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    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: *** out of 4
    Dug and his pet wild boar, Hognob in Early Man

    From Aardman Animations, the studio behind Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, and Shaun the Sheep return with their latest stop-motion animated film, Early Man. Directed by Wallace & Gromit creator, Nick Park (Creature Comforts, Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and produced by long-time collaborator, Peter Lord (Chicken Run, Flushed Away, The Pirates! Band of Misfits), this film marks Nick Park’s first film as a solo director and first directing credit in over ten years since Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in 2005.
    On paper Early Man sounds like the dumbest, most ridiculous thing ever conceived, a football game (No, not the American kind) being played by cavemen and Bronze Age soldiers. Fortunately, the film is self-aware of how absurd its concept is and has fun with it through witty jokes, a colorful cast of characters, and outrageous visual gags, and the majority of them hit bulls-eye.
    The film follows a tribe of primitive hunters being displaced from their home in a valley by emissaries from a distant empire that has mastered the art of bronze making led by the sinister, Lord Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston-Marvel Cinematic Universe, War Horse, Kong: Skull Island). A tribesman named Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne-The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) rebels against the Bronze Age City and challenges them to a game of soccer to win their valley back.
    Why soccer you may ask? Well, because their ancestors have played the game for centuries through an origin that only an animated film can make up and had a long history of games. Until the cavemen unknowingly gave up on soccer and transitioned to rabbit hunting, and Dug, with the help of a soccer enthusiast from the Bronze City named Goona (voiced by Maisie Williams-Game of Thrones, Mary Shelley, The New Mutants) must whip his tribe into shape and win the game for their land.
    The film also features the voices of Timothy Spall (Harry Potter franchise, The King’s Speech, Mr. Turner) as Chief Bobnar, Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd, Submarine, The Boxtrolls) as Treebor, Selina Griffiths (Jonathan Creek, Midsomer Murders, Not Going Out) as Magma, Johnny Vegas (QI, Benidorm, The Brothers Grimsby) as Asbo, Mark Williams (Harry Potter franchise, Stardust, Albert Nobbs) as Barry, Gina Yashere (The Jay Leno Show, Married Single Other, The Daily Show) as Gravelle, Simon Greenall (People Like Us, Alas Smith and Jones, Trapped!) as Eemak, Miriam Margolyes (Balto, Babe, Harry Potter franchise) as Queen Oofeefa, Rob Brydon (Shaun of the Dead, MirrorMask, The Trip trilogy) as Message Bird, Kayvan Novak (Syriana, Facejacker, Paddington) as Dino (No, not the dinosaur from The Flintstones), and Park as Hognob.
    Overall, Early Man is a funny movie whether you’re a kid or an adult, and especially if you’re an animation enthusiast (like myself). I don’t think it’s on the same level of quality as Chicken Run or the Wallace & Gromit shorts, but this is a movie that encompasses everything I love about Aardman’s films.
    There are jokes flying at you constantly, many of which you’ll miss the first time around while you’re too busy laughing at another joke. It’s a movie that requires multiple viewings to get all the jokes, and I have no problem with that because I’ve already decided that I’m getting the Blu-Ray once it comes out.
    The animation and set pieces are beautiful like most of Aardman’s films and the sets are obviously miniatures but once you put a camera in those little sets they’ve built, they feel larger than life and full of imagination. It’s also fascinating that the movie was filmed on green-screens for CG such as fire and weather effects, but they’re kept to a minimum and most of what you’re watching is really there.
    From a visual perspective, nothing feels lazy or cheap and everything is well-detailed and appealing to the eyes. Right down to the simple-looking clay puppets of the characters, if you look closely on the characters in an Aardman film, you’ll notice fingerprints by the animators to maintain a homemade-looking appearance, a simple detail like that on top of all the time spent to animate them is truly something to be admired.
    I also really like how this doesn’t feel like an animated film that was made for marketing purposes which is what a lot of Aardman projects were like when DreamWorks and Sony were distributing their films. Early Man isn’t distributed by a major film studio and it reminds audiences that a good animated movie comes from its story and characters, not because of toy selling.

    Early Man brings the laughs and heart to make for a satisfying family outing, a delightfully absurd but consistently funny animated film that’s ironically a better Flintstones movie than the actual Flintstones movie. Don’t expect a Chicken Run or Wallace & Gromit, but a well-made animated movie nonetheless.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: **** out of 4
    Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther

    Chadwick Boseman (42, Get on Up, Marshall) reprises his role from Captain America: Civil War as T’Challa, better known as the Black Panther in the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther. In the director’s chair is Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) and co-starring Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, The Boondocks, Creed), who previously worked with Coogler on the 2015 Rocky spin-off, Creed, these three have brought the world of Wakanda to life.
    I’m convinced Marvel got me hyped for the wrong movie this year, despite being excited for the Black Panther movie, my eyes kept getting drawn towards their next major release, Avengers: Infinity War. Not only is this a solid installment of the MCU but it’s quite possibly one of the best in the entire series.
    Black Panther not only works as a Marvel movie but as a film in general, you can come into it completely blind and still walk out with a smile. The movie is filled with all the Marvel tropes, flashy action, one-liners, and lots of special effects, but add well-developed characters, an engaging story, and some effective drama.
    The film follows T’Challa (Boseman) returning to his isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, after the events of Captain America: Civil War, to take his place as King. However, an enemy from his past resurfaces known as Killmonger (B. Jordan) with a plan to dethrone him and take over Wakanda, T’Challa’s roles as a king and the Black Panther are put to the ultimate test as he is drawn into a conflict that could put Wakanda and the entire world at risk.
    The film also stars Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Star Wars franchise, The Jungle Book (2016)) as Nakia, Danai Gurira (The Visitor, The Walking Dead, Mother of George) as Okoye, Martin Freeman (The Hobbit trilogy, The World’s End, Whisky Tango Foxtrot) reprising his role from Captain America: Civil War as Everett K. Ross, Daniel Kaluuya (Kick-Ass 2, Sicario, Get Out) as W’Kabi, Letitia Wright (Humans, The Commuter, Ready Player One) as Shuri, Winston Duke (Person of Interest, The Messengers, Modern Family) as M’Baku, Angela Bassett (Boyz n the Hood, Malcolm X, Chi-Raq) as Ramonda, Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Arrival, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Zuri, and Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Planet of the Apes (2011) trilogy, Star Wars franchise) reprising his role from Avengers: Age of Ultron as Ulysses Klaue.
    Overall, Black Panther is an exhilarating thrill-ride with some thought-provoking storytelling, strong characters, and intelligent and subtle themes of culture and race that aren’t shoved in your face. Themes like racism, power, and identity are addressed in the film, as well as plenty of time to establish the lifestyle and culture of Wakanda that somehow feels plausible.
    Chadwick Boseman nails it as Black Panther and, in my opinion, he’s one of the most fascinating heroes I’ve seen in any Marvel property. He’s not just a guy wearing spandex and fighting crime but a man who blurs the line between ruling his country and doing what’s right, he’s quite possibly the most human out of these heroes and I would gladly follow him.
    If there’s anyone in this movie who upstages Boseman, it’s Michael B. Jordan as the villain, Killmonger, which is a huge improvement over his performance in the 2015 Fantastic Four. This is Marvel’s best villain character since Loki and he doesn’t fall victim to the “I am evil just for the sake of being evil” cliché, but rather a lost soul who had a tragic backstory that made him turn to evil (Yeah, get in line Thanos!).
    The visuals and designs of the film are absolutely gorgeous and when watching it in IMAX you feel immersed in the world of Wakanda. The colors are vibrant and the everything in Wakanda is filled with imagination that leaps off the screen, kind of like Thor’s Asgard mixed with Avatar’s Pandora and spices of Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy.

    Black Panther delivers both as a Marvel movie and a film in general, the Marvel tropes are subtle, balanced with good story and characters, drama, and a perfect midpoint between style and substance. The king reigns supreme and is certainly worth several more visits to Wakanda, I know I’m not done watching it.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
    The world of Beatrix Potter comes to life in Peter Rabbit

    Is a bad marketing campaign in Sony’s contract or something? First the 2016 Ghostbusters movie, then Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and now this, a film adaptation of the beloved children’s book character, Peter Rabbit.
    I was ready to despise the latest cash-cow from Sony when I first saw the trailer, and the marketing itself looked like their Smurfs movies but with CG rabbits. However, I was still optimistic about Peter Rabbit and decided to give the movie a chance, after all it wouldn’t be the first time Sony gave us a good movie with bad publicity.
    Thankfully the movie doesn’t quite live up to the dreaded trailers, but was the movie “Good”? Eh, I wouldn’t go that far. It’s a harmless kids’ movie with nice animation, fast slapstick-filled humor, and cute little animals running around and causing trouble, but with a few self-aware jokes that poke fun at several kids’ movie tropes and clichés thrown in that get a good laugh.
    Unfortunately, the plot is recycled and outside of those cliché jabs, it doesn’t do much to differentiate from other family movies, a lot of jokes fall flat and are repeated, and the soundtrack is distracting and doesn’t fit a Beatrix Potter environment. I’m not talking about the score here, I’m talking about the inevitable pop songs that play in the background.
    The film follows Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden-Gavin & Stacey, Begin Again, Into the Woods), his cousin, Benjamin (voiced by Colin Moody), and his triplet sisters, Flopsy (voiced by Margot Robbie-The Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad, I, Tonya), Mopsy (voiced by Elizabeth Debicki-The Great Gatsby (2013), The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2), and Cottontail (voiced by Daisy Ridley-Star Warsfranchise, Only Yesterday, Murder on the Orient Express (2017)) spending most of their days picking on their neighbor, Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill-The Piano, Jurassic Park, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and stealing vegetables from his garden. The rabbits are friends with a free-spirited woman named Bea (Rose Byrne-Neighbors, X-Men franchise, Spy) who has a passion for painting and being surrounded by nature and is a motherly figure for the rabbits.
    After Mr. McGregor’s sudden death, the rabbits think their human neighbor problems are over and they can get all the vegetables they need. Until, his nephew from London named Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson-Harry Potter franchise, Ex-Machina, Star Wars franchise), who has an unhealthy hatred of rabbits, inherits his home and does everything he can to keep them out.
    Eventually Thomas grows a liking to Bea which sets off a feud for attention between Peter and Thomas. They clash, and all sorts of hilarity ensues as the rabbits turn Thomas’ life upside-down.
    The film also features the voices of Byrne as Jemima Puddle-Duck, Neill as Tommy Brock, Gleeson as Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Sia (My Little Pony: The Movie) as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, Ewen Leslie (Dead Europe, The Daughter, The Butterfly Tree) as Pigling Bland, Rachel Ward (Night School, The Umbrella Woman, Blackbeard) as Josephine Rabbit, Bryan Brown (Stir, Rebel, The Thorn Birds) as Mr. Rabbit, and David Wenham (Dark City, The Lord of the Rings 2 and 3, Lion) as Johnny Town-Mouse.
    Overall, Peter Rabbit is a fine family movie, it isn’t high quality entertainment like Coco or Paddington 2, but it’s definitely an improvement over the much-despised Emoji Movie. The animation is colorful and lively, the humor when done right without repeats are funny, and it has a good heart.
    The animation is colorful and despite the animated characters resembling real-life animals, the animators added a lot of personality in the movements and facial features of the characters, not to mention fast slapstick. They even have hand-drawn animated scenes that look like the illustrations to Beatrix Potter’s books, and they’re absolutely beautiful to look at and done in a very clever way.
    Peter is mischievous, arrogant, and cracking jokes, but still remains a likable character, though his attitude can get a little annoying at times. Domhnall Gleeson’s performance as Thomas is the highlight of the film, he’s over-the-top, hamming it up, and it looks like he’s having a great time on-screen, and I have to give the movie props for not making him a straight-up villain, despite him being an antagonist to the rabbits.
    The humor, to me, was very hit or miss, I dug the jokes that made fun of all the common tropes and clichés found in most children’s movies, but a lot of the physical gags didn’t leave much of an impression nor did the humor that only catered to the kids in the audience, and especially when an unfunny joke gets repeated several times as the movie progresses. At least I got some laughs out of this movie, which is more than what I could say about a bad Happy Madison project or a Friedberg and Seltzer spoof movie.
    I felt this movie needed to be put in the hands of the crew behind Paddington in terms of its humor and execution. I don’t remember butt jokes in the books nor would I imagine a song like 500 Miles playing in the background of a Peter Rabbit story.

    Oh well, it’s too innocent to nitpick it like mad, kids and families will probably find something to appreciate about Peter Rabbit. It doesn’t quite do the books justice, but I’d say it’s worth at least a viewing.
  4. THE 15:17 TO PARIS:

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: ** out of 4
    Three men will perform an unbelievable act of heroism in The 15:17 to Paris

    The 15:17 to Paris kept me away from Fifty Shades Freed this weekend, I guess that’s worth praising about, certainly wish the movie was better though. Director, Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry franchise, Million Dollar Baby, Sully) brings the incredible true story about three men onboard a train to Paris who stopped a terrorist attack, with The 15:17 to Paris, featuring the real-life people involved in the event portraying themselves.
    It’s definitely an ambitious project and I was intrigued by the idea of having the real people star in the film. Unfortunately, as well-intentioned the movie may be, it’s pretty clumsy with awkward pacing, focus in the wrong areas, and a rather anti-climactic final act.
    The film follows three American friends, Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos aboard a train bound for Paris in the evening of August 21, 2015. But when a terrorist attack begins on the train, these three men use their skills, wits, and friendship to thwart the attack and save the lives of more than 500 passengers onboard in an act of heroism.
    The film also stars Mark Moogalian as himself, Judy Greer (The Descendants, Jurassic World, Ant-Man) as Joyce Eskel, Jenna Fischer (The Office, Blades of Glory, Brad’s Status) as Heidi Skarlatos, Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Veep, American Ultra) as Coach Murray, Thomas Lennon (Reno 911, The Odd Couple, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas) as Principal Michael Akers, Sinqua Walls (Pair of Kings, Once Upon a Time, Teen Wolf) as Marine, P.J. Byrne (The Legend of Korra, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Gift) as Mr. Henry, Jaleel White (Family Matters, Sonic the Hedgehog, Total Blackout) as Garrett Walden, and Robert Pralgo (The Blind Side, 12 Rounds, Furious 7) as Mr. Skarlatos.
    Overall, The 15:17 to Paris is an unfortunate misstep in Clint Eastwood’s directing career which is a shame after a slew of successes with American Sniper and Sully. I’ll give him credit for taking a huge risk and casting the real people as themselves instead of big-named actors, although that does lead to problems with the film.
    I more than appreciate what they did on the train, however in terms of acting in film, they’re not very good. They don’t exactly do a horrible job acting but hardly ever did I feel like they sold their emotional moments and it was hard to be invested.
    The acting didn’t bother me that much, but if there’s something that I had a huge issue with regarding this film, it’s the pacing. Despite the movie being called The 15:17 to Paris and most of the marketing focuses on the three men on the train being attacked by terrorists, none of that really happens until the end.
    I assume since it was an action that only took about 15 minutes to complete and Eastwood was trying to make a full-length movie out of it, they added a lot of scenes that were probably shot as filler for the runtime. The beginning showing them as kids I thought was done okay and I didn’t have a problem with it, but the scenes of them touring Europe felt so long and it almost feels like you’re watching a tour of Europe that ends with a train attack.
    I understand establishing the characters and allowing the audience to be invested in them when the inevitable attack happens. But they spend the majority of the film touring Italy and Germany prior to boarding the train to Paris, I was so impatient and bored I was mentally shouting “Get on the damn train already so the plot can happen!”.
    Once we get to the terrorist attack, it’s pretty underwhelming and that should not be the case. I’ve seen several movies that revolve around terrorist attacks and even the less-overblown films still made a big deal out of the event.
    We know nothing about the terrorist, who he works for, and his reasoning for the attack, he simply shows up with a gun, shoots a few people, and is quickly defeated. This movie feels really cut-together and rushed, and had they established the terrorist better or depicted the aftermath of the event in a similar way Thank You For Your Service tackled the impacts of war and violence, this probably could have been a much stronger story.

    I appreciate Clint Eastwood’s attempts at depicting the event and for taking a risk by having the real people involved star in it. Sadly, he missed the mark with The 15:17 to Paris and this is a train I don’t see myself hopping on again anytime soon.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
    A station crew is about to discover something they weren’t prepared for in The Cloverfield Paradox

    In 2008, producer, J.J. Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek (2009), Star Wars: The Force Awakens) cashed in on the fad of found-footage scary films that were popularized by The Blair Witch Projectin 1999, with the smash hit, Cloverfieldunder direction by Matt Reeves, who would later go on to direct the Planet of the Apes reboot sequels and written by The Martian writer and The Cabin in the Woods director, Drew Goddard. Eight years later, the film was followed up by a critically-acclaimed standalone sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane with Abrams returning as producer, Reeves as executive producer, and directed by Dan Trachtenberg, which unlike the first film was shot in a third-person narrative rather than found-footage.
    So, two years after the release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, we have the third installment of the Cloverfieldfranchise, The Cloverfield Paradox, originally under the title, God Particle, which premiered on Netfliximmediately following the 2018 Super Bowl. This marks the first Cloverfield movie to not get a theatrical release, and normally I wouldn’t review TV or direct-to-video movies (Unless it received either a Fathom Eventor limited theatrical engagement), but since I already reviewed 10 Cloverfield Lane back in 2016, it makes sense to review the next one.
    Wow, what a fascinating yet cluttered mess we got here, The Cloverfield Paradox falls victim to the most common “Third Movie” trapping of not being as good as its predecessors. But on top of that it has inconsistent genre shifting and so many theories and science mumbo-jumbo that it’ll most likely leave you scratching your head rather than feel like your questions been answered, on the plus side it at least had some good acting and some chilling moments.
    The film follows a group of scientific researchers onboard a space station attempting to harness a new energy source called the God Particle to save our planet from a global energy crisis. However, they soon realize that something terrifying has been unleashed from the God Particle and they have no idea what it is, what it wants, or what it can do.
    The film stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beauty and the Beast (2017), A Wrinkle in Time) as Ava Hamilton, David Oyelowo (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Selma, Queen of Katwe) as Kiel, Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds, Rush, Captain America: Civil War) as Schmidt, John Ortiz (Carlito’s Way, Fast & Furious franchise, Kong: Skull Island) as Monk Acosta, Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, Thor: The Dark World, St. Vincent) as Mundy, Aksel Hennie (Headhunters, Hercules (2014), The Martian) as Volkov, Zhang Ziyi (Rush Hour 2, House of Flying Daggers, Memoirs of a Geisha) as Tam, Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby (2013), The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2) as Mina Jensen, Roger Davies (Renford Rejects) as Michael Hamilton, and Donal Logue (Little Women, Grounded for Life, Gotham) as Mark Stambler.
    Overall, The Cloverfield Paradox is an ambitious project and has some solid performances by its cast as well as some interesting theories and moments of terror. Unfortunately, any potential its narrative could have is completely wasted to give more questions and theories for die-hard film analysts to listen to, with some last minute Cloverfield references shoehorned in.
    The movie also doesn’t know what kind of genre it’s trying to be, one minute it’s a horror movie, the next it’s an isolation sci-fi film like Moon, then it becomes an unintentional comedy, and finally a bunch of clichés and tropes leftover from Alien, Event Horizon, Interstellar, and Life all thrown together. The movie is so inconsistent by its tone and so overblown by its possibilities that my brain ached after the movie was over…and not in an accomplished way, it’s like listening to Christopher Nolan’s science theories while stuck in The Matrix, can we please go back to Cloverfield monsters destroying cities?
    As much as the movie fails in certain areas, there are some elements that are worth admiring. The production design and visuals are impressive and atmospheric, some of the references to the previous films are done well, the scares when they do them right, and the acting is good had they were given a better script that tied the Cloverfield references in better, this could have been on par with 10 Cloverfield Lane.

    But even after those pros, I don’t think I could recommend The Cloverfield Paradox to anyone. Fans of the franchise will be disappointed by the lack of Cloverfield elements and people looking for a decent sci-fi flick will be bombarded with questions and theories that don’t really add up. Unless you’re a science-expert and frequent Christopher Nolan movie analysist who can analyze scientific theories in movies as fast as a ninja on speed, this “Paradox” isn’t worth your time.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
    Thomas, Newt, and Brenda in Maze Runner: The Death Cure

    After waiting three years since the release of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, we finally have closure on the Maze Runnerfilm trilogy, based on the series of books by James Dashner. Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the third and final installment of the latest young adult dystopian sci-fi franchise in the same vein as The Hunger Games, but never quite gets off the ground.
    Unlike Harry Potter or The Hunger Games where I get wrapped up in the story and characters, thrilled by the action, and leaves me praising the films, or even The Twilight Saga where I can go on and on about how terrible it is, Maze Runner is a franchise I acknowledge that it exists. None of the films in the series I would consider bad and I thought the first movie was pretty good, but they don’t really do much different from other dystopian stories.
    Maze Runner is a perfect example of a franchise I classify as…okay, how’s the first one? It’s okay, how’s the second one? It’s okay, how’s this one? It’s okay. That’s pretty much my thoughts on the entire franchise in a nutshell.
    Like its predecessors, Maze Runner: The Death Cure offers some thrilling action sequences and solid acting from its young cast. But its narrative comes off as generic paint-by-numbers young adult novel adaptation fluff and doesn’t do much new with the genre.
    The film follows Thomas (Dylan O’Brien-Teen Wolf, Deepwater Horizon, American Assassin), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster-Love Actually, Nanny McPhee, Phineas and Ferb), and Frypan (Dexter Darden-Cadillac Records, Joyful Noise, Geography Club), the last of the Gladers immune to the Flare virus that infected the world’s population, off on their final and most dangerous mission yet, break into the WCKD organization and save their captured friend, Minho (Ki Hong Lee-The Nine Lives of Chloe King, Everything Before Us,Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Little do they know, WCKD controls a labyrinth of a utopia known as the legendary Last City which turns out to be the deadliest maze of all.
    Thomas and the Gladers, with the help of their newfound friends, Brenda (Rosa Salazar-American Horror Story: Murder House, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Alita: Battle Angel) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito-Malcolm X, The Jungle Book (2016), Okja) must race to save Minho along with several immune children that were experimented on by WCKD, get answers to all the questions they’ve been asking ever since they’ve entered the maze, and bring WCKD down.
    The film also stars Kaya Scodelario (Skins, Moon, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) as Teresa, Nathalie Emmanuel (Twenty8k, Game of Thrones, Fast & Furious 7 and 8) as Harriet, Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones, The Dark Knight Rises) as Janson, Walton Goggins (Justified, Lincoln, The Hateful Eight) as Lawrence, Jacob Lofland (Justified, Mud, Free State of Jones) as Aris, Katherine McNamara (Happyland, Natural Selection, Shadowhunters) as Sonya, Barry Pepper (Flags of our Fathers, True Grit(2010), The Kennedys) as Vince, Will Poulter (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, We’re the Millers, Detroit) as Gally, who was presumed dead in the maze, and Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April, Six Feet Under, The Elephant Man) as Ava Paige.
    Overall, Maze Runner: The Death Cure does exactly what it’s supposed to do, wrap up the trilogy for its fans. However, if you barely ever re-watch the Maze Runner movies (like me), chances are you’ll be completely lost in terms of the story, I completely forgot about what happened in Scorch Trials (aside from Teresa betraying the group in the end…spoiler alert) and I get the feeling if I didn’t watch both movies again prior to this one, I’d be lost with all the other mainstream movie-goers who don’t follow the franchise.
    But with that said, there are some good elements in this film, the action is pretty exciting, the main characters keep you invested, and the acting is solid. Dylan O’Brien I can see acting in a great film in the future, and he gives it his all in this trilogy, plus the chemistry he has with Newt is very strong.
    Most of the action is fun to watch but at times they seem recycled from other movies, the opening train chase looks like a crossover between Mad Max and Hunger Games, and the climax, while thrilling and offers some variety, does run on a lot of young adult clichés and looks more like the Hunger Games districts fighting in a war against the Capitol, not much to it.
    The film offers some interesting ideas regarding medicine, science, and life but they’re either really vague or not explored that much. I was personally underwhelmed that the movie never goes into the origin of WCKD and the reasoning behind their decisions, what does locking kids into a maze have to do with finding a virus cure? What’s the history of the feud between WCKD and the people on the other side of the wall? Why does Thomas literally have a Deus ex Machina inside his body? These questions are either never fully answered or not answered at all, which would have made a much more interesting movie.

    If you’re a fan of the Maze Runner books and movies and want to see closure of the franchise, you’ll probably like The Death Cure fine. As mentioned before it does exactly what it needed to do, wrap up the Maze Runner series and there’s enough entertaining moments to make it worth a viewing, better than Scorch Trials but not by much, take it for what it’s worth.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
    Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread

    Out of all the movies I’ve seen that were released for award season this year, this is quite possibly the movie that surprised me the most. Phantom Thread, the latest film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master) and starring Academy Award winner, Daniel Day-Lewis (The Last of the Mohicans, There Will Be Blood, Lincoln) in his second collaboration with Anderson after There Will Be Blood.
    Going into this movie I knew very little about the premise outside of seeing the trailer a couple times before other films. The basic knowledge I had about the film was it’s about a dressmaker, it’s directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and it stars Daniel Day-Lewis in what’s been reported to be his final acting role, that’s it.
    And now that I’ve seen it, I’ll admit I’m very glad I had little knowledge of the film because I had no idea where it was going, and it enhanced my appreciation for the movie as a whole. The film starts off slow but as it progresses it gets better and better, Phantom Thread is beautifully filmed, well-acted, and finds a near-perfect balance between humor, romance, and drama with plenty of twists.
    Set in 1950s post-war London, the film follows renowned dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) who is at the center of British fashion with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville-Topsy-Turvy, All or Nothing, Another Year), dressing for royalty, movie stars, heiresses, and dames to name a few with the distinct style of the House of Woodcock. Though Woodcock is a dressmaker, his mind-set is to that of a pretentious artist and everything must be done perfectly and heavily focuses on his work to the point where even if someone chews their food incorrectly at the breakfast table while he’s working, his entire day is ruined.
    His tailor-made life is put to the ultimate test when he meets a strong-willed woman named Alma (Vicky Krieps-House of Boys, Hanna, Colonia Dignidad) who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Woodcock realizes that his organized and planned out life is constantly disrupted by love.
    The film also stars Richard Graham (Titanic, Gangs of New York, The World’s End) as George Riley, Camilla Rutherford (Vanity Fair, Rome, The Darjeeling Limited) as Johanna, Harriet Sansom Harris (Addams Family Values, Desperate Housewives, Memento) as Barbara Rose, Brian Gleeson (Love/Hate, Logan Lucky, Mother!) as Dr. Robert Hardy, Julia Davis (Nighty Night, Hunderby, Camping) as Lady Baltimore, baronet, Nicholas Mander as Lord Baltimore, Gina McKee (Notting Hill, Inspector Morse, Vera) as Countess Henrietta Harding, Phillip Franks (Pie in the Sky, Midsomer Murders, Bleak House) as Peter Martin, Phyllis MacMahon (Leo the Last, The Magdalene Sisters, Shaun of the Dead) as Tippy, and Silas Carson (Star Wars: Episodes I-III, Doctor Who, Locke) as Rubio Gurrerro.
    Overall, Phantom Thread is a fascinating movie, it probably won’t please everyone, and the pacing can be a little slow at times but through the acting, production design, and attention to detail in the story it’ll keep your interest. Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is phenomenal (Though that statement is like saying “The sky is blue”) and every time he’s on-screen you forget you’re watching him, he always transforms into his characters and not once do you ever comment “There’s Daniel Day-Lewis again”, I don’t think his role is quite as incredible as Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour but it’s still pretty damn good.
    This could easily be described at first glance as a movie about a dressmaker in London and that’s it, oh man, it is so much more than that. As you’re watching it you never know where the movie is going, and it transitions from classy and elegant to strange and dark, like most of Anderson’s films.

    I wouldn’t say Phantom Thread is on par with The Disaster Artist, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But as an award contender, Paul Thomas Anderson directed film, and supposed finale of Daniel Day-Lewis’ acting career, Phantom Thread is very well-stitched together and adds the right balance between humor, drama, and romance to make for one uniquely dressed film that’s definitely worth talking about.
  8. 12 STRONG:

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: *** out of 4
    Chris Hemsworth in 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers

    I find it humorous that in January 2016 we had the release of the war film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and in January of this year, history repeated itself with another war drama. Danish photojournalist, Nicolai Fuglsig makes his American directorial debut with 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers, based on Doug Stanton’s non-fiction novel, Horse Soldiers.
    The film focuses on a group of CIA paramilitary officers, U.S. Special Forces, and USAF Combat Controllers as they are sent to Afghanistan following the events of the September 11 attacks to fight back. I have not read Stanton’s book but as a war movie and a directorial debut, it’s a perfectly serviceable film, pretty much the same opinion I had on Michael Bay’s 13 Hours.
    The war sequences in this movie are incredible but at times they’re really overblown, and the emotional depth and development of the characters take a backseat for explosions and gunfire, makes sense because it’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, The Rock, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). 12 Strong doesn’t really do anything new with the war genre and as much as I liked this movie as well as 13 Hours both films suffer from amazing action sequences but weak characters, which makes it harder to be invested in the people stuck in the war.
    In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Task Force Dagger, a team consisting of CIA paramilitary officers and U.S. Army Green Berets are sent to Afghanistan to join forces with General Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban-Charlie Wilson’s War, Homeland, American Sniper) of the Northern Alliance to conduct unconventional warfare against Taliban. These twelve soldiers go down in history as the first group of people to fight back after the horrors of 9/11 with nothing but their wits, weaponry, and horses.
    The film stars Chris Hemsworth (Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Cabin in the Woods, Rush) as Captain Mitch Nelson, Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Midnight Special, The Shape of Water) as Chief Warrant Officer Cal Spencer, Michael Peña (End of Watch, Fury, Ant-Man) as Sergeant First Class Sam Diller, Trevante Rhodes (If Loving You is Wrong, Moonlight, Westworld) as Sergeant First Class Ben Milo, Geoff Stults (Wedding Crashers, October Road, J. Edgar) as Sean Coffers, Thad Luckinbill (Sicario, La La Land, Only the Brave) as Vern Michaels, William Fichtner (Crash, The Dark Knight, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)) as Colonel John Mulholland, Rob Riggle (The Other Guys, 21 Jump Street, Hotel Transylvania) as Colonel Max Bowers, Elsa Pataky (Fast & Furious franchise, Snakes on a Plane, The Wine of Summer) as Jean Nelson, Austin Stowell (Whiplash, Bridge of Spies, Battle of the Sexes) as Staff Sergeant Fred Falls, Jack Kesy (The Strain, Claws, Deadpool 2) as Charles Jones, Fahim Fazli (Argo, NCIS: Los Angeles, American Sniper) as Commander Khaled, and director, Taylor Sheridan (Vile, Wind River, Yellowstone) as Brian.
    Overall, 12 Strong is a decent war film despite focusing more on spectacle over establishing its characters. The movie’s well-acted though nobody really stands out aside from Hemsworth or Shannon, maybe that’s because I’m so familiar with their Thor and General Zod performances.
    As mentioned before, the war sequences are intense and impressive to watch but at times it feels like they’re on repeat. They don’t wreck the movie, but it can be noticeable and a little boring after a while.
    I feel like if they focused more on developing the characters and the horrifying and emotional impacts of war, this could have been up there with Saving Private Ryan or even last year’s Dunkirk as one of the best war movies of all time. But as is, it’s a paint-by-numbers war film that’s thrilling to watch and well-acted but doesn’t really offer much outside of that.

    The story is “Strong” but the execution could have been “Stronger”, take it for what it’s worth.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
    Paddington Bear is back for seconds in Paddington 2

    Seriously, why are these movies so good!?! Pretty much that sums up my reaction to both films based on the belovedPaddington Bear children’s books by Michael Bond. I was ready to hate the first film when the trailer debuted and all it showed was Paddington cleaning his ears with electric toothbrushes (Apparently that was enough to sell a movie…k?).
    Much to my surprise the film was extremely well-received by critics upon its release which is strange because most live-action films with CGI talking animals usually backfire like Cats & Dogs, the live-action Scooby-Doo movies, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. But once in a while there’s a Homeward Bound or Babealong the way, and that’s where the first Paddington film fits in, it’s a charming movie through the eyes of a child and as an adult with a likable protagonist, a decent sense of humor, an enjoyable cast, and a sweet story.
    I was a little more concerned with the sequel, Paddington 2 because it was a sequel I wasn’t really asking for and thought this was going to be the Paddington movie that would crash and burn. And now I am apologizing to this little bear for even having those expectations to begin with, because Paddington 2 is just as fun as the first one.
    It does what all good sequels do, put the characters you loved from the first film into new situations, take the story further and make it bigger, and introduce new characters to grow attached to without rehashing the first movie. Actually, with all seriousness I thought this one was funnier than the first Paddington, which I recall having good jokes and humor but nothing really that memorably funny, this one I was laughing frequently because of its energy, timing, and acting.
    The film follows Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw-Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Skyfall, The Lobster), having settled with his new family, the Browns in London, becoming extremely popular in the community, and offering emotional support in various ways to all the people he comes across. One day Paddington visits an antique shop to look for a present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday and comes across a valuable pop-up book that is apparently worth a lot of money.
    So, he decides to perform several odd jobs from working as a barber to cleaning windows to raise enough money to buy the book for his aunt. Unfortunately, Paddington sees that someone has broken into the store and stolen the book, which results in Paddington being framed for robbing it.
    His supportive family, Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville-Iris, Downton Abbey, Twenty Twelve), Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins-Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine, The Shape of Water), Judy Brown (Madeleine Harris-Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Being Human, Man Down), and Jonathan Brown (Samuel Joslin) believe that Paddington is innocent and will do whatever it takes to clear his name and find the true culprit. Meanwhile Paddington somehow finds a way to make prison into a fun place (I want that bear now!).
    The film also stars Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Troy, Edge of Tomorrow) as Nuckles McGinty, Julie Walters (Educating Rita, Dinnerladies, Harry Potter franchise) as Mrs. Bird, Jim Broadbent (Brazil, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter 6, 7, and 7.2) as Samuel Gruber, Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who, World War Z, The Fifth Estate) as Mr. Curry, Hugh Grant (Mickey Blue Eyes, Notting Hill, The Pirates!: Band of Misfits) as Phoenix Buchanan, Simon Farnaby (The Mighty Boosh, Jam & Jerusalem, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Barry, Imelda Staunton (Chicken Run, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Pirates!: Band of Misfits) as the voice of Aunt Lucy, Michael Gambon (Sleepy Hollow, Harry Potter 3-7.2, Victoria & Abdul) as the voice of Uncle Pastuzo, Joanna Lumley (James and the Giant Peach, Corpse Bride, Me Before You) as Felicity Fanshaw, Ben Miller (Armstrong and Miller, Johnny English, Asylum) as Colonel Lancaster, Jessica Hynes (The Royale Family, Shaun of the Dead, W1A) as Miss Kitts, Noah Taylor (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Game of Thrones, Edge of Tomorrow) as Phibs, Eileen Atkins (Gosford Park, Cold Mountain, Last Chance Harvey) as Madame Kozlova, Tom Conti (Reuben, Reuben, Friends, Rosemary’s Baby) as Judge Gerald Biggleswade, Sanjeev Bhaskar (It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, The Indian Doctor, Doctor Who) as Dr. Jafri, and Marie-France Alvarez (Criminal Justice, Albatross, Ransom) as Mademoiselle Dubois.
    Overall, Paddington 2 is a funny and charming adventure for the entire family and a sequel to a movie that probably shouldn’t have been that good to begin with. But thanks to its likable characters, impressive production design and animation, and a perfect balance between zany, slapstick-filled, kids humor and morals about family and seeing the good in everyone, they completely surpassed my expectations with the final product.
    Paddington is a very likable character, whether you’re a kid or an adult, it’s impossible to not find the appeal of him. Even when things don’t work out for him, it doesn’t stop his upbeat personality and from doing the right thing. Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Brown is hands down one of the best mothers I’ve seen in both movies and television, she goes to these extreme lengths to save her family members no matter how crazy others might see her, you go girl!
    I’m not a huge fan of Hugh Grant as an actor but he is an absolute joy to watch in this movie as Phoenix. He’s just hamming it up and it looks like he’s having a great time every time he’s on-screen, got a huge laugh out of me.
    The production design of this movie is very eye-catching despite the film taking place in a suburban environment. It’s kind of similar to what Martin Scorsese did with Hugo, they manage to take these real-life environments like the city of London, a train station, and even a prison and make it look like a fairy-tale come to life.

    If you’re looking for wholesome family fun at the movies, Paddington 2 might be the marmalade-flavored film for you. The movie was so good I almost forgot I saw the Teen Titans Go! To the Movies trailer prior to it but we’ll see what happens with that movie.
  10. THE POST:

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: *** out of 4
    Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s The Post

    Director, Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln) returns with his latest film, The Post. A political drama which depicts The Washington Postand New York Times journalists who published the Pentagon Papers regarding the United States government’s covert involvement in the Vietnam War.
    This film marks the first-time beloved actors, Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Bridge of Spies) and Meryl Streep (Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady, Florence Foster Jenkins) have worked together in a film. Amazing, these two cinema darlings have never worked on a movie together until now.
    Given that Spielberg was passionate about the source material but wasn’t originally planning to direct this, he nailed The Post to the wall and its themes are just as relevant today as they were back then. Do I consider it one of his best films? No, but it’s a solid political drama that’s worth talking about especially during awards season.
    After a cover-up that spanned three decades and four U.S. presidents forces the country’s first female news publisher, Kay Graham (Streep) of The Washington Post and its editor, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) to join forces, they participate in an unprecedented battle between journalism and American government in publishing the Pentagon Papers. Kay and Ben race to catch up with The New York Times and expose a massive cover-up of government secrets and fight for the First Amendment.
    The film also stars Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story, Mud, 12 Years a Slave) as Tony Bradlee, Bob Odenkirk (Saturday Night Live, Tom Goes to the Mayor, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) as Ben Bagdikian, Tracy Letts (U.S. Marshals, Killer Joe, Lady Bird) as Fritz Beebe, Bradley Whitford (Adventures in Babysitting, Saving Mr. Banks, Get Out) as Arthur Parsons, Bruce Greenwood (First Blood, Double Jeopardy,Capote) as Robert McNamara, Matthew Rhys (Titus, Brothers & Sisters, The Americans) as Daniel Ellsberg, Allison Brie (Scream 4, The Lego Movie, The Disaster Artist) as Lally Graham, Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers, Fargo) as Meg Greenfield, Jesse Plemons (The Master, Black Mass, Bridge of Spies) as Roger Clark, David Cross (Arrested Development, Kung Fu Panda trilogy, Pitch Perfect 2) as Howard Simons, Zach Woods (The Office, Silicon Valley, Ghostbusters (2016)) as Anthony Essaye, Pat Healy (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Freaks of Nature) as Phil Geyelin, Phillip Casnoff (Law & Order, Frasier, NCIS) as Chalmers Roberts, Jessie Mueller (The Family, Blue Bloods) as Judith Martin, Stark Sands (Lost at Home, Inside Llewyn Davis, Minority Report) as Don Graham, and Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water) as Abe Rosenthal.
    Overall, The Post is a fascinating political drama that depicts the long-time battle between the press and the American government and another solid addition to Spielberg’s directing credit despite being on short notice. Even though he wasn’t originally planning on directing it and his next film, Ready Player One was in post-production, the rushed decision to direct this film was definitely for the best because it speaks just as loud today as it did back then.
    The film doesn’t really do anything new with its subject matter or execution but it’s certainly a movie worth talking about. The movie’s themes of the U.S. government trying to control the media and state what is allowed to print and what’s not can be connected to the Trump Administration and how it wants to control the media and hide secrets from them (That’s as political as I’ll go with this review).
    The performances of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep hold this movie together and they have strong chemistry every time they’re on-screen. I don’t think they’re Oscar winner worthy here but you’re always invested in what the two of them are doing, hopefully this will lead to more starring collaborations in the future.

    If you’re a Spielberg, Hanks, and/or Streep fan and believe in the First Amendment then The Post is a must. Even if I consider the film to be a little overhyped and not quite as mind-blowing as films like The Disaster Artist, Lady Bird, or The Shape of Water, I still feel like it’s a movie that should be watched and discussed for generations, just like All the President’s Men.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: *** out of 4
    Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom in Molly’s Game

    Writer, Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs) makes his directorial debut with the crime-drama, Molly’s Game, based on the true story of Olympic-class skier turned underground high-stakes poker host, Molly Bloom. The film stars Academy Award nominee, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian, Miss Sloane) as Bloom and follows the events of when she ran the most exclusive high-stakes poker game in Los Angeles and New York City and what led to her inevitable arrest.
    I’m glad to say that Aaron Sorkin has knocked it out of the park here, this is a solid directorial debut that’s well-written and Chastain’s performance is stellar. While I don’t think this film is quite as strong as Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, it’s still a smart, dramatic, and at times witty game of poker.
    The film follows Molly Bloom (Chastain), a young woman who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested by the FBI. Her players included Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business titans, and unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob.
    Her only ally during all of this was her criminal defense lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba-Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim) who learns that there’s much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe as she faces federal charges.
    The film also stars Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Field of Dreams, McFarland, USA) as Larry Bloom, Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno, This is the End) as Player X, Brian d’Arcy James (Friends with Kids, Smash, Spotlight) as Brad, Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, The Sapphires, Thor: The Dark World) as Douglas Downey, J.C. MacKenzie (Murder One, The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Harrison Wellstone, Bill Camp (Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Black Mass, The Night Of) as Harlan Eustice, Graham Greene (Maverick, The Green Mile, Wind River) as Judge Foxman, Jeremy Strong (Lincoln, Black Mass, The Big Short) as Dean Keith, Joe Keery (Chicago Fire, Empire, Stranger Things) as Cole, Natalie Krill (MVP, Remedy, The Next Step) as Winston, Claire Rankin (Death Wish V: The Face of Death, Side Effects, Stargate: Atlantis) as Charlene Bloom, and Jon Bass (The Newsroom, Big Time in Hollywood, FL, American Horror Story: Roanoke) as Shelly Habib.
    Overall, Molly’s Game is a fascinating journey through the events of Molly Bloom’s underground poker career and shows a bright directing future for Aaron Sorkin. If you’ve seen plenty of films written by Sorkin then you can point out a lot of his tropes and clichés in the screenplay, but unlike Christopher Nolan where he bombards you with exposition and dialogue-heavy scenes that give your brain a headache, Sorkin actually keeps you invested in what the characters are discussing.
    I’ve seen movies good and bad that had a lot of dialogue-driven scenes with exposition and analyzing that either overwhelmed my mind or put me to sleep. Aaron Sorkin’s movies don’t do that to me, this film clocks in at two hours and twenty minutes with a lot of game statistics and dialogue-heavy moments and not once, NOT ONCE, was I ever bored in this movie.
    Even at slow moments or whenever I started to acknowledge the running-time, I wanted to know everything that was going to happen and hear what the characters are saying. Take some notes Nolan, this is how you make us care about characters in movies, give us characters that act like people and keep us invested, not exposition-spitting robots.
    Besides Sorkin’s writing and directing, the performances by Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba are what truly sell the movie. Chastain always gives it her all whenever she’s on-screen and delivers a powerhouse performance and Elba offers some of the best acting by him I’ve seen in a while.

    Molly’s Game shows a bright directing future for Aaron Sorkin and if you’re a poker enthusiast or looking for a great time at the movies around awards season, this is a “Game” that’s definitely worth playing. Aaron Sorkin has successfully made the transition from writing to directing and I’m looking forward to what he has planned next.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: *** out of 4
    Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg in All the Money in the World

    From director, Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, The Martian) and starring Christopher Plummer (The Insider, Beginners, The Man Who Invented Christmas), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, Shutter Island, Manchester by the Sea), and Mark Wahlberg (The Departed, Ted, Patriots Day) comes All the Money in the World, based on the true story of J. Paul Getty, one of the richest men in the world and his refusal to cooperate with a group of kidnappers who captured his grandson. The film was originally set to star Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty but after…well, you know, they replaced him with Plummer and the film went through reshoots in only two weeks, and damn, give Scott an award for directing in that short amount of time because this film is gripping.
    Do I think it’s on par with Alien, The Martian, Blade Runner, or even Gladiator as one of Ridley Scott’s best films? Probably not, but still it’s a very well-made movie and despite knowing very little of the real man, it kept me on my toes and invested all the way through, mostly because of Plummer’s performance, he makes this movie and gives it his all in only two weeks of reshoots, Academy, give this man an Oscar.
    In 1973, 16-year-old J.P. “Paul” Getty III (Charlie Plummer-Granite Flats, King Jack, The Dinner), grandson of oil tycoon, J. Paul Getty (Plummer) has been kidnapped in Rome by an organized crime ring demanding a ransom of $17 million from his mother, Gail Harris (Williams). Gail desperately attempts to convince his billionaire grandfather to pay the ransom but refuses and states that it would lead to more kidnappings of his family members in the future.
    With her son’s life in the balance, an unlikely partnership is formed between Gail, Getty, and former CIA operative, Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg) to investigate the case and secure Paul’s release. As they dig deeper into the mystery they soon discover the true and lasting value of love over money.
    The film also stars Romain Duris (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Heartbreaker, The New Girlfriend) as Cinquanta, Marco Leonardi (Like Water for Chocolate, From Dusk till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) as Mammoliti, Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, The Ghost Writer, American Crime) as Oswald Hinge, and Andrew Buchan (Party Animals, Nowhere Boy, The Nativity) as John Paul Getty Jr.
    Overall, All the Money in the World is a solid addition to Ridley Scott’s filmography and a very well-executed dramatization of the real events. But even if you don’t know the story it’s still a gripping crime drama that can at times be a little predictable in its story but somehow find a way to make the viewers sympathize with the people involved, even Getty and the kidnappers show their softer sides once in a while.
    Christopher Plummer nails the role of J. Paul Getty and while Kevin Spacey may have done a decent job as the character, Plummer is already an old man, looks the part, and was able to act his scenes in two weeks. That’s determination and not once does it feel like he’s rushing his scenes, twice in a row this man amazes me with his acting this year.
    Michelle Williams is also great as the mother and you can feel the determination to find her son through the performance. Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Fletcher Chase doesn’t quite shine as bright as Plummer or Williams but he plays it well and he has strong chemistry with Williams’ character.
    I also like how the movie doesn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that Getty’s the bad guy because let’s face it, we’ve seen that plenty of times in movies before. Sure, he’s a wealthy jerk but he does have his reasons for refusing to pay the money and still wants his son to return alive and well.

    All the Money in the World probably won’t appeal to every mainstream movie-goer and the movie drags at times, but Plummer’s performance bookends the film and through some masterful direction by Scott as well as a compelling story that doesn’t shy away from brutal reality, All the Money in the World is worth every penny. This production alone is proof that Christopher Plummer is an acting legend and I look forward to seeing what he’ll do next.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: ** ½ out of 4
    The next big thing is Downsizing

    Director, Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, The Descendants) returns with his latest film, the sci-fi comedy-drama, Downsizing. The film has a very interesting concept about a society of people who become small to live a life of luxury with less money, and I was intrigued and actually hyped for this movie when I first saw the trailers.
    Most of Payne’s directing work have been wins to me, at least from what I’ve seen, Election and Sideways I found flat-out hilarious and very well-acted and executed, and The Descendants was a beautiful and emotional experience that actually got my teary-eyed when I first saw it. And despite critics and audiences being split on it, I actually have a soft-spot for the movie, About Schmidt, then again you cast Jack Nicholson in something and I’m usually onboard.
    So, an Alexander Payne-directed movie about people who turn small and starring Matt Damon (Bournefranchise, The Martian, Suburbicon), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters (2016), Sausage Party), and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Water for Elephants, Django Unchained)? Count me in! Well, I sat down in the theater and watched the film and…came out a little disappointed.
    Not to say it’s awful or even a bad movie but I felt it never quite took advantage of its concept and instead becomes another generic film about identity and finding your purpose in life. It’s similar to the complaints I had with 2015’s Tomorrowland where the world it created was very imaginative but it’s hardly explored and it left me feeling underwhelmed.
    Set in the near future when scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a solution to over-population, a married couple, Paul (Damon) and Audrey (Wiig) decide to abandon their stress-filled lives in favor of going through the procedure known as Downsizing and move to a new downsized community, where economic wealth and class can be achieved with less money. In the downsized world, a $52,000 budget translates to $12.5 million and now the everyman can live like royalty…by simply getting small.
    What used to be simple walks in the park are now big, life-changing adventures as Paul and Audrey venture into the unknown with the choice that will affect their lives forever. Was Downsizing really a good idea? Did they make a mistake? Will, one of them bail out at the last minute?
    The film also stars Waltz as Dusan Mirkovic, Hong Chau (Treme, Inherent Vice) as Ngoc Lan Tran, Jason Sudeikis (30 Rock, We’re the Millers, Colossal) as Dave Johnson, Maribeth Monroe (Parks and Recreation, Key & Peele, The Brink) as Carol Johnson, Udo Kier (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Grindhouse, Nymphomaniac) as Joris Konrad, and Rolf Lassgård (The Death of a Pilgrim, Another Time, Another Life, A Man Called Ove) as Dr. Jørgen Asbjørnsen.
    Overall, Downsizing is a pretty mediocre flick that’s filled with interesting sounding ideas that should be explored and once in a while some legitimately funny and at times dramatic moments but they’re not fully developed and the script doesn’t allow those moments to shine. Also pacing wise, it’s not very good, there’s no real backstory to the Downsizing concept and machine, where did the Downsizing machine come from? When was the idea first conceived? What’s the history behind it? These questions are never answered and if they were it probably would have stood stronger as a film, we’re just supposed to accept the fact that there’s a machine in a society very similar to ours that shrinks people.
    At least in films like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or even Marvel’s Ant-Man they had more of a fantasy element that allowed us to buy that a shrinking machine exists in modern times and it works. I feel like Downsizing has so many interesting ideas thought up but they were never fully realized and didn’t have much of a coherent story to back them up.
    I don’t care about Matt Damon feeling like a nobody trapped in an odd world where he doesn’t matter, I want to see the world explored. Because the design of the downsized community looks very impressive and I’d like to see how it functions, what facilities are like, how banks or food services work, these are all sounding like interesting concepts but the movie doesn’t allow the viewer to experience it.
    In terms of performances everyone’s solid, Matt Damon’s performance here is much more serviceable than his awkward and disturbing performance from Suburbicon, Kristen Wiig gets a decent laugh here and there despite not appearing in it much (I’ll just leave it at that), Christoph Waltz is always a joy to watch and it’s refreshing to see him not play a villain character for once, and he gets some funny lines in the film.

    Sadly, the cast isn’t enough to save the movie from its wasted premise, this could have been a great adventure comedy-drama about people becoming small and living in a small society. It’s not one of the worst films I’ve seen this year but with a concept like this, it should have been so much better.

    By Nico Beland
    Movie Review: ** out of 4
    The Bellas are back for a third round in Pitch Perfect 3

    I remembered back in late 2014-early 2015 when I first heard the announcement of a sequel to the 2012 comedy hit, Pitch Perfect and was ready to hate it. But I ended up coming out of Pitch Perfect 2 surprised and laughing very frequently much like its predecessor.
    So, what was I expecting when Pitch Perfect 2 was announced? THIS! Pitch Perfect 3, a third installment of a comedy trilogy that ranges from generic fluff to complete nonsense with very few laughs.
    It’s a shame because the first two movies surprised me in their own ways, the first movie I hardly had any knowledge of the film or interest in seeing it but after a watch I ended up laughing hysterically. The second movie as mentioned before I had very low expectations for, but thanks to some more humorous jokes, good timing, and a downright hilarious German acapella group I found it to be a solid follow-up…that managed to beat out Mad Max: Fury Road at the box-office.
    Pretty much the opposite effect happened to me with this movie, now that I had two movies that surprised me, made me laugh, and established the characters, I was ready to laugh at one last night of singing with the Bellas. Sadly, it did not happen much with this one, this movie deserves a hard “Pitch” slapping.
    After winning the World Championships, the Bellas are split apart and realizing there isn’t a market for making music with your mouth. So, Becca (Anna Kendrick-The Twilight Saga, Scott Pilgrim VS the World, Into the Woods), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson-Bridesmaids, Pain & Gain, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb), Emily (Hailee Steinfeld-True Grit (2010), Ender’s Game, The Edge of Seventeen), Chloe (Brittany Snow-American Dreams, Whisper of the Heart, Hairspray (2007)), Aubrey (Anna Camp-True Blood, The Good Wife, The Mindy Project), Lilly (Hana Mae Lee-Workaholics, Mike & Molly, Patriot), Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean-Ice Age: Continental Drift, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, RuPaul’s Drag Race), Flo (Chrissie Fit-General Hospital, Filly Brown, Sake-Bomb), Stacie (Alexis Knapp-Project X, Ground Floor, Urge), Jessica (Kelley Jakle-42, Scorpion, Resident Advisors), and Ashley (Shelley Regner-Home & Family, The John Kerwin Show, The Sneak) get back together for one last performance at an overseas USO tour.
    However, there’s one catch, the USO tour is a tournament where the Bellas must compete against bands who use instruments. Can the Bellas win the competition with nothing but their mouths or will it be curtains for the once loved acapella group?
    The film also stars John Michael Higgins (Ally McBeal, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, The Legend of Korra) as John Smith, Elizabeth Banks (Spider-Man trilogy, The Hunger Games franchise, Power Rangers(2017)) as Gail Abernathy-McKadden Feinberger, John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun, Shrek, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as Fergus, Ruby Rose (XXX: Return of Xander Cage, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, John Wick: Chapter 2) as Calamity, Matt Lanter (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ultimate Spider-Man, Timeless) as Chicago, guitarist, Andy Allo as Charity, Guy Burnet (The Affair, Chicago Fire, Hand of God) as Theo, and DJ Khaled as himself.
    Overall, Pitch Perfect 3 is a pretty underwhelming and at times confused third installment of the franchise. It certainly isn’t one of the worst comedy sequels I’ve ever seen but compared to the unexpectedly humorous second installment, it really misses the mark.
    The writing lacks the wit of the earlier films and most of the jokes miss, not even Fat Amy is safe from the bad jokes as one of her earliest jokes is ripped right out of the infamous Good Burger. I certainly can’t blame the cast because they’ve had two films prior that made me laugh hard and they’re all decent actors, it’s just a lousy script that doesn’t give them much to work with.
    But with that said, there are a few jokes that are legitimately funny, some of Fat Amy’s lines get a laugh (When they’re done with thought), John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks as the two commentators are hilarious whenever they’re on-screen, and there’s a joke involving the quietly-spoken Lilly so funny I dare not give it away here.
    Unfortunately, they’re not enough to save the film’s ridiculous plot and pacing which at first, you’re probably wondering “It’s a Pitch Perfect movie, how can the plot be ridiculous?” Well, most of the film is pretty much what you would expect, Bellas get back together, perform at the USO show, compete in a music tournament, and all sorts of hijinks ensue. But then it transitions to a casino scene that’s actually more awkward than the one from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and eventually turns into a James Bond style action movie with Rebel Wilson fighting a bunch of people on a boat, it’s so inconsistent and feels like you’re watching a completely different movie.
    I will give credit to Rebel Wilson’s energy and seeing her battling people on a boat is funny, the problem is it doesn’t belong in this movie. Fat Amy has jumped the shark…as hilarious as that mental image looks.
    It’s definitely not as bad as some of the other movies I watched this year like The Emoji Movie, Baywatch, or Transformers: The Last Knight but out of the Pitch Perfect movies, it’s a “Pitchin’” disappointment. Sorry Bellas, but Pitch Perfect 3 is not worthy of an encore.
  15. Read the full review here: