Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Go to War With The Mad Titan!

Everything we know, thought we knew and will know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Avenger’s Initiative, has led to this! For the longest time, a figure has operated in the shadows of the universe, moving in secret to collect the instruments needed to plunge all of creation into darkness. This figure is ready to emerge from behind the scenes at a critically precise moment. The Mad Titan Thanos arrives on Earth to gather the remains of the Infinity Stones and it will take the full force of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to drive him and his dark ambitions back but can they assemble after the Civil War over the Sokovia Accords tore them apart? The trailer for Avengers: Infinity War teases a collision course of galactic proportions!

A galaxy of stars assemble in the Russo Brother’s epic close to Phase Three of the MCU. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, and Josh Brolin and so many more to name. The Infinity War begins on May 4, 2018.

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Review: Coco

I feel as though Disney and Pixar’s latest animated adventure was inspired by the idea of border security. Essentially Coco is about an individual who crosses over a border he shouldn’t and it is set in, and inspired by, the country south of the American border after all.

The protagonist is a youth named Miguel Rivera. His family has decided that Miguel will continue their long line of shoemakers but Miguel is a rebel in his own family. His heart beats for his love of music; singing, playing guitar, performing, aspiring to be like his hero Ernesto Del La Cruz, the greatest musician in the history of Mexico. Miguel’s family has outlawed involvement of music of any kind but he won’t deter and his family put their proverbial shoemaking feet down on the idea of Miguel pursuing his love of music.

On Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, Miguel breaks into Del La Cruz’s tomb to “borrow” his hero’s guitar to perform in a talent competition and the moment he strums those strings, Miguel is spirited away to the Land of the Dead where he meets his ancestors who are insistent that he return home but not Miguel sees his opportunity to meet his long deceased hero and simultaneous uncover his family secret as to why the Rivera’s have forbidden music from entering their lives.

Image by Disney-Pixar

Coco is an ode to Mexican culture, an ode to the magic of music and the power of a family’s love and it is vivid in the terms of both the authentic and aesthetic. I had to look back on the reviews I wrote this year and compared to the other animated film I’ve seen this year, I can confidently express that Coco is going to run away with every single animated achievement film award it will be nominated for in the foreseeable future!

Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, who co-wrote the screenplay Matthew Aldrich, have crafted a beautiful tale about what it means to follow your passion and seizing your moment. Only the magic created between Disney and Pixar could construct a tale about spirit guides, mariachis, flower petals, walking skeletons, guitars, shoemakers and weave it into a beautifully constructed and executed animated experience that will resonate with audiences of all ages!

The animation team behind this movie put in tireless work to breathe life into this animated work of art and the team of Unkrich, Molina, Aldrich and Jason Katz, pulled out all the stops to immerse this movie in the splendor of the music, artistry, passion and culture of Mexico.

Bravo to the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renee Victor, Alana Ubach, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Selene Luna, Herbert Siguenza, Jamie Camil, Alfonso Arau, Sofía Espinosa, Dyana Ortelli, Gabriel Iglesias, Edward James Olmos and Luis Valdez.

Aside from the animation and how well the story is written, the visual effects of the film were profound, the score of Michael Giacchino was sublime and dripping with Mexican influence, the cinematography team of Matt Aspbury and Danielle Feinberg did a fantastic job, Steve Bloom and Lee Unkrich’s editing was very smooth, Harley Jessup’s production design and Tim Evett’s art direction were fantastic. Coco is 2017’s pinnacle of animated achievement!

Disney and Pixar should be nothing but proud of Coco. It is undoubtedly another highlight in the long list of achievements they have made over the last few decades!

Movie of the Week: Coco

I’m sure everyone has their plans set for the traditional American holiday that occurs this Thursday and I for one hope that all of my followers and fans of my blog have a Happy Thanksgiving. There will be a feature film to watch this week and it comes from the studios behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Inside Out and Monster’s Inc. A young boy with an intense passion for music is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime into the afterlife. Coco is the new product from Disney and Pixar and based on the prestigious track record between these two, I believe we are going to be in for a treat!

Directors: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Written by: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Featuring the voices of: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alana Ubach, Renee Victor, Jamie Camil, Gabriel Iglesias, Edward James Olmos, Sofía Espinosa, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Lombardo Boyar and Herbert Siguenza.

What am I expecting to see?: In summary, 99% of my mind has already decided that this is probably the best animated film I will see this year. In fact, I think it may be the only animated film I’ve seen this year and I believe that this will be the only animated film I will remember this year. Coco has the makings of another animated classic from Disney and Pixar and I hope that it measures up to what has come before it. I’m really excited for this.

Review: Justice League

All that was going through my mind as I entered the theater to watch this week’s feature film was one simple sentence on repeat until the trailers ended and the show began: “In the name of Sweet Jesus, please don’t suck!”

Justice League opened to show us a world without Superman. Hopeless, fearful, chaotic, dark and vulnerable and in this moment of vulnerability, Earth is wide open to those who wish to do it harm both on world and off.

The death of Superman also triggered an awakening of three vessels of power called Motherboxes and signaled the coming of a being named Steppenwolf who, with his vast army of Parademons, lays siege to various corners of Earth to retrieve the Motherboxes and enact his ambition to alter the Earth into the image suitable for him and his master.

All that stands in this conqueror’s way are five remarkable individuals: Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince, Victor Stone, Barry Allen and Arthur Curry. These individuals must learn to become a team capable of protecting the world and living up to the legacy of the Man of Steel.

Image by Warner Bros. and DC

I went into Justice League hoping for the best but ultimately preparing for the worst because I was ready to find any reason to hate it. I came out of Justice League ready to give my official and resolute perspective: I believe Justice League did enough to not fail. In fact, it is my most forthcoming opinion that I actually enjoyed watching it!

By no means is the film perfect but I do believe that Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio with the assistance of Joss Whedon did in fact learn from the mistakes of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and they did make a fun, coherent, simple picture about the world’s finest heroes: Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Cyborg and Superman.

What really held this film back was the fact that it was a short movie and I get the sense that there were a lot of scenes and details that were left on the cutting room floor. The editing team of David Brenner, Richard Pearson and Michael Walsh didn’t do justice (no pun intended) to allow the film to truly highlight the impact of these characters and I believe equal blame should fall upon Terrio, Snyder and Whedon because audiences didn’t get enough depth and scope on these amazing characters and especially what drives and motivates the villain of the film: Steppenwolf.

On the other hand, I think the plot of the film, despite how it was self-restrained, did enough to truly showcase these characters and focused on bringing these heroes together and that was in fact satisfying. It’s what the audiences came to see and it did enough to win them over.

The cast did a good job. We’ve already seen what Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), Diane Lane (Martha Kent) and Jeremy Irons (Alfred Pennyworth) brought to the table as their respective characters from previous features but we see for the first time what Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman), Ezra Miller (Barry Allen/The Flash), Ray Fisher (Victor Stone/Cyborg) can bring to the table and they are in fact fun.

I was hoping to see more from the supporting cast including J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Ciarán Hinds, Connie Nielsen, Joe Morton and Billy Cudrup but I guess that’s what the future films are for.

Fabian Wagner’s cinematography was on-point, Danny Elfman did a good job with the score though I would have liked to hear what Junkie XL could have brought to the table instead, Patrick Tatopoulos’ production design was very nice, the art direction was good, the visual effects were solid, Michael Wilkinson’s costumes were awesome and Dominic Capon’s set decoration was good as well.

Do I count this as a major win for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment? It does enough to not lose, I will say that. It’s not as good as Wonder Woman, but it is better than the films that came before Wonder Woman and that is victory enough.

Going forward, I still want Geoff Johns and the creative team to really consider handing the keys to another director for a potential sequel. Zack Snyder did an okay enough job to keep the future of the DCEU alive but these movies need to reach their full potential.

From this critic’s perspective, Justice League is good enough to go see.

In One Year, the Wizarding World Will Witness The Crimes of Grindelwald

Before Lord Voldemort, the world of witchcraft and wizardry was terrorized by a powerful and fearsome wizard named Gellert Grindelwald who met his downfall at the hands of his former friend Albus Dumbledore. In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the feats of Grindelwald were briefly teased as Newt Scamander scoured 1940s New York City scrambling to retrieve his escaped magical creatures and the film ended with the Dark Wizard in the custody of the MACUSA, or so we thought. Details on the new magical follow-up to Fantastic Beasts has finally come to light including the title: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

According to Warner Bros., in the new film Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has escaped custody and will be seen gathering followers to his nefarious cause. This next film will also see Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) enlisted by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to try and stop him.

As a fan of the first Fantastic Beasts picture, I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the new adventures of Newt Scamander for some time now, especially since this film will feature a young Professor Dumbledore. I was wondering if this film will explore the dynamic relationship between Jude Law’s Dumbledore and Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald and how magizoologist Newt Scamander finds himself in the middle of the feud between them again.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Allison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Johnny Depp, Carmen Ejogo, Jude Law, Jessica Williams, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim and Zoë Kravitz. David Yates is returning to direct and the film is written by none other than J.K. Rowling. The magic arrives in theaters on November 16, 2018.

Movie of the Week: Justice League

Superman was regarded as a savior to some, a god to a few and a threat to many but his sacrifice in defeating Lex Luthor’s abomination known as Doomsday cemented his legacy as a hero. With the Man of Steel out of the picture, the world grows darker by the day as feats of injustice occur on a daily basis, but Bruce Wayne works to honor Superman legacy in the shadows for he knows that a mysterious and massive force is coming to Earth. Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince scour the Earth to recruit special individuals in Arthur Curry, Barry Allen and Victor Stone to stand against this global threat. A new age of heroes is about to begin and it begins with a team. Justice League is upon us.

Director: Zack Snyder (and Joss Whedon)

Written by: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Diane Lane, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Billy Cudrup, Kiersey Clemmons, Jesse Eisenberg and Henry Cavill.

What am I expecting to see?: This is the movie that cannot afford to fail! Warner Bros. and the DC Extended Universe already have their first win with Wonder Woman and for this franchise to get back on track, they need Justice League to be a success! I’ve gone on record expressing my lack of confidence in Zack Snyder as the guy in charge of these films but I’m going into Justice League expecting nothing but excellence, in light of the fact that Joss Whedon stepping in to finish what Snyder started. I DO NOT WANT THIS TO FAIL!!!

Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The dark comedic mastermind behind In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths is back with a vengeance! Martin McDonaugh’s new feature has a very simple plot: it’s about sending a message and that is exactly what the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri does: it sends a very loud and strong message from the most dangerous adversary anyone wouldn’t want to cross: a very, very, very upset mother!

All Mildred Hayes wants is the truth. Who raped and murdered her daughter Angela and why hasn’t the Ebbing Police Department made any headway into her unsolved investigation? Mildred is a mom on a mission and she isn’t going to let anyone deter her from holding the police responsible for dropping the ball on her daughter’s case.

Mildred’s message is seen and heard loud and clear and it does good but it also creates enemies in and out of the police department and the entire town. Naturally the police rallies around the ailing Chief Willoughby, as does his many friends in town; among those who aren’t exactly pleased by the attention of the billboards includes her son Robbie and her abusive ex-husband but this woman is resolute and she’ll fight tooth and nail to see the fruits of her billboards flourish or sour.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an utter riot of a film! It’s just what you expect out of a Martin McDonaugh picture: dark, full-force, funny, tender in a few places, unresolved but the ride is well worth the price of admission.

McDonaugh’s film is written as superbly it was executed! This is a movie that keeps you guessing whether or not we’re going to get answers but floors you with its relentless force in telling what is happening and I couldn’t look away for an instant, no matter how graphic or tense it was.

Frances McDormand is a tour-de-force! She is a one-woman war-machine ready to kick, punch or fight anyone who tries to silence her and I loved her character’s bravado in this film. In fact, I think this is her best performance since Fargo!

The supporting cast is outstanding. Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Zeljko Ivanek, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Sandy Martin, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Kerry Condon, Darrell Brit-Gibson, all very strong! This ensemble across the board utilizes the talent they possess to the fullest.

Ben Davis’ cinematography is very sharp, Jon Gregory’s editing is very precise, Carter Burwell’s music is good, the production design of Inbal Weinberg is well done, as is the Jesse Rosenthal’s art direction, the set decoration of Marissa Lombardo and the costume design of Melissa Toth are respectable as well.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is film I encourage audiences to see if they are in need of a wild-time! Mildred Hayes is certainly a character to remember and I credit Frances McDormand as well as Martin McDonaugh for crafting an original, dark, relevant picture that pulls no punches. This is definitely a must-see movie if you have the chance to see it!