High School Confidential

Booksmart-SIt’s a rare high school comedy that manages to be both funny and insightful. Rarer still are those dodging easy crude laughs for introspective hard truths. “Booksmart” does both with a genuine feel for the speech and circumstances teens find themselves in on the brink of adulthood. Continue reading

Bolt from the Blue

Shazam-SIn a time when superhero movies have become sweeping sagas, DC Comics’ “Shazam!” is a breath of fresh air- it soars on the energetic current of a teen comedy dressed in caped crusader’s clothing.

The story behind “Shazam!” revolves around 14 year-old Billy Batson (solidly played by Asher Angel), a foster home runaway seeking his real mom. Separated in public, police threw Billy into social services before his mother could claim him. Knowing she’s out there, Billy uses his wits to gain illegal access to a police computer to track her but the plan backfires when police tail his lead and find Billy instead. Continue reading

Double Trouble

us-SIn his follow-up to “Get Out,” Jordan Peele replaces suspense for straight-out horror in “Us” and the results are a mixed bag: while the set-up is scary, the cause for the chaos gets convoluted.

Lupita Nyong’o stars as Adelaide Wilson, a woman vacationing with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) near Santa Cruz, California. In true horror fashion, Adelaide had a traumatic event occur to her as a child in Santa Cruz and neglected to mention this to Gabe, so just being there fills Adelaide with dread. Continue reading

2018: The Ones

Best of 2018-SWith the Oscars being presented on Sunday, February 24th, I like to focus on the films and performances that I found most memorable. In keeping with the tradition of the late Siskel & Ebert’s “If We Picked the Winners,” here are my standouts for 2018 using the nominees in the main Academy Award categories. While others try to second-guess Oscar politics with who ‘should win’ or ‘will win,’ I like to keep it simple. In case you missed any of them, these are the films and performances that I’ll remember- simply put, these are the ones:   Continue reading

A Fish Called Justice

Serenity-SIt’s never too early to be the worst movie of the year, and “Serenity” proves it.

The film takes place on Plymouth Island, a tropical isle where the sugar cane sways and zydeco music plays. Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughy), despite having an awesome porn star name, is an ex-vet fishing boat captain with an Ahab-like obsession for a big tuna roaming the coast who he’s named Justice. So great is Baker’s obsession with the fish that he can’t earn money chartering the boat when Justice is near and blames his bad luck capturing the fish on his right-hand man Duke (Djimon Hounsou), whose wife’s death Baker believes has cursed them into never catching Justice. Continue reading

Netflix Notables (Roma)

roma-SNow on Netflix is Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” an early Oscar favorite for directing and Golden Globe nominee for director, screenplay and foreign film. While most may give pause to watching a black-and-white, subtitled domestic drama with scenes in the style of Italian director Federico Fellini, those who see “Roma” may be as absorbed as I was. Continue reading

Bank On It

Widows-SIf character-driven crime dramas hold your interest, “Widows” rewards you with big dividends.

Set in Chicago, the crime catalyst for “Widows” is a $2 million robbery executed by a four-man team who, in turn, get executed by the SWAT unit called to the scene. The money is never recovered, but that doesn’t mean its power-hungry owner Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry) doesn’t want it back. Manning confronts the lead heist man’s widow Veronica (Viola Davis) for retribution and gives her two weeks to return his two million…or else. Continue reading

Mercury Falling

bohemian“Bohemian Rhapsody” skims the surface but never sinks its teeth into the rise and fall of ‘70s rock group Queen, leaving a mediocre, melodramatic, by-the-books musical biopic.

Spanning 15 years, from the group’s formation in 1970 to their final 1985 concert performance at Live Aid, “Bohemian’s” initial scenes play out like bullet points of an outline: Freddie Mercury meets guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor at London club gig to form band; Mercury names band Queen and convinces May and Taylor to record album with all their savings; agent sees band at session and signs them. This whirlwind success feels faster because “Bohemian” rushes through these familiar start-up scenes without getting involved in back stories for Mercury’s band mates- its focus is on Mercury and his personal fall that marked the end of the popular rock group. Continue reading

Old Trick, New Treat

Halloween-SDavid Gordon Green’s “Halloween” is a sequel that succeeds, offering fans of John Carpenter’s original film a few new surprises in a nostalgic revisit while giving those new to the story its hallmark simplistic scares.

Since Carpenter’s 1978 “Halloween,” we’ve been treated to seven sequels and two remakes, but director Green and co-writers Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley (who worked with Green on comedies like “Your Highness” and the HBO series “Vice Principals”) want you to forget the mostly-forgettable film franchise by getting back-to-basics. It’s a smart move, smart enough to get John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis involved making a movie that continues where the original film ended. Continue reading

Endless Love

AStarisBorn-SIn his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper manages not only to make “A Star is Born” the best film version we’ve seen so far while giving his best acting performance to date, it may also be the best movie you’ll see this year. Continue reading