Friday, June 28, 2019

Review: Spider-Man Far From Home

Release date: July 2, 2019
Running time: 129 minutes
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal

Spider-Man Far From Home is the latest marvel cinematic universe movie, however this one is from Sony, not Disney.  Thankfully, since this is still in the MCU, there is plenty of overlap with the main MCU threads.  Several well known Marvel characters make appearances, and the events of Endgame are referenced heavily in Far From Home.  It is definitely a continuation of the overall story and the is the movie that closes out this era of the MCU.  

However, unlike Endgame's rather serious tone (which makes sense given the gravity of what was occurring in that film), Far From Home keeps Spider-Man's lighter atmosphere and humor.  Although Spider-Man's situation is dire, he never misses the chance to crack a joke, and many of the situations he gets into in this film will make you laugh out loud.  Unfortunately, the addition of two comedic characters (Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove) do not add much to the overall comedy.  Although the film doesn't need them to fully flex their comedic chops as there is already plenty of humor, it still feels like a missed opportunity to really let those comedians shine.

Like every Marvel movie, there is plenty of over-the-top action and special effects that really pop on the big screen.  The visuals in this film go all out, with some truly amazing action sequences that both devastate cities and bend reality.  And despite the heavy use of CG in this film, the purely CG scenes don't distract you from enjoying the film, unlike other recent Marvel movies (cough, Captain Marvel, cough).  Accompanying the visuals is some truly rattling sound that feels right at home in a big summer blockbuster.

One thing that I have always appreciated about Tom Holland's Spider-Man is that he really feels like a kid trying to fill some very big shoes.  Far From Home continues this theme with Spider-Man forced to choose between the normal life he wants and the super hero responsibilities that he has been given by the events of Endgame.  His character feels conflicted and forced to grow up too quickly, and should be something that many movie goers can relate to (though not at the scale of Spider-Man).  And Holland is just a likable character who really seems to understand what makes Spider-Man special.  His addition to the MCU was brilliant and he does not disappoint in his latest caper.  Holland is joined by an equally impressive supporting cast, highlighted by Jake Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Mysterio.  

The film feels like a super hero Eurotrip, with Holland and crew visiting many different European locales that keep the film fresh and moving along.  It really is fun to see the different venues and especially to watch the action in famous European cities.  Far From Home is just an enjoyable movie from start to finish and a worthy palate cleanse to the seriousness of Marvel's last film.  

Spider-Man Far From Home is a welcome change of pace from the gravity of Endgame, with a ton of humor, amazing special effects, and an enjoyable end to this era of the MCU.  This is one summer trip you won't want to miss!

Watch it.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

What to Watch This Weekend: June 28, 2019

In Theaters: Toy Story 4
Pixar magic is at it again with a film that revisits our classic friends while introducing new ones. It took the impossible task of following up on the third film, and went to infinity and beyond.

From Redbox: Us
Jordan Peele's creepy sophomore effort won't be for everyone, but those that give it a try will find a suspenseful horror film that focuses on psychological horror and less on gore.

Streaming (Amazon): Gattaca
One of my favorite movies of all time was recently added back to Amazon Prime.  You probably have already seen it, but if not it is a movie about a man who pushes himself to be greater than what anyone thought he could be.  It is a sci-fi film that was ahead of its time when it was released and is still relevant today.  Also, the film doesn't rely heavily on CG, which allows it to hold up even 22 years after it was released.  

Streaming (HBO): Love, Simon
The heartfelt and heart warming coming of age story of a young teenager struggling with his own feelings while trying to maintain the status quo in his final year of high school.  This film leaves HBO at the end of this month so if you haven't seen it (or wanted to watch it again), make sure to check it out!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: Annabelle Comes Home

Release date: June 26, 2019
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Mckenna Grace, Patrick Wilson 

Annabelle Comes Home is the latest movie in the long-running (potentially too long running) Conjuring Cinematic Universe.  The movie is loosely tied into previous movies in the world, with the creepy doll Annabelle making a major (though not as major as I would have expected) appearance.  The movie ties into the lives of ghost hunters Lorraine and Ed Warren, though this movie deals more with their daughter Judy.  

If you've seen any of the movies in this universe, you'll know that these filmmakers are masters of suspense.  There are times when you are on the edge of your seat, waiting for the jump scare to happen or the creepy scene everyone knows is coming to finally unfold.  The filmmakers are also masters of light and dark, with shadows moving just outside your periphery and objects in the dark shifting to build up tension or outright scare the audience.  

Unfortunately, this is about all the praise I can give this movie.  Even the excellent filmaking is marred by poor special effects at times that really draw you out of the film.  And it pains me to say it, because the Conjuring is probably my favorite horror movie of all time, but this film just doesn't meaningfully advance the story of this series.  The main characters of Lorraine and Ed are barely featured, with the film focusing almost exclusively on their daughter and a host of teenage newcomers to the story.  They do an admirable job, but they just don't have the pull of the main characters we have grown to love.  

The story itself is all over the place, with a host of new ghosts and haunts introduced with little backstory and not enough of a cameo to really grab the audience.  It seems like each main character has to deal with one main ghost, but it jumps around too much to effectively pull you into the conflict.  And the problem with all these additional ghosts is that very little time is spent on Annabelle.  In this film, she is simply a malevolent spirit that relies on goon ghosts, not a main antagonist that must be conquered.  This movie should have really been called Annabelle and Friends, not Annabelle Comes Home.  Or even, Annabelle, and the other characters you care about, Make Quick Cameos At Home.  I’m guessing that this is the studio attempting to bless a few new characters to then go off and have their own spin off origins movies a la the Nun.

Annabelle Comes Home just feels like a movie that didn't need to be made.  It doesn't meaningfully advance the story of the Conjuring Cinematic Universe, it barely features the main Conjuring characters, and it introduces a host of new ghosts that don't have enough backstory to really grab you.  Annabelle Comes Home to little fanfare and a disappointingly disjointed Conjuring film.

Don't see it.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Review: Toy Story 4

 Toy Story 4
Release date: June 21, 2019
Running time: 100 minutes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts

After almost 10 years, the next installment of the Toy Story saga returns with Toy Story 4. This movie picks up from the conclusion of Toy Story 3 where we see Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, back on duty protecting his child’s best interest. Now that Andy is off to college, Woody has a new child named Bonnie, a much younger toddler who is ready to embark on the adventure of Kindergarten.  However, when Woody tries to help Bonnie in Kindergarten, he ends up doing more than simply helping her survive her first day.
Woody and Forky walk along the road.

This movie is more than simply the toys in their home or at school.  The plot takes us to a few locations including a beautifully animated carnival, an antique toy shop, and several other unexpected places.  We also are introduced to old friends and plenty of new ones.  

Like all Disney Pixar movies, Toy Story 4 is visually stunning.  The characters are animated beautifully and the lights from the carnival especially are a joy to see.  Also, the little touches that Pixar is known for shine through here.  I was especially impressed by the wear on Woody where his kid's name was interrupted by natural imperfections. Also, the hair and materials look fantastic; this is Pixar studios at its best.  

Accompanying the stunning visuals was an equally impressive audio experience.  The voice acting, the new score, and the old classics all come together to make this movie sound fantastic.  Speaking of voice acting, the cast is filled with popular voices you will be familiar with such as Keanu Reeves, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, and many more!  And those voices contribute to a serious story about growing up and a laugh out loud film that is enjoyable for all ages.  

Toy Story 3 ended so perfectly that an additional film did not seem necessary.  But now that I have seen what Disney Pixar can do, I am excited to see what else comes from this universe.  

Toy Story 4 revisits our classic friends while introducing new ones.  It took the impossible task of following up on the third film, and went to infinity and beyond.

See It.

Be sure to stay for the entire credit scene. YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS
Ducky, Bunny, Woody and Buzz at the carnival

Monday, June 17, 2019

Screening: YESTERDAY

In Theaters: June 25, 2019
Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon
Director: Danny Boyle
Rating: PG-13

Yesterday, everyone knew The Beatles. Today, only Jack remembers their songs. He’s about to become a very big deal. From Academy Award®-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and Richard Curtis, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually and Notting Hill, comes a rock-n-roll comedy about music, dreams, friendship, and the long and winding road that leads to the love of your life.

Featuring new versions of The Beatles’ most beloved hits, Yesterday is produced by Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner (Love Actually, About A Boy, the Bridget Jones series) alongside Matthew James Wilkinson and Bernie Bellew. Curtis and Boyle also produce. Nick Angel, Lee Brazier and Liza Chasin serve as executive producers. 

Screening Details:

Monday, June 24
AMC Mazza Gallerie

How to Enter:

If you would like to enter for an admit-two pass, please send an email to watchorpass [at] gmail with the subject "YESTERDAY SCREENING", and in the body include your name, email address, and the answer to the following question: What music could you not live without?

As always, screenings are first-come, first-served so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


In theaters June 26
(New Line Cinema)

Director: Gary Dauberman
Cast: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga

Horror. Determined to keep Annabelle from wreaking more havoc, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren bring the possessed doll to the locked artifacts room in their home, placing her “safely” behind sacred glass and enlisting a priest’s holy blessing. But an unholy night of horror awaits as Annabelle awakens the evil spirits in the room, who all set their sights on a new target—the Warrens’ ten-year-old daughter, Judy, and her friends.

Wednesday, June 19 – 7:00 PM
AMC Mazza Gallerie

to Download Passes NOW!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Screening: SHAFT

In theaters June 14
(New Line Cinema)

Director: Tim Story
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Matt Lauria, Titus Welliver, Cliff “Method Man” Smith and Richard Roundtree

Action Comedy. “Shaft” is the next chapter in the film franchise featuring the coolest private eye on any New York City block. JJ, aka John ShaftJr. (Usher), may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ’s youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft (Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem’s heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ’s own FBI analyst’s badge may clash with his dad’s trademark leather duster, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.

Monday, June 10 – 7:30 PM
Regal Majestic

to Download Passes NOW!

Review: Yesterday

Release date: June 28, 2019
Running time: 116 minutes
Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Sophia Di Martino

Yesterday is a British Comedy where musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) struggles with creativity and direction in his path to fame and celebrity. But despite his challenges his core fan base has always been his friends and one in particular, Ellie Appleton (Lily James) who not only has been his friend for over 20 years but his manager who truly has his best interest at heart.

As Jack struggles in his musical career, he feels the pressure of life's challenges in this path to stardom.  His dreams of fame are fading and he even begins to ignore the positives he is surrounded by. Then the unthinkable happens and Jack is involved in a bus accident on his bike as a global blackout happens for over 12 seconds. When Jack wakes, Ellie is by his side but he has woken to another timeline, a timeline where The Beatles never existed.

This movie truly is a Beatles fan movie. Tons of references and puns to the many songs they made over the years and historical landmarks that were either from album covers or used as motivation in the creation of the songs were planted throughout this movie. If you have no prior knowledge of the Beatles you may find yourself struggling to keep up with not only the jokes, but the significance of scenes. The element of Jack struggling to remember the lyrics of each song and having him mess up over and over is absolutely hilarious but if you do not know the songs then the humor can be lost a little.

However, even if you are not a Beatles fan, you can still enjoy a decent number of funny scenes and solid musical performances by the cast, with special guest Ed Sheeran himself. The cast overall give solid performances in this heartwarming story.  Particularly, Lily James reminds me a lot of Brie Larson in that she can captivate the audience with her display pure emotion.  Like Jack in the film, this movie and her excellent performance is a preview of the superstar she can become!

Yesterday is a fun movie but maybe not truly a movie for anyone who isn't a true Beatles fan to really go out their way to watch. Surely a life without The Beatles is infinitely bad but a life possibly not seeing this movie will be just fine.

Rent it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Screening: 5B

5B tells the story of nurses on the fifth floor of San Francisco General Hospital in the mid-1980s, the first in the country designed specifically to deal with AIDS patients. Unlike many AIDS documentaries this one focuses on the nurses who became everyday heroes when they decided to treat their patients with love, kindness and an emphasis on humanity at a time when many in the healthcare profession lived in fear of being infected by their patients. 

Opening on June 14th


95 Minutes


In the mid-1980s, a simple number and letter designated a ward on the fifth floor of San Francisco General Hospital, the first in the country designed specifically to deal with AIDS patients. The unit’s nurses’ emphasis on humanity and consideration of holistic well-being was a small miracle in the midst of a devastating crisis and the ensuing panic about risk and infection. The story of 5B is stirringly told through first-person testimony of the nurses who built it, their patients, loved ones, and the hospital staff who volunteered, resulting in a bittersweet and moving monument to a pivotal moment in American epidemiology, San Francisco history and a celebration of quiet heroes worthy of remembrance and renewed recognition.

Screening Details
Monday, June 10th
Regal Gallery Place

to Download Passes NOW!