Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Scoob! Review: A Nostalgia-Fueled Movie That Tries To Capture The Original Magic

Release date: May 15, 2020
Running time: 93 minutes
Starring: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs

Scoob! is a modern reboot of the classic Hanna Barbera cartoon.  It looks into the origins of Scooby and Shaggy's friendship, and also of the entire mystery solving crew.  In Scoob! Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

Scoob! is definitely playing on nostalgia.  It has some pretty great moments at times, like when it redoes the original introduction of the animated series within the movie.  Part of this was reanimated in the modern, computer generated fashion and part of it used the original animated assets. It was a nice blend of the styles and really set the stage and pulled at the nostalgia heartstrings.  Throughout the film, there are additional nostalgia inspired references that will make Scooby fans smile.  And the film also starts with the mystery machine doing what they do best, solve mysteries.  The story, however, quickly takes a turn when the gang meet a real life superhero and his super dog, who enlists their help to solve the ultimate mystery.

However, this is where the film goes off the rials.  It seems like Hanna Barbera is trying to bolt on its other properties to the Scoob! reboot, in an attempt to build those up into their own movies later.  While I appreciate the attempt, it feels deliberate and out of place.  The characters that are added do not fit into the Scoob! universe at all, and definitely stand out from the rest of the mystery crew.  And the knots that the story has to go through and to incorporate these strange characters also feels off.  The story doesn't feel lik eyour classic Scooby Doo story, it feels like another adventure featuring these characters.  And the humor, which I remember liking greatly as a kid, just seems hit or miss.  Some of the jokes are forced, and some are shoe horned in due to the cameo'd characters making them.  In the end, Scoob! feels like it tries to do too much; rather than stick with a classic Scooby Doo story, it pins the entire hopes of Hanna Barbera on it. 

Scoob! tries to play on the nostalgia for the franchise and if it would have stuck to this, it might have been an entertaining reboot of the Scooby Doo franchise. 

Rent it.
For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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Test Pattern Review: A Serious Understated Look Into The Emotional Trauma Of Sexual Assault

Release date: August 4, 2019
Running time: 82 minutes
Starring: Brittany S. Hall, Will Brill, Gail Bean

Test Pattern tells the story of a relationship that is put to the test after Renesha (Hall) is sexually assaulted by someone she meets at a bar, and her boyfriend Evan (Brill) tries to deal with this knowledge while driving her from hospital to hospital in search of a rape kit.  

Test Pattern is a slow burn movie.  It takes a while to establish the characters and their relationship.  Renesha and Evan are very different characters, but work well as a couple.  They have similar goals and genuine chemistry, and despite some differences in personalities, start to establish a life together.  This is all done at the start of the film, and the movie does a great job imparting this relationship on you.  And this is important because during the resultant search for a rape kit, you can feel the relationship strain that this search puts on them.  Hall does a wonderful job as Renesha, with her confident demeanor before and the resulting emotional doubt that the assault causes her after.  Brill does a fantastic job as the overly concerned, angry, and confused boyfriend.  He makes his motivations difficult to read, which is exactly what this situation was calling for.  Another highlight of this film is the stellar cinematography.  The film doesn't have anything too complicated, but it has some beautiful shots and great camera work to help paint the emotional pictures.

However, although this film analyzes a complex, and frankly deeply uncomfortable situation, I do not know what this film is trying to say.  It feels like there are several messages hinted at during the course of the couple's search and reporting, but nothing stands out as a final takeaway.  This leads to a stressful, emotional journey and an unsatisfying ending.  I was left wondering what the point of the film was, despite there being several very good messages and emotionally wrenching situations throughout.  Perhaps this film was simply meant to put the emotional turmoil that sexual assault--and the roadblocks that some conservative areas put up to reporting and dealing with it--on the screen for all to see.  In that sense it does a fantastic job.  

Test Pattern tells an emotional, slow burning story of a perfect relationship that is tested when a terrible assault occurs, with strong characters and beautiful cinematography.   

Rent it.

Monday, June 29, 2020

News: HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD Releases on Blu-ray & Digital 8/4/20

Positioned against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding Seoul in 1994, a lonely 14-year-old girl moves through life like a hummingbird searching for a taste of sweetness wherever she may find it in the critically-acclaimed coming-of-age story HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD, debuting on Digital and Blu-ray on August 4 from Well Go USA Entertainment.  14-year-old Eun-hee moves through life like a hummingbird searching for a taste of sweetness wherever she may find it. Ignored by her parents and abused by her brother, she finds her escape by roaming the neighborhood with her best friend, going on adventures, exploring young love and experiencing everything that comes with growing up in a country on the brink of enormous change.  Bora Kim makes her feature film directing debut, displaying “a world of potential” (FictionMachine).  HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD stars Ji-hu Park (The Witness), Sae-byuk Kim (The Day After), Seung-Yeon Lee (Alive) and In-gi Jeong (Chaser).
HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD has won much acclaim on the film festival circuit, including  “Best Feature Film” at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival and the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival, the Korean Association of Film Critics’ Awards named it one of the “Ten Best Films of the Year” and it won the awards for “Best Actress” (Ji-hu Park), “Best Cinematography” (Guk-hyun Kang) and “Best International Narrative Feature” at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.  In addition, Director Bora Kim has won numerous “Best Director” awards, including from the 2019 Athens International Film Festival, the 2020 Asian Film Critics Association Awards and the 2019 Korean Association of Film Critics’ Awards.

Trolls World Tour Review: A Glitter-Filled Music Fest That Is A Treat For The Eyes And Ears

Release date: April 10, 2020
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom 

Trolls World Tour is the follow up to the surprisingly good Trolls movie.  Trolls was a movie that no one asked for that should have been terrible but ended up being an entertaining movies for all ages with some very catchy songs.  In Trolls World Tour, the trolls from the first movie learn that they are not the only trolls out there.  They find out that there are several different tribes of Trolls, each centered around a different type of music.  And when the Queen of the Hard Rock trolls makes a move to take over all the Troll kingdoms, Queen Poppy and her friends try different ways to save all the Trolls.

Trolls was an entertaining adventure mostly because of the two great personalities they got as leads.  Justin Timberlake (as Branch) and Anna Kendrick (as Queen Poppy) had a great dynamic in the first movie, with Timberlake as a quiet reserved troll and Kendrick as an outspoken, optimistic one.  The two played off each other well and their interactions led to much of the fun in the first film.  And thankfully, these two are back in the spotlight for World Tour.  In addition to Poppy and Branch, the film ads several additional fun characters, mostly based on different types of music.  There is the Rock Queen (Bloom), country trolls, classical trolls, funk trolls, and several in between.  The film does a great job getting a star-studded cast and some iconic figures to do the voices, such as Mary J. Blige and George Clinton as key funk trolls, and Ozzy Osbourne as one of the rock trolls.  The cast is really a stellar one and makes the movie that much more enjoyable.

The first trolls movie had a fantastic animated style and this one takes that up a notch.  The animation is beautiful, colorful, and has a crafted look to it that I loved.  Lots of the characters and materials have a felt style.  There are shiny string waterfalls, desserts of glitter, and ground filled with stuffing.  It is a wonderful style that really captures what an imagined childhood world might look like.  And despite the rock trolls having a grim, dark look, it still is highly imaginative and the rest of the trolls have a much brighter style to balance it out.  The story is also a good one.  It helps to introduce the concepts of tolerance and differences in a way that should be approachable to kids.  The lessons learned are important ones and I'm happy that this film was able to teach them in a way that will let kids enjoy it.  I appreciated this message more so now than when the movie came out.  The story takes us to a many different areas and introduces a large variety of trolls, which should make for an entertaining adventure for kids and adults alike.

Trolls World Tour keeps the same style and characters that made the first movie a surprise hit, and adds a bunch of new and interesting music trolls and locations to the band, while also providing an avenue to talk to your kids about diversity and tolerance.

Watch it.
For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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Friday, June 26, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: June 26, 2020

Political Comedy: Irresistible (Home Rental)
Irresistible will make you laugh, cringe, and think a lot about our political system, in this hilarious dark comedy that sheds a satirical light on our political process.  For more information, check out our review!

Irreverent Relationship Comedy: aTypical Wednesday (Digital)
aTypical Wednesday is an irreverent, original, and fresh comedy that takes J. Lee on a journey of self discovery that will have you rooting for and learning from him while laughing out loud.  For more information, check out our review!

Hilarious Musical Comedy: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Netflix)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a classic return to form of the Will Ferrell buddy comedy, with great exaggerated characters, laugh out loud moments, and plenty of heart and talent underneath the ridiculous exterior.  For more information, check out our review!

For The Kids: Scoob! (HBO Max)
Scoob! is an entertaining animated reboot of the original television series.  It makes small updates but keeps much of what made the original show an enjoyable watch.  And it is now free to stream on HBO Max!

For The Older Kids: My Spy (Amazon Prime)
My Spy pits Bautista against his greatest challenge--a 9 year old girl--leading to some hilarious scenarios and heartwarming situations.  However, parents should be warned that this film has a little too much violence and language for young kids.  For more information, check out our review!

Anime: A Whisker Away (Netflix)
A Whisker Away is a beautifully animated Japanese film with strong characters, an interesting story, and plenty of raw emotion.  For more information, check out our review!

Anime: Okko's Inn (Netflix)
Okko's Inn is a beautiful, charming anime with bright, colorful animation, an interesting ensemble of characters, and good life lessons.  For more information, check out our review!

Serious Suspenseful Horror: The Lodge (Hulu)
The Lodge is a suspenseful masterpiece, whose visuals, sounds, and story will keep you on edge from start to finish.  For more information, check out our review!

Dark Comedy: Ready or Not (HBO)
Ready or Not tells a twisted tale with plenty of dark humor.  The setting is fantastic, the imagery feels authentic, and the performances give this deadly game a unique charm that will make you want to play again.  For more information, check out our review!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

aTypical Wednesday Review: Irreverent, Original Comedy Takes J. Lee On A Hilarious Journey Of Self-Discovery

Release date: June 26, 2020
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: J. Lee, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Seth Green 

In aTypical Wednesday, Gabe (Lee) seems to have it all together: a growing business, great physical shape, and a wonderful girlfriend.  On top of that, every Wednesday he goes to therapy to work on improving himself.  However, one Wednesday, he unknowingly embarks on an adventure with Alec (Cooper J. Friedman), another patient at his therapist's office, that will change his life and perspective forever. 

This film is written by, directed by, and stars J Lee, and you can tell that this is his passion project.  His character is the center of the film, and his personal and emotional growth form much of the humor and conflict in this movie.  Lee plays a complicated character, with insecurities and issues inside his outwardly confident exterior.  It is a fine line, and one that he treads well.  When he is joined by Alec, the two have a fun big brother / little brother rapport that works very well.  It brings out a lot of Gabe's good character aspects and the very different personalities of the two characters are fun to watch.  Gabe's girlfriend Millie (Raver-Lampman) is great as a strong, female foil to Gabe.  And Seth Green is always funny, playing a financial backer to Gabe's business and a former lover of Gabe's girlfriend.  This financial and personal interest also forms some intrigue and helps to unlock a lot of Gabe's insecurities.  

This movie is all about the characters and the writing, and thankfully the writing is sharp and funny.  Lee writes some laugh out loud moments and some very fresh comedic perspectives.  When Gabe takes on a mentor / big brother role to Alec, there is a lot of humor in his parenting style compared to Alec's own.  Gabe takes a more realistic, personal responsibility approach that is fun to see.  He also mentors Alec to get confidence and overcome his own doubts, which ends up backfiring a little.  But as Gabe learns from Alec, he also learns much more about himself.  The story is set to a single day, but is involved enough that you never get bored.  Gabe and Alec have plenty going on that day, and their back and forth trying to get Alec home while Gabe has one catastrophe after another keeps the story moving along.  It is rare to have a movie that is outwardly funny and actually introspective; and it is a wonderful way to highlight real problems in the middle of an entertaining story.  

aTypical Wednesday is an irreverent, original, and fresh comedy that takes J. Lee on a journey of self discovery that will have you rooting for and learning from him while laughing out loud.

Watch it.
If you liked this review and want to see more from Watch or Pass, please consider following us on our various social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagramYoutube.  For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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Review: A Whisker Away

Release date: June 18, 2020
Running time: 104 minutes
Starring: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Susumu Chiba

Miyo Sasaki, nicknamed "Muge" meaning "infinitely mysterious," has a bright personality and is full of energy at school and at home.  She is also not so secretly in love with her classmate Kento Hinode.  Muge tries repeatedly to get Kento's attention, but he does not take her seriously.  Eventually, she finds a mysterious mask salesman who gives her the ability to transform into a cat.  Using this, she finally is able to get close to Kento, but at some point, the boundary between herself and the cat becomes ambiguous.  And as she spends more time as a cat, she realizes that to stay in that world, she will be forced to give up her life as a human.

Most anime are unconventional, but this one feels even stranger I am used to.  It was nice to see an anime with a strong willed female lead, an outspoken character who knows what she wants and will do what it takes to get it.  Muge has a lot going on, but her personality is definitely a highlight of this film.  Although she secretly has a lot of insecurity and a lot going on at home, outwardly she is a fun, slightly crazy character.  Hinode is the exact opposite of her; he is quiet, confident, and emotionally blank.  But as we learn in the film from both characters, your exterior is only part of who you are.  

Despite being a Netflix release, A Whisker Away is through and through a Japanese anime.  The animation is absolutely beautiful, with a bright, colorful style that is eye catching and entertaining.  The cats are all drawn beautifully and differently, which is a definite plus when you have so many of them to see.  And some of the more otherworldly places that we are taken to are very imaginative.  The story of A Whisker Away is interesting with a lot of raw emotion.  As we learn in the film, what people (and animals) project on the outside is sometimes very different from what is going on inside.  And these emotions are laid bare during the film.  If there is a negative about this film, it is that some of the emotional growth and epiphanies happen after characters run away, which is maybe not the best message to send.  But it is also a common anime theme and one that helps move the story along.

A Whisker Away is a beautifully animated Japanese film with strong characters, an interesting story, and plenty of raw emotion.  

Watch it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Screening: Catch Pariah On Monday, June 29, At 5 pm PST / 8 pm EST Followed By Cast Q&A

On Monday, June 29, join Focus Features for a free livestream of Dee Rees’ Pariah, followed by a live video Q&A with stars Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans, and Aasha Davis, moderated by Jacqueline Coley of Rotten Tomatoes.

Pariah is a powerful movie and was groundbreaking at the time.  As we wrote years ago:

This coming-of-age story shows the struggles faced by an African American, lesbian teenager, and the complex emotions and conflicts that arise when a child's identity clashes with a parent's beliefs and expectations. This kind of story has been told many times, but rarely from a black, female perspective, and often without the realness of Pariah's characters and writing. Anyone can relate to the protagonist's feeling of alienation and desire of love and acceptance. Kim Wayans is surprisingly good as the girl's conflicted mother, another example of a comedian displaying a talent for drama.

Viewers tuning in to watch will be able to support and donate to New Alternatives, an organization that supports LGBTQIA youth in New York in providing shelter and services designed to help them succeed in going from youth into stable adulthood.

Monday, June 29 at 5pm PST / 8pm EST
on the Focus Features Facebook page

Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

Release date: June 26, 2020
Running time: 124 minutes
Starring:  Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdamsDan Stevens,  Pierce Brosnan

When aspiring Icelandic musicians Lars (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit (Rachel McAdams) are given the opportunity of a lifetime to represent their country at the world's biggest song competition, they finally have a chance to prove that any dream worth having is a dream worth fighting for.  However, they have to overcome their inexperience, insecurities, and unspoken feelings in order to represent Iceland and fulfill their dream.

This movie is a signature Will Ferrell buddy comedy, the type that were common in the early 2000s.  He picks something with humorous potential, finds a perfect co-star to make the vision a reality, and crafts a ridiculous story on top of it.  It is not complicated, but it works so well.  I had forgotten how much I missed these types of films.  It seemed like they were prevalent about 15 years ago but have since fallen off.  But thankfully Eurovision is a true return to form of this classic formula.  For this to work you need to have Will Ferrell committed to a ridiculous role, which he nails as Lars.  But you also need to have a complementary character, and McAdams as Sigrit is perfectly paired with him.  She is a perfect complement to Lars's outlandish character: a stronger singer and more quiet and reserved performer.  The two work well together and their interactions are a lot of fun to watch.  The pair are joined by a plethora of overly stereotypical European characters, including Russian singer Alexander Lemtov (Stevens) and Greek singer Mita Xenakis (Melissanthi Mahut).  All these characters are ridiculous caricatures of actual performers, and their over the top actions help to flesh out this film.

As with all these Will Ferrell buddy comedy movies, the humor is exaggerated and ridiculous.  The accents are over the top, the sensibilities are stereotypical, and the characters are extreme.  Some might be offended by the European stereotypes, but they're universally applied.  The Icelandic people are all extreme parodies of Icelanders, same with the Russians, Greeks, etc.  And the movie also pokes fun at Americans in a pretty great scene.  Knowing Will Ferrell's college affiliation, I especially appreciated the way that the Americans were dressed.  The story has plenty of ups and downs as the pair navigate the competition, but the film concludes with a fulfilling beautiful ending.  And for a movie about an exaggerated Eurovision contest, the music is surprisingly good.  Despite the songs sometimes being about ridiculous topics, there are several catchy ones and the final song is one that I have been listening to since the movie ended.  As with all of these movies, there is plenty of heart and talent underneath the ridiculous exterior.  

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a classic return to form of the Will Ferrell buddy comedy, with great exaggerated characters, laugh out loud moments, and plenty of heart and talent underneath the ridiculous exterior.  

Watch it.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Deal: Rent Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing For Free Before A Conversation With Lee On Thursday, June 25

Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, which was featured in our Black Lives Matter movie recommendations, is free to rent through June 29.  The 1989 classic about racial tension starring Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro and Joie Lee, was controversial when it came out and is sadly still relevant today.  Although it has aged, the nerves it touches are still exposed and painful.
The movie is free to stream on Amazon, Apple, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Dish, DirecTV, FandangoNOW, Google, Microsoft, Redbox, Sony, Verizon, Vudu and others from June 22-29.  The American Film Institute is partnering with Universal Pictures to also host a conversation with Lee on Thursday.

Lee's live conversation is set for June 25 at 5 p.m. PST (8 p.m. EST) on the AFI YouTube channel.

Deal: Watch Trolls World Tour in 4K for $9.99 Today!

Here's a fun deal to help you pass the time in this summer heat.  Trolls World Tour is releasing on physical disc on July 7.  However, right now, if you order from Best Buy, you will get the full on disc version (with included 4K copy) for $30, but you will also get a free 4K code to redeem on MoviesAnywhere when you order it (in other words, today)!  That way you can start watching the movie now while you wait for the disc!  It took about 15 minutes for the code to arrive in my inbox, and it redeemed easily on Movies Anywhere.
However, if you only wanted the online code, you can then cancel your Best Buy order.  It will cancel the disc version and only charge you $9.99 for the 4K code, making the effective price of Trolls World Tour in 4K $9.99.   Make sure to redeem the code on Movies Anywhere, which will port it to your linked accounts.  The digital version includes special features including the special dance party mode of the movie.

Best Buy Link

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Review: Irresistible

Release date: June 26, 2020
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Mackenzie Davis, Chris Cooper

From writer/director Jon Stewart comes the comedy of Gary, a Democrat political consultant (Carell), who helps Jack, a retired Marine colonel (Cooper), run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town.  However, what starts out as a small town campaign soon gains national attention as the hopes and dreams of both parties are tied into this race.  And as the stakes get higher, this small town transforms into a political battleground of sorts, with all the underhanded tactics, money, and ads you would expect.  

This film is driven by Steve Carell's great performance as political strategist Gary.  He is energetic, funny, and perfectly suited to play a Washington elite in a small town.  His rival and counterpart, Rose Bryne, provides a wonderful opponent for this larger-than-life, overblown mayoral race.  The stunts that the two pull, while not outlandish, feel like exaggerated versions of what really happens in these types of high stakes political contests.  And Cooper as the Mayoral candidate Jack and Davis as Jack's daughter both play their part perfectly, as small town individuals who are suddenly thrust into the national spotlight.  

This movie is written and directed by Jon Stewart, and you can really tell.  This film has his characteristic wit and charm, but also a biting social commentary that he has become known for.  The humor is equal parts funny and uncomfortable, with plenty of dark comedic moments that will make you laugh as much as you cringe.  And through it all, there are important lessons about our political system, our news, and our preconceptions on people and their viewpoints.  But the most interesting thing about this movie is that although it is completely an exaggerated political experience, it is also one that feels very real.  You could definitely see some variation of all the tactics, analytics, political theater, and obscene amounts of money in a battleground state.  And some of the insights, while hilarious and biting, are also very painful when you realize that this is the system we have to elect our representatives. 

Irresistible will make you laugh, cringe, and think a lot about our political system, in this hilarious dark comedy that sheds a satirical light on our political process.  

Watch it.
For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Deal: Finding Justice Documentary Series (Season 1) Free To Own On FandangoNOW

Finding Justice, the BET documentary series, is free to own on FandangoNOW.  Finding Justice exposes inequality in black communities across America.  The documentary series--from executive producer Dwayne Johnson--travels around the country to follow the heroes, leaders and activists who battle to bring change to the cities they call home.

Season 1 includes six episodes dealing with Stand Your Ground, Cash Bail, Voter Suppression, Criminalization of Kids, Police Brutality, and The Lead Paint Crisis.  Grab these episodes now for a serious, but important, weekend watch.

Link to Finding Justice

Friday, June 19, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: June 19, 2020

In honor of Juneteenth, we are highlighting movies from strong black voices or with strong black leads.

Harriet (Redbox, Digital Rental / Purchase)
Harriet tells the compelling story of an influential black woman who refused to abide by the status quo, with Oscar-worthy acting, an exciting and heartbreaking script, and a stellar score.  For more information, check out our review!

Just Mercy (Redbox, Free Digital Rental, or Purchase, TNT, TBS, TruTV)
Just Mercy is an inspiring, timely, and sadly appropriate movie for our times.  It has Oscar-worthy acting, amazing cinematography, and tells an important story about injustice and the disparity in the criminal justice system that that doesn't leave a heart untouched or an eye dry at its conclusion.

Black Panther (Disney+, TNT, TBS, TruTV)
The film is essential watching for the MCU but also has a fantastic blend of super hero themes with African-inspired culture and visuals.  It is truly a celebration of all things super!

The 13th (Netflix)
This thought-provoking documentary has scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.  It is a wonderfully crafted documentary that balances insights from talking heads with painful archival footage.

Creed II (Hulu)

The follow-up to the surprisingly good Creed, this movie manages to make the tried-and-true Rocky formula feel fresh thanks to some fantastic performances and the introduction of characters from Rocky's past.

BlackkKlansman (HBO / HBOMAX)
Spike Lee has been one of the most outspoken and influential black movie voices of our time.  BlackkKlansman is a lighter movie than some of his other works, but it still tells a compelling historical story with an amazing cast, biting commentary, and a lot of humor.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Amazon)
This powerful film that tells the tale of a man dreaming to reclaim his grandfather's victorian home in a rapidly changing city.

News: TNT, TBS, and TruTV to Air Black Panther and Just Mercy Today (June 19)

On Friday, June 19th, TNT, TBS, and truTV will host a special one-night-only on-air roadblock showcasing critically acclaimed films BLACK PANTHER and JUST MERCY, along with reflections from distinguished guests about the personal impact these films had on their lives and the culture.

Host Anthony Anderson will be joined by guests, including Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative (whom JUST MERCY is based on), Senator Kamala Harris and CNN’s W. Kamau Bell. Additionally, Andra Day will perform her Grammy-nominated song “Rise Up.” Reginald Hudlin, who wrote for the BLACK PANTHER graphic novel series, serves as executive producer of the special content, along with executive producer Phil Gurin and co-executive producer Byron Phillips.

With limited commercial interruption, Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER will air at 7pm ET/PT, followed by JUST MERCY.  These are both great movies and will make for an entertaining and informative Friday night.

Review: The Wasp Network

Release date: June 19, 2020
Running time: 123 minutes
Starring: Ana de Armas, Edgar Ramírez, Penélope Cruz, Wagner Moura

The Wasp Network tells the story of five Cuban political prisoners who had been imprisoned by the United States since the late 1990s on charges of espionage and murder.  These individuals were Cubans who came to America to spy and infiltrate American networks were planning attacks on communist Cuba.  The Wasp Network chronicles some of their deceptions and the lengths that they went to keep up their stories.

The first thing that strikes you about the Wasp Network is the amazing cast that they assembled for this story.  Headlined by Penélope Cruz, the cast includes the always amazing Ana de Armas, Wagner Moura who I really loved in Sergio, Edgar Ramírez, and Mozart in the Jungle himself, Gael García Bernal.  The cast is simply stellar and seeing their interactions and characters are an absolute treat.  And I loved the fluid mix of English and Spanish dialogue; the movie naturally and effortlessly transitions languages to make for more realistic dialogue.  Also, the cinematography is wonderful, with some great shots of Florida and Cuba.  And there are enough members of the network that you get a variety of shots and experiences.

However, the Wasp network does encompass many operatives and many stories.  It actually feels like there is too much going on for a single movie.  The story is very interesting but it takes too long to develop with too many people.  I really think this would have benefited from being a mini-series, one where each episode is focused on a member of the network with a few episodes at the end tying them all together.  That is essentially how the film is structured now, but instead of a full 60-minute exploration per character, we get about 10 or 15 minutes for each person.  The problem with the compact story is that it makes the film overly complicated and it is difficult to figure out who is on what side.  Without enough backstory and time with the characters, we have people changing sides or revealing aspects about themselves suddenly.  And the various networks are tough to follow because we just don't spend much time with them.  

The Wasp Network's stellar cast and beautiful cinematography weave a complicated, intricate, and interesting story. 

Rent it.
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Thursday, June 18, 2020

News: Scoob! Heads to HBO Max Next Week - June 26

Scoob!, which was originally set to release in theaters on May 15 before heading direct to home rental / purchase, is set to start streaming on HBO Max next week!  It will be available starting June 26 to those subscribers of HBO's new offering. 
“HBO Max is the perfect home for these ‘meddling kids’ and their dog,’” said Kevin Reilly, chief content officer, HBO Max, president TNT, TBS, and TruTV. Scoob! tells the backstory of how these beloved friends met and formed Mystery Inc.  It’s a perfect addition to our kids and family offering and will sit alongside beloved original Scooby-Doo episodes.”

Scoob! had an interesting, and in my opinion more realistic, release offering where it was $20 to rent for 48 hours, but $25 to purchase outright.  So basically, you pay what you would at the theater or pay $5 more and own it.  This seems to bridge the gap between the new wave of theatrical at home releases and the standard digital purchase model, which usually has new movies retail for $20 or less.  Those that held off can check out this animated mystery soon!