REVIEW: “SKYSCRAPER” (2018) Universal Studios

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You know how sometimes you see a movie that is so bad..it’s good. Well, “SKYSCRAPER” was not that movie. It’s just flat out completely terrible. There is not one redeeming quality to this film except for maybe the fact that you will laugh out loud at how bad it truly is – as the audience at last Monday’s Arclight Hollywood media screening most certainly did. They also erupted into applause in scene after scene, noting the absolute straining of credibility and common sense this film puts forth.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (whom I believe doesn’t use The Rock anymore at all – but come on, it’s still a fun name) plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI operative who loses a leg during a botched mission. Yes people, I shit you not, The Rock is an amputee who uses that fake aluminium leg in more ways than anyone ever thought possible. The good thing that seemingly happens to you when you blow a mission & a leg is that you find a combat surgeon wife Sarah (Neve Campbell),and twins Georgia (McKenna Roberts) & Henry (Noah Cottrell). Picking up 10 years later, Sawyer is now a security consultant and is in Hong Kong to access and give approval to the worlds tallest building “The Pearl” owned by Hong Kong developer Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han).

Little does he know his best friend whom he survived his mission years ago with – Ben (Pablo Schreiber), is stabbing him in the back and setting him up to fail as he is working for our villan of this silly movie, Kores Botha (Roland Møller). Kores kidnaps his wife & kids and in order to get them back, he must of course do all sorts of crazy antics – such as, but not limited to, scaling up 96 stories on a construction crane and pulling himself thru windows with his own sheer will of strength (sigh), all while the ledge is crumbling around him. Oh..and let’s not forget that Sarah is calling up to him from the ground floor of the building at one point and he can ‘hear her’. Yes, bionic hearing at it’s best.

There really isn’t any reason to go any further as this movie is just flat out ridiculous. And look, I get it, Johnson ia the replacement for Schwarznegger, Stallone and Willis, as they are just too old at this point. But some of their movies were actually good. I’m still waiting for that one of The Rock’s that is.

So let me do you all a solid here and advise you that instead of seeing this one, spend your hard earned money on a great indie film whose whole budget is probably .000018% of what The Rock got paid, and see a good movie instead.

Grade: D-
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Media Review Screening: Monday, July 9, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“SKYSCRAPER” IS IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE (regrettably)

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REVIEW: “UNCLE DREW” (2018) LIONSGATE

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Taking this Pepsi ad/web-series one step further, Director Charles Stone III turns “UNCLE DREW” into a full length 1 hr 43min run-time feature film. As someone who doesn’t really follow basketball, I might have only known who a few of the players were. Though even if you’ve never seen the Pepsi ad, you will catch on immediately that it is a lot of young players were made to look old, enhancing the effects by adding in Shaq as basically the basketball Wolverine. Besides that, this is a very familiar story-line of the forlorn seeking justice in the form of an underdog sports match. And so it goes ——

Dax (Lil Rel Howery), a basketball obsessed Foot Locker salesman whose dream to coach a tournament- winning street ball team. This dream is made all the more sacred due to the fact his longtime rival, Mookie (Nick Kroll) swatted out his game winning 3 pointer in a high school final match up, which he has never lived-down. Then to top it off, Mookie not only steals his prize player Casper (Aaron Gordon), but his team and his materialistic girlfriend Jess (Tiffany Haddish). Dax has spent his life savings on Harlem’s Rucker Classic registration entry fee and is desperate to get another team when he learns from Louis (Mike Epps) and Angelo (J.B. Smoove) about the legendary street player Uncle Drew. Dax finds the now 70-something Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving), a street-ball legend who famously played in the same tournament 50 years earlier. Uncle Drew agrees to play for Dax if he can recruit his own roster of players. The adventure begins as the duo road trips to convince Drew’s old teammates to join the team. So off we go and meet Preacher (Chris Webber), wheel-chair bound Boots (Nate Robinson), Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neil) and the legally-blind Lights (Reggie Miller).

The first third of this movie had quite a few good jabs at laughter and puns with some good comedic timing moments. From there it seemed to turn itself more into trying prove itself as a ‘good family film’. And while it somewhat succeeds at that, although having Kroll play the same role he always plays, and casting Lil Rel as a Kevin Hart type character – makes it fall somewhat short in this aspect as you can’t help but compare the two. Acting isn’t really a strong point here as per usual, basketball players aren’t really the best of actors. But it doesn’t matter as in essence, I don’t think this movie set out to be anything along those lines of best actor, best film etc… I think it set out to be exactly what it is, a little bit funny, cute portrayal that shows family isn’t always just blood relatives, it is what you make it to be by whomever steps up to the plate.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, June 26, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment
“UNCLE DREW” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING IN JULY 2018

REVIEW: “THE INCREDIBLES 2” (2018) Disney/Pixar Pictures

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All these years later, Director Brad Bird, the creative force behind the original ‘INCREDIBLES’, is back with the much anticipated sequel – “THE INCREDIBLES 2”.

And Bird is not the only returnee for the sequel. Also back is the entire Parr Family: Holly Hunter as Elastigirl/Helen/Mom, Craig T Nelson as Mr. Incredible/Bob/Dad, Sarah Vowell as Violet, Huck Milner as Dash, and Eli Fucile as baby Jack Jack. The story picks up not long after the original ended. “Supers” have been outlawed, and the Parrs are in some type of Super Protection Program – similar to Witness Protection. Of course when one is a superhero, doing the right thing just comes naturally, and the opening scene finds them battling their old nemesis Underminer (John Ratzenberger). Our heroes stop the crime, but cause significant damage to the city. This leads to our first social commentary when the powers that be scold the Parrs and inform them that the banks have insurance, and it’s cheaper to let the criminals get away so that the damage is minimized.

As superheroes non-grata, the Parrs try to go “straight” and live a normal life. That is until a powerful brother and sister corporate duo offer a proposal. Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener) want to generate a PR plan to help rebuild the reputation of supers. The idea is to make Elastigirl the public face of the program by having her wear a body cam to show off her heroic deeds (in this age of ‘pics or it didn’t happen’). She’s chosen over Mr. Incredible for economic reasons, and he’s relegated to stay-at-home parent – basically a ‘Mr. Mom’ so to speak. Elastigirl plays up her time in the limelight and clearly enjoys it immensely, while Bob doesn’t much like being just Bob. Plus he can’t understand why they’ve changed math (something I can VERY much relate too, being someone who really doesn’t like the maths at all 🙂 ), as he gets frustrated trying to help Dash with his homework. He’s also challenged with Violet’s teen angst over a boy, and even more so over the discovery that Jack Jack has POWERS! Yes, you read that right. Jack Jack has powers. And boy are they fun! In fact, Jack Jack has multiple powers, but as a baby, he has little control – though his battle with a raccoon is not a segment you’ll soon forget.

Also returning is Frozone(Samuel L. Jackson), and costume designer Edna Mode – voiced by director Bird himself. Other new voices include Jonathan Banks as Rick Dicker, Isabella Rossellini as the Ambassador, and Sophia Bush as Voyd, one of the new generation supers (which includes Reflux – one you’ll just have to experience).

The big new villain causing problems for Elastigirl is ‘ScreenSlaver’, who hypnotizes large groups of people through their screens – more social commentary on our dependence on technology and the addiction/affliction we have toward device screens. The flood of superhero movies over the years since THE INCREDIBLES exposes the not-so-complex story in this one, but it’s terrific that the film keeps much of the original look and feel, and yet brings something new in that baby Jack Jack is a star!

Filled with the beautiful colors and art design we’ve come to take for granted from Pixar, the film also features some of the best action sequences you’ll see in any movie. The train sequence with Elastigirl is simply spectacular – as is the final action sequence. It’s also nice to see the flip in gender roles as Mom aka Elastagirl here, takes the lead. Honestly, Family films don’t get much better than this, and even though it runs 2 hours, the closing credits feature the theme song for each of the superheroes, and could easily have been a short film unto itself.

What can I say except..This movie truly has no flaws and “THE INCREDIBLES 2” is soooo worth the wait of every one of those 14 long years. Not only has it upped it’s game, but somehow it actually improved on those still fun and amazing characters, Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Edna, but with new break-out characters, notably Jack Jack, it goes full-tilt fun!!

Grade: A
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Review Screening: Thursday, June 7, 2018 – Courtesy of Film Independent and LACMA
“THE INCREDIBLES 2 WILL BE OUT NATIONWIDE ON FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018 // U.K AND WORLDWIDE IN JUNE/JULY/AUGUST

REVIEW: WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR” (2018) Focus Features

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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is hands down, the best film I’ve seen all year. And you might say “Oh it’s not a film, it’s a documentary” and you would be right. But it is still the best film of 2018 so far.

“WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR” is a beautifully done, heartwarming tribute to Fred Roger’s and his Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show – which changed children’s television forever. This film highlights Rogers’ humanity and decency and shows how he brought his message to children everywhere. He was a Christian pastor who brought his values to work – without trying to preach or force his religion on you. I must say as a person who doesn’t believe in religion myself..he was truly the epitome of the word “good christian” probably the last of his kind as many who tout themselves as that now, couldn’t hold a candle to this man. And he gave everything to kids and truly cared about their views of the world and what happens to them.

His message remains timely today and also shows the importance of PBS. Interviews with everyone from his wife to his co-workers capture the essence of this wonderful human being.
The film is so well done and emotional – making you laugh, smile and yes, even grown men had tears during some remarkable moments. He made me think again and want to pass along his message of Love..yes..Love people. Do I wonder how he would handle today’s horrible effect of reality TV and what is going on with children being shot at school..yes I do. And I sure wish he was here to help in this time of inexplicable hate.. Please do yourself a favour and watch this film – it might give us all pause to think for a moment.

Grade: A+
@pegsatthemovies

Thank you to @filmindependent and @lacma for this screening.

REVIEW: “DEADPOOL 2” (2018) 20th Century Fox

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So yes, in case somehow you’ve been stuck under a rock or living in Wakanda and you’ve missed all the wonderful promos leading into the release of this film, yes, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) as his alter-ego DEADPOOL are back for another round. And while the laughs and action are still there, your going to be hard pressed to find a movie more over the top than “DEADPOOL 2”. Director David Leitch takes this one to a whole new level entirely and it works namely because the violence here is just creative vs. all blood, guts and gore. And sure, it defies all logic most of the time, but you can’t help but laugh at the zingers being thrown at you left and right throughout and Reynolds’ charm is undeniable.

We come into the film with Williams having settled into something resembling normalcy, kinda right where you expected him to be – spending his days dispatching villains now that he can with those mutant healing powers – they allow him to recover from gunshot wounds or worse. His nights are spent with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the love of his life. But some terrible things happen, leaving a depressed Deadpool to crash on the couch at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters making for some hilarious camp X-Men jokes fall in to place.

We have a mix of some of the old friends, the CGI Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), and of course our favourite taxi-driver-wanna-be-super-hero Dopinder (Karan Soni). But we also have a whole new fun group come into play, albeit for some it’s not for long journey – but Peter (Rob Delaney), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), Vanisher (Brad Pitt), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), and Black Tom Cassidy (Jack Kesy) add a fun plot point to the whole film. They are all part of the newly recruited/dubbed ‘X-Force’ group, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but sadly and hysterically I might add, they are gone in quick succession. My personal favourite and one of the last standing through it all, is bad-ass Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose superpower is undeniably “luck”. Our villians could be one of three very different people at various times throughtout. Cable (Josh Brolin) comes into to try to kill Russell aka Firefist (Julian Dennison), who might or might not be ready to step into villian shoes in a big way, or can we call the creepy Headmaster (Eddie Marsan), the biggest villian of the film. That will be for you to decide and see what happens as telling more of this story just defeats the purpose of the fun you will have while watching it. Also, there are cameo moments galore and I hope no one ruins them for you beforehand because they are just plain fun! While I wasn’t crazy about this storyline in comparison to the first one, the one-line zingers are comedy gold. Pay attention as they go fast..very fast.

That being said, go into this movie knowing that it is a campy, corny, over the top superhero/action/comedy that is just about crazy shooting sequences and one-liners, and you’ll be fine. Do not go into this movie expecting deep plot, meaningful conversations among characters, or anything remotely resembling a serious action or drama movie – because that’s not what it’s all about. And yes, this one features the best post credits scene EVER – so don’t make the silly mistake of walking out when the film is over..stay for both sequences..you will be glad you did.

Grade: B+
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Media Review Screening: Monday, May 14, 2018 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
DEADPOOL 2 WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

REVIEW: “LIFE OF THE PARTY” (2018) New Line/Warner Bros.

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‘LIFE OF THE PARTY’ is comedy about a recently divorced mother Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) who decides to go back to college to finish getting her degree after dropping out for motherhood in her junior year. She then ends up in her daughter Maddies’ (Molly Gordon) class and while Maddie isn’t so super thrilled about this fact, much to her surprise, her sorority sisters actually love it. Written and Directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy’s real life husband (who of course has a bit part), along with Melissa also contributing to the writing portion. The movie is definitely a mixed bag – with only a few highlights and the rest of it to be almost painfully uneven, with hit-and-miss laughs along the way.

The high points of the film are definitely made and taken by McCarthy and her ‘going back to college’ adventure. Her character feels liberated for the first time in her life and truly sets out to find herself. Problem is, she begins partying with Maddie’s friends and sleeping with frat boy Jack (Luke Benward) who is half her age. She of course finds happiness, and her true self in the process.

The film is really funny in places, and when McCarthy plays off an 80’s dance contest and a hysterical dining scene, she is ON!!! – and there isn’t a lot of people who are better at pulling those moments off. Sadly, there isn’t enough of them and the film is completely not funny at all in other places. The odd turns it takes at times being even painful to watch, and then moments later it’s hilarious again. The supporting cast of Maya Rudolph as her best friend Christine and Stephen Root & Jacki Weaver as Deanna’s parents Sandy & Mike, add so much. But it’s the young supporting cast here of Maddie’s friends Helen aka ‘Coma Girl‘ (Gillian Jacobs), Jennifer (Debby Ryan), Amanda (Adria Arjona) & Debbie (Jessie Enis), that give some much needed spark with Jacobs leading the pack. And yes, there is a cameo performance by..(drum roll) Xtina – I mean..

I’ve seen a lot of comedies like this, and of course they’re hard to overly recommend, or discourage people from seeing as you’ve seen worse and you’ve seen better. It’s definitely good for at least some laughs, and a bit of feel good/positive vibes too.

Grade: C-
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Media Review Screening: Thursday, May 10, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
‘LIFE OF THE PARTY’ IS OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE ON FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2018

REVIEW: “TULLY” (2018) Focus Features

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Let me preface this review by noting about the two previous films by the writing/directing duo of Ivan Reitman & Diablo Cody. “JUNO” – which I loved, and “YOUNG ADULT” – which I didn’t love so much. This is number three, and while I respect both of them, unless they were trying to make one of the most depressing movies about motherhood I’ve seen in sometime – I’m rolling with a great big WHAT? WENT? ON? HERE?

I realize many other critics are really liking this film so let me try to explain this as I saw it. “TULLY” centers around Charlize Theron as Marlo, a mother of two – soon to be three kids – who has to balance caring for them to the detriment of her own personal life and emotional well being. Marlo’s husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), is the epitome of the hands-off parent, either on the road for work or zoning out while playing video games in bed. Elsewhere, Marlo’s wealthy brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), and sister-in-law, Elyse (Elaine Tan), represent clichés of an equally deliberate kind – you know the type – that annoying couple that can afford to bypass parenting altogether because they can afford to. But then it’s Craig who provides his Marlo with the services of a night nanny (yes, it’s the first we’ve all heard of this type of job) Tully (Mackenzie Davis), and once Tully enters Marlo’s life, her world becomes magically better and the film’s secondary characters fade into the background and remain there. Tully is charming, but her relentless cheeriness and boundless compassion for Marlo belies something strange about her identity in the fact that she may, quite literally, be too good to be true. And this too-good-too-be-true nanny works tirelessly to shake Marlo out of her postpartum depression, Reitman begins to introduce magical-realist elements into the film—a nighttime excursion into the city, an somewhat amusing yet possibly one of the most uncomfortable bathroom breast-milk dumping scenes in film to date, that take us in his deliriously exhausted, weird lead character mindset.

Getting us to question the veracity of Tully’s existence is gimmicky enough, and then its resorts to using an overplayed and contrived narrative device to explain Tully’s inevitable departure from Marlo’s life. This my friends is the twist to the movie. Mercifully, the moment is matter-of-fact almost to the point that it doesn’t count as a “gotcha!” thing, but it still rankles. In the homestretch, the film unearths a number of issues that put us in the position of questioning the rejuvenated Marlo’s ability to be a good mother in the first place. But somehow addressing these concerns is avoided, sweeping them under the rug to clear the path for a happy ending that, as a result of such evasion, registers only as unintentionally disconcerting and giving me a huge disconnect to the entire film I just watched. It’s an unfortunate misstep in a film that initially suggests it’s a comedy – but with only a few sarcastic comedy jumps here and there – it’s again, mostly an almost tragically depressing drama.

I went to far as to asking some of the people that clapped after the film ended, what they saw that I might have missed. Turns out they were just clapping for clapping’s sake. As for performances, I did like Charlize quite a bit, and as a fan of Mackenzie Davis, she too excelled somewhat for me, even though in their whole parts together, they didn’t seem a great fit. Everyone else just seemed an after thought once the two leads took over. I didn’t hate this movie, I just truly had no idea what was going on as it didn’t seem to want to tell me. It just wanted to depress me. It’s also one I never want to watch again.

Grade: D+
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Review Screening: Thursday, April 26, 2018 ~ Courtesy of the PGA
“TULLY” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE ON FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2018 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE TO FOLLOW MAY 2018