design was rock-solid, Louise Frogley’s costume design was excellent, the visual effects were amazing and convincing, the story and script was sharp and smart and overall, I loved how this movie was shaped and constructed.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was funny, thrilling, creative, relevant and relatable to audiences and I thought that this movie really did justice by its title character in a way the previous films could not. Spidey set out to prove himself that he could hang with the Avengers and establish himself as a true hero and in this movie, credited to writer/director Jon Watts and star Tom Holland, he accomplished just that. Very well done and very well recommended!

Movie of the Week: Spider-Man: Homecoming

The Marvel Cinematic Universe rolls on this weekend with a new version of New York’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler ready to take the silver screen. Remember when Tony Stark went to Queens to recruit a bright teenager to help him bring in Steve Rogers and the Winter Soldier? Since the implementation of the Sokovia Accords which led to the schism between the Avengers, Tony Stark has taken this talented young man under his wing so to speak. This young man’s name is Peter Parker and he is ready to take what he has learned since he stood with Iron Man to try to stop Captain America and take the next step as a hero. With Earth’s Mightiest Heroes split, New York now turns to Spider-Man for protection in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Director: Jon Watts

Written by: Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna

Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Robert Downey Jr. Marissa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Michael Keaton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Tony Revolori, Laura Harrier, Abraham Attah, Bokeem Woodbine and Chris Evans

What am I expecting to see?: Spider-Man is the one Marvel hero I wish would get a break from the movies since Homecoming is the third time the character has been rebooted for a feature-length film but based on Holland’s debut as Spidey in Civil War and the initial reports on the reviews that I’ve heard up to this point, it looks like this take on Spider-Man is a winner! Phase Three of the MCU has been firing on all cylinders and I don’t expect Spider-Man: Homecoming to slow that momentum at all!

Review: Baby Driver

When people start talking about a movie, particularly a movie that is getting a lot of praise, I feel compelled to look into it myself to see if it is worth all that it is receiving. That is the case this week since Edgar Wright’s new film has rolled into theaters and I managed to attend a screening of this film about a boy in the fast lane, slowed down by a pretty face, steered onto a rough road by shady characters and racing towards a sunset. Here’s a quick look at what Baby Driver has to offer.

That’s right! A heist thrill ride with a sharp cast, savvy writing, bold execution, killer chase sequences, driven by a sweet sense of rhythm and swagger with an eclectic soundtrack as its engine. Edgar Wright is in the driver’s seat of one of the most original and entertaining flicks of 2017!

Baby Driver stars Ansel Elgort as Baby, the best getaway driver in the ATL who rides blaring his own playlist and drives in the services a crime boss named Doc, whom he owes a debt. Baby is set to get out of the life when he meets a sweet waitress named Deborah and they make plans to ride out of the lives they know and never look back but Baby is compelled by Doc to pull off one last job before he makes his getaway.

From the starting line to the finish line, Baby Driver is a slick flick with great characters, a story with plenty of twists and turns, and impeccable attention to detail! This movie held my attention throughout and I couldn’t have been more impressed by it!

This is a standout cast of actors playing very cool characters. Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Lily James, CJ Jones, Lanny Joon and Flea round out one of the best acting ensembles I’ve seen in the movies this year!

The music by Steven Price and the soundtrack steal the show! Almost every frame had a song in the background that just fit the moment to a tee! Whether it was “Easy,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Brighton Rock,” “Tequila,” “Debra,” “Egyptian Reggae,” or “Bellbottoms” when there was action or a scene or sequel that was pivotal to the plot, the right song gave the film a great sense of atmosphere for that moment and I’ve never seen anything like that before in a motion picture.

The camerawork and cinematography by Bill Pope was stellar and the editing by Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss was dynamic and precise to the point of picture perfect! Visually, nothing felt lost or out of step in this movie!

I also give credit to Marcus Rowland and his production design, Nigel Churcher and Justin O’Neal Miller and their art direction, Lance Totten and his set decoration and Courtney Hoffman and her costume design. More importantly, I must give credit where credit is due and that must go to the writer and director of this wild, original and masterfully executed thriller. Edgar Wright delivered a masterpiece!

I didn’t go into Baby Driver with much of anything but after bearing witness to everything it had to offer, I came out pleased! This is perhaps, the best film I’ve seen so far this year!

Ron Howard takes command of Han Solo movie!

An interesting development has occurred over the last few days related to the Star Wars anthology film focused on Han Solo. Originally, the film was well underway on the road to production with directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, writers Jon and Lawrence Kasdan and stars such as Alden Ehrenreich as the title character with a supporting cast including Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Joonas Suotamo, Michael Kenneth Williams and Phoebe Waller-Bridge but dissention between Miller and Lord and the production team has forced the directors to abandon the project leaving the film in a state of standstill.

It didn’t take long for Kathleen Kennedy and her team of producers to find a suitable replacement to pilot the film. Today, it has been confirmed that Academy Award winning director Ron Howard will assume command of the Han Solo origin story.

Ron Howard has certainly enjoyed a great deal of success throughout his career. His body of work as a filmmaker includes prestigious films such as Backdraft, Cocoon, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, Rush; he certainly has the clout and the creative spirit to shape the origin story of the character who would become an important figure in the Star Wars universe. Personally, I think Kathleen Kennedy and the Star Wars production team missed out on an opportunity to hand the film to a director of color or a woman but I’m willing to give Ron Howard a chance with this project.

The Han Solo movie will arrive in theaters by May 25, 2018.

Review: The Mummy

I bet there was a time or two in your life when you and your family made an excursion to your local museum, paid the price of admission to get in, passed through the Ancient Egypt exhibit and saw an actual mummy in a sarcophagus encased in an airtight encasing. I’m also willing to wager, that while you were gawking at the decomposing dead person and his/her fancy-schmancy coffin, you were probably thinking “wow. A dead person. What fun!” in the most sarcastic manner while you were on looking.

This reboot of The Mummy is as exciting as looking at a mummy, in its coffin, gathering dust, in a glass case at a museum. Director Alex Kurtzman takes audiences on an expedition across three countries in the span of thousands of years centering on two individuals from different eras bound together by a sinister plot to bring the ultimate evil on Earth.

Tom Cruise is Nick Morton, the unsuspected and unfortunate fool who unearthed Princess Ahmenet, played by Sofia Boutella, a disgraced Egyptian princess who was eager to get into bed with the god of death in order to assume the mantle of Pharaoh in her time but she was stopped before her designs were set into motion. When Ahmenet is freed, she binds Morton to her with a curse in order for him to do her bidding and complete her plans.

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Image by Universal Pictures

If this movie were made maybe 30 years ago, it may have had a higher impact on audiences but this new mummy is so old-fashioned its practically dead on arrival, emphasis on dead!

Writers David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman did their hardest to incorporate some old-fashioned monster movie nostalgia in a modern-day setting to jumpstart what Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll calls “A new world of gods and monsters” but with the clichés, flimsy characters, ridiculous plot holes and straining story, this “new world” in this “Dark Universe” looks very bleak.

I’m not exactly a fan of Tom Cruise as it is, but he certainly didn’t do any favors himself in this movie. He’s a reputable action star but he just doesn’t excite me as a leading man and his character is just so poorly constituted as well.

Some players never really had a chance to flex their chops in this movie themselves such as Courtney B. Vance, while others were left at the mercy of bad writing and execution like Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson and Marwan Kenzari. The only actor who actually held interest for me while watching this flop was Boutella.

Ben Seresin’s cinematography was mediocre, the editing of Paul and Gina Hirsch and Andrew Mondshein was all over the place, Bryan Tyler’s score was unspectacular, the visual effects were so cheesy, it hindered whatever appeal this film had going for it, I didn’t mind the production design courtesy of Jon Hutman and Dominic Waktins, and I especially liked the make-up applied to Boutella’s character.

To say that I was unimpressed by this film is an understatement. The Mummy was better off in its sarcophagus and left beneath the sands.

Movie of the Week: The Mummy

Ever hear the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?” That should be the moral of this week’s featured film for this woman seeks to bring hell on earth! Princess Ahmenet was once destined for greatness until circumstances robbed her of her chance to achieve them and so she was buried deep beneath the sands of Egypt. Millennia later, her slumber was disturbed by an unsuspecting individual who will now play victim to her wrath upon the Earth and her wrath is practically biblical! Once a beautiful and powerful ruler-to-be, Princess Ahmenet is now The Mummy!

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Screenwriters: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman

Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Courtney B. Vance, Jake Johnson and Marwan Kenzari.

What am I expecting to see?: This movie is set to be quite the kickstarter for Universal Pictures as they unveil their new Dark Universe movie-monster franchise. Truth be told, I’m not holding my breath for something awesome with this remake of The Mummy, I happen to be familiar with the previous remake-turned-trilogy from 1999 and I’m not a Tom Cruise fan, but the fact that director Alex Kurtzman chose to reboot this franchise with a female Mummy fascinates me enough to give this a try. Best case-scenario: this movie will sell me on this new Dark Universe franchise.